New DNA testing may prove Albuquerque convicted killer’s innocence

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – Attorneys for a convicted killer are hoping new DNA testing technology will prove their client’s innocence.

“If an innocent person goes to prison then the one who actually committed the crime has literally gotten away with it and in this case that would be someone literally getting away with murder for 30 years,” said UNM School of Law Research Professor Gordon Rahn.

It will mark 29 years in December since Jacob Duran was locked up for the murder of a 64-year-old woman inside her Albuquerque home. To this day, Duran says he is innocent and new ways to test evidence could prove it.

“The sciences have improved and that’s what we look for,” said Rahn.

Duran’s attorneys, who are with the New Mexico Innocence and Justice Project, review decades-old cases looking at questionable convictions.

In court on Thursday, they asked a judge to look at Duran’s case again using new technology to test DNA evidence from the crime scene like the victim’s fingernails and the hair found on her body.

“The assumption is that some of the hairs will have hair roots that will be testable and the DNA material underneath the fingernails would still be testable,” said Duran’s Attorney Nicholas Davis.

The judge ultimately decided to allow the request.

“I don’t see any real harm in allowing that,” said District Court Judge Stan Whitaker.

Duran was convicted of shooting Teofilia Gradi in the back of the head in the late 1980s.

Duran had done yard work for Gradi. An eyewitness told detectives Duran looked like the man he saw that jumped Gradi’s fence the night of the shooting.

Police never found the murder weapon. They did however find a hair on Gradi’s body that was similar to Duran’s.

Duran’s attorneys said the DNA test that was done in the 1980’s is not as advanced as the DNA tests now.

“If that DNA comes back positive we are done. This is over. If it does not and it shows a different party present then we can continue,” said Rahn.

The fingernails and hair samples have been in sealed evidence bags since the murder in 1986.

On Thursday, the judge ruled the state lab can open them up.

The judge hasn’t said what will happen if Duran’s DNA doesn’t match the crime scene evidence. It’s unclear if he will order a new trial or dismiss the charges against him.

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