Associated Press

DNA Clears Maryland Man of 1985 Murders

.c The Associated Press
June 19, 2003

TOWSON, Md. (AP) - A man who spent 18 years behind bars for two murders was freed following DNA tests that prove two hairs found at the crime scene and used against him at trial weren't his after all.

Christopher Conover, 48, was released Wednesday by a Baltimore County judge when prosecutors admitted the new forensic evidence weakened their original 1985 murder case against him.

Standing on the steps of the courthouse in Towson on Wednesday, Conover held his mother under his right arm and sister under his left and joked he was waiting for someone to tell him what to do.

``I'm so used to taking orders,'' he said.

In a plea agreement, prosecutors dropped the murder charges and Conover signed an agreement in which he acknowledged that prosecutors still have enough evidence for a conviction. Conover maintains his innocence.

``You often hear of DNA evidence that exonerates somebody,'' said Assistant State's Attorney Frank Meyer, who prosecuted the case in 1985. ``That's not the case here. It just lessened the weight of the evidence.''

An armed robbery charge associated with the murders was not dropped. The judge accepted the time Conover had already served as his sentence; the maximum sentence for armed robbery is 20 years.

During the 1985 trial, an FBI agent testified that a microscopic examination of two hairs found at the crime scene showed they matched Conover's. He was convicted of killing Charles ``Squeaky'' Jordan and his 18-year-old stepdaughter, Lisa Brown, during an Oct. 20, 1984, home invasion in Randallstown.

Linda Jordan, Brown's mother, was shot in the head but survived and offered eyewitness testimony. Conover was sentenced to three life sentences plus 80 years despite defense witnesses who testified he was at a birthday party during the crime.

The DNA tests now show the hairs found on Brown's pajamas came from two other people, and not Conover, said attorney Nina Morrison, executive director of the Innocence Project, which represented Conover.

Meyer said the state had enough evidence to re-convict Conover of murder if the case was retried. Morrison said Conover entered the plea to avoid the risk of retrial.

During his years in prison, Conover said he became something of a jailhouse lawyer, researching appeals for himself and other prisoners. ``It's not a hard choice to make, to fight for your life, once you get there,'' he said.

In the mid-1990s, Conover wrote to the New York-based Innocence Project, which works on cases where DNA testing can reverse convictions. The legal clinic accepted his case in 1998 and petitioned for DNA testing of the evidence.

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