Friday, 30 August 2013

Judge outlines murderer's testing

Savory will pay for DNA tests to be done in Morton on evidence from 1977 deaths

DNA testing on items, which Johnnie Lee Savory believes could exonerate him, will be done at the Illinois State Police's crime lab in Morton.
Friday, three weeks after Peoria County Circuit Judge Steve Kouri sided with Savory, saying modern DNA technology could be used to test evidence from the 1977 murders, the parameters of the testing were discussed in Kouri's courtroom.
Both sides will be present when the samples are tested, and the court order states all scientists "shall cooperate with each other." Additionally, any tests that will need to use all of a sample must be approved first by Kouri.
Joshua Tepfer, an attorney with the Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions, wanted to use a DNA-testing firm in Texas, but Kouri was leery given that the distance would require prosecutors to pony up money to have their expert there.
A key provision of Savory's win was that he would pay for the testing. But Kouri's order does allow Savory's attorneys to pick an expert of their choice to be present at the crime lab.
Savory served nearly 30 years in prison after his conviction in the stabbing deaths of Connie Cooper, 19, and her brother, James Robinson, 14, in June 1977 at their Peoria home. Prosecutors had said Savory, then 14, lost his temper while practicing karate with Robinson, killed him and then killed Cooper.
Savory was tried twice. His first conviction was overturned by the Third District Illinois Appellate Court, which determined his alleged confession was involuntary and his Miranda rights were violated. He was retried in 1981 and found guilty of murder. Two of three witnesses who testified at his second trial recanted their testimony two years later.
Among the items he wanted tested are the purported murder weapon, a knife taken from Savory's pants, the pants themselves, fingernail clippings from Cooper and Robinson as well as a bloody light switch plate.
Kouri's ruling was the first in more than 30 years that could count as a win for Savory, who has unsuccessfully tried at the local, appellate and federal level to convince judges to allow additional tests to be done.
Andy Kravetz can be reached at 686-3283 or Follow him on Twitter @andykravetz.

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