Criminal Justice

Judges frees man imprisoned for 28 years; discredited bite-mark evidence is cited

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A Texas judge has ordered the release of a man who spent 28 years in prison after prosecutors and defense lawyers cited the use of now-discredited bite-mark evidence in his case.

Steven Mark Chaney was freed Monday, report the Associated Press, the Dallas Morning News and the Washington Post. Dallas County prosecutors joined in the request to overturn the conviction.

A forensic dentist had told jurors that there was a 1 in a million chance that someone other than Chaney was responsible for the bite marks on the body of one of two murder victims. That dentist now says in an affidavit that his conclusion was “scientifically unsound.”

Nine alibi witnesses had testified on Chaney’s behalf at trial.

Judge Dominique Collins freed Chaney after prosecutors agreed that the bite-mark evidence was discredited, though Chaney has not been formally exonerated, the Dallas Morning News reports. The courts still must evaluate claims of prosecutorial misconduct.

Defense lawyers allege that prosecutors presented testimony of an expert who said blood had been found on one of Chaney’s shoes, but withheld notes from another expert who said there was no blood on the shoes.

Defense lawyers also claim that prosecutors elicited false testimony from a witness who said in court that Chaney had asked him to be an alibi witness. The witness had previously told police that Chaney had instead asked him to testify that he was last at the victims’ home a week before the murders.

Collins gave Chaney’s lawyer a pumpkin pie to give to Chaney, who hugged family members and kissed his mother after the hearing. He will remain free while an appeals court reviews the case.

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