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Judge vacates convictions in 1994 Montana murder case - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Judge vacates convictions in 1994 Montana murder case

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HELENA - There are new developments in a story first reported by MTN News as a Helena district court judges has overturned the convictions of two men in prison for a decades-old murder case and ordered a new trial.

Judge Kathy Seeley affirmed in no uncertain terms arguments by lawyers for Fred Lawrence and Paul Jenkins that new evidence in the case meets Montana's DNA exoneration statute.

Seeley said that no DNA in the case links Jenkins or Lawrence to the crime scene where Donna Meagher's body was found along side Colorado Gulch Road.

The judge added that the DNA does match David Nelson who is known for violent kidnappings, robberies and currently in prison for a double homicide in Deer Lodge.

Seeley also noted that admissions Nelson made to his nephew Fred are more consistent with the physical evidence from the scene. Based on the new evidence, the judge says there is clearly reasonable probability that a different outcome at trial could have been reached.

The judge also made two other interesting statements in her ruling.

Seeley said the new evidence is generally inconsistent with the state's theory of the cases as presented at trial. She also noted that DNA and statements from Fred Nelson, "support the theory that David Nelson, a known killer, was involved in the robbery, kidnapping and homicide of Donna Meagher.”

In overturning that the convictions for robbery, aggravated kidnapping and homicide, the judge has ordered that both Lawrence and Jenkins receive new trials.

Seeley also ordered on Friday that a status and bail hearing for Lawrence and Jenkins be scheduled as soon as possible.

RELATED: Daughter of man jailed for 1994 murder who may be freed reacts

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