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10-Jan-2019

TrueAllele helps Johnny Lee Gates get a new trial after forty years in prison


Columbus, GA

Sentenced to die in 1977 on dubious evidence, Georgia inmate Johnny Lee Gates was granted a new trial based on TrueAllele® computer analysis of newly discovered DNA evidence.

Other avenues of appeal were exhausted. Judge John Allen's order cited undeniable "evidence of systematic race discrimination during jury selection." But too much time had passed. Relief was denied for jury discrimination, and for evidence destruction and suppression.

In January 1977, Gates, a black man, was charged with the murder, rape, and armed robbery of Katharina Wright, a white woman. After three days. Gates was tried, convicted, and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. In 2003, the death sentence was removed due to intellectual disability.

In 2015, Georgia Innocence Project interns found two new crime scene items that had not been destroyed by the State. DNA testing of the bathrobe belt and necktie used to bind the victim showed degraded mixtures of 3 or 4 people. TrueAllele successfully analyzed the DNA data, and statistically excluded Gates from the items.

At the May 2018 hearing, Cybergenetics Dr. Mark Perlin testified about the TrueAllele results. Georgia Bureau of Investigation analysts supported his findings. The State argued that Gate's DNA was no longer on the items, or had "fallen off" over time. Based on Perlin's testimony, the Court rejected those theories.

TrueAllele provided "newly available exculpatory DNA evidence that entitled Gates to a new trial." It met all the requirements of Timberlake v. Georgia. "The State's destruction of evidence, when considered in conjunction with the new DNA evidence … provides further reason why Gates is entitled to a new trial," wrote Judge Allen.




Links
  • Order on motion for a new trial - Download Order
  • Georgia judge orders new trial in 1976 case that sent man to death row - AJC
  • Man found guilty in 1976 Columbus murder granted new trial. Here's why. - Ledger-Enquirer
  • Citing Evidence of Innocence, Race Discrimination, Georgia Court Grants New Trial to Former Death-Row Prisoner - Death Penalty Information Center
  • Georgia Prisoner Gets New Trial Based on DNA Mix — Not Race - Forensic Magazine
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