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The Region

Panel Says No Retrials for O.C. Prison Inmates

June 15, 2002|MONTE MORIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Under an "innocence project" started two years ago, Orange County prosecutors and public defenders have reviewed the cases of 27 inmates who claim to be wrongly convicted but found that none deserve new trials, according to results released Friday.

In two separate reviews, Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas joined a defense attorney and law school professor to examine the cases, which date to 1978. The cases were reviewed to determine whether testing or retesting of DNA evidence could exonerate the defendants.

The panel agreed unanimously that none of the cases warranted further testing.

Among those reviewed were the conviction of John Morse Otto, sentenced to 130 years for kidnapping, raping and beating a 9-year-old girl who was abducted from her bed; Steven Craig Horkey, sentenced to life in prison in 1978 for murder, attempted murder and robbery; and Duke Kimberly Bolter, sentenced to 25 years to life in 1987 for killing a woman and taking her car. Bolter is also awaiting trial on charges of killing a fellow inmate in Pelican Bay State Prison.

Despite the project's results, prosecutors said they would continue to review cases. "I don't see this project as ever ending," said DNA expert and Deputy Dist. Atty. Camille Hill, who sat on the review panel. "I'd like to think that our office is always open to reviewing any case where DNA testing can exonerate an inmate."

Hill said one reason the nation has seen an increase in overturned cases is because the science of DNA testing has advanced tremendously.

Orange County officials reviewed 38 cases. However, 11 were rejected because they were not local cases. Fifteen others involved evidence that was destroyed or did not exist.

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