Upstate NY man to get new trial in 1995 murder
June 20, 2008
AUBURN, N.Y. (AP) _ A 54-year-old upstate New York man serving a murder sentence will get a new trial after DNA testing cast doubt on his 13-year-old conviction.
Sammy Swift was sentenced in 1995 to 20 years to life in state prison for the murder of Stephen DeLuca, who died five months after being beaten and left unconscious in his Auburn home during a robbery in April 1994.
Swift's conviction was based, in part, on blood evidence and testimony from a co-defendant who said Swift wiped his bloody arm on a couch cushion.
Swift filed a motion earlier this year to vacate the conviction after new, more sophisticated DNA tests showed that the blood found in DeLuca's home was not Swift's.
On Thursday, Cayuga County Judge Thomas Leone vacated the original conviction after deciding the results of the DNA testing would have changed the original verdict.
"There's a reasonable probability the verdict would be more favorable to the defendant," Leone said.
District Attorney Jon Budelmann said he believed jurors would return the same verdict despite the DNA test.
Leone stayed his ruling to give Budelmann a chance to appeal. Swift will remain in jail pending a new trial.
Stephen DeLuca Jr. said his family had been following the case, but were not prepared for Thursday's outcome.
"I haven't had time to absorb the decision yet," DeLuca told The Auburn Citizen. "I am upset at the judge's decision but I still have faith in the court system to do the right thing. The murder had an impact on the family and this is just opening up old wounds."
In arguing to have the conviction overturned, defense lawyer Joseph Sapio said the prosecution made repeated references to the blood evidence during the trial and used it to link Swift to the crime scene.
A state police lab expert testified at the trial that blood found at the scene was either type A or a mix of types A and O. DeLuca had type A blood, Swift type O. More precise testing was not available at the time.
Without blood, there are no fingerprints or other physical evidence linking Swift to the crime scene, Sapio said. The prosecution is left with only the uncorroborated testimony of two co-defendants, who pleaded to reduced charges in return for their testimony.
It is the second time in less than 18 months that a Cayuga County murder conviction has been thrown out as the result of new DNA evidence.
Last year, Roy Brown was freed from state prison after serving 15 years for murder when DNA showed he wasn't at the crime scene.
||Truth in Justice