News 12.04.09

Chad Heins: Two Years Free

This week marks the second anniversary of the day

Chad Heins

(left) walked out of a Florida prison, free at 33 years old for the first time since he was 19.

Heins was convicted in 1996 of murdering his sister-in-law Tina Heins. Chad recently moved from Florida to Wisconsin and was staying with his brother Jeremy and Jeremy’s wife, Tina, when Tina was killed in her bedroom.

Jeremy, who was in the Navy, was on board his ship the night of the crime. Chad had returned home at 12:30 a.m. that night, two hours before his sister-in-law, and was asleep on the sofa during the crime. He woke up around 5:45 a.m. to find three small fires burning in the living room and kitchen, one on the very sofa where he slept. After putting out the fires and disarming the smoke alarm, he discovered Tina Heins in her bedroom; she had been stabbed 27 times.

Heins immediately became a suspect.  During his trial, a forensic analyst testified that DNA testing performed on three hairs collected from the victim's bedroom showed that the hairs came from one person, and that person wasn't Chad or Jeremy Heins. Two jailhouse snitches testified at his trial that Heins had spontaneously confessed his guilt to them, and he was convicted by a jury of first-degree murder and attempted sexual battery on December 20, 1996, and sentenced to life in prison.

In 2001, Heins wrote to the Innocence Project, which took the case with help from the Innocence Project of Florida. In 2003, along with pro bono counsel Robert Beckham of Holland & Knight, the Innocence Project filed a motion for DNA testing on skin cells collected at autopsy from underneath the victim's fingernails. She had defense wounds on her hands, meaning that biological evidence from the attacker could be under her fingernails. The DNA test results showed that male DNA under Tina's fingernails did not come from Chad or Jeremy Heins. Additional testing showed that the profile from the hairs was consistent with the DNA from the fingernails — all belonging to an unknown male.

Attorneys for Heins also learned that a fingerprint had been discovered before trial on the faucet of the blood-stained sink in the Heins' bathroom, where it was undisputed that the perpetrator attempted to clean up after the murder. Although the fingerprint did not match Chad, Jeremy or Tina, prosecutors did not relay this information to the jury.  

Heins' conviction was vacated in 2006 based on the DNA evidence, but prosecutors demanded a retrial – further delaying Heins' freedom.  The Innocence Project sought DNA testing of semen found at the crime scene. The results showed that the semen came from the same person as the hairs and the cells found under the victim's fingernails.  On December 4, 2007, prosecutors dropped the pending charges against Heins and he was freed. Days after his release, Heins moved to Wisconsin to rejoin relatives.


Watch a video interview with Heins

and read more about his case in

our Know the Cases section

.


Other Exoneration Anniversaries This Week:


Dale

and

Ronnie

Mahan, Alabama (Served 11.5 Years, Exonerated 11/30/1998)


Calvin Lee Scott

, Oklahoma (Served 20 Years, Exonerated 12/3/03)


Gerald Davis

, West Virginia (Served 8 Years, Exonerated 12/4/1995)


Calvin Ollins

, Illinois (Served 13,5 Years, Exonerated 12/5/01)


Larry Ollins

, Illinois (Served 13,5 Years, Exonerated 12/5/01)


Marcellius Bradford

(Served 6.5 Years, Exonerated 12/5/01)

 

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