News 04.27.10

Innocence Project of Northern California to Review DNA Evidence from 1982 Murder

Four years after DNA evidence from a 1982 Sacramento murder was heard at trial, the Northern California Innocence Project will reexamine it.  In 2006, Vincent Carl Ortiz was convicted of murdering a 27-year-old woman and received 16 years to life in prison. 

Ortiz first appealed his conviction in 2008, but it was rejected by the First District Court of Appeal.

On Monday, Maitreya Bodami, supervising attorney for the Northern California Innocence Project ordered a new DNA test by the Superior Court.

According to The Reporter, the request has been granted, but there is no date for a hearing. 

Ortiz was arrested by Vacaville police in 2003 after detectives reportedly obtained DNA evidence linking him to Castaneda at the time of her death. That evidence included material taken from beneath the slain woman’s fingernails which investigators claimed was a match for Ortiz’s DNA profile.

The DNA evidence used in the case was twice attacked by defense attorneys. Ortiz’s first attorney, Robert Fracchia — now a Superior Court judge — charged that DNA evidence from Ortiz used by Vacaville police was improperly obtained from another law enforcement agency in connection with a case for which Ortiz was never convicted.

His trial attorney, Daniel Healys, later argued that the amount of DNA obtained from the victim’s body was too small to be accurately analyzed or interpreted. He charged that the state Department of Justice analysis was “junk science.”

The Innocence Project of Northern California is a nonprofit legal service based at Santa Clara University that works to exonerate prisoners who may have been wrongfully convicted.


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