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Men convicted of 1997 murder want new DNA analysis - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Men convicted of 1997 murder want new DNA analysis

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Lawrence and Jenkins have requested that the state conduct tests on DNA on evidence from the murder. (MTN News photo) Lawrence and Jenkins have requested that the state conduct tests on DNA on evidence from the murder. (MTN News photo)
The victim’s family took up two rows in the courtroom, as defense and state attorneys presented evidence from the 1997 case. (MTN News photo) The victim’s family took up two rows in the courtroom, as defense and state attorneys presented evidence from the 1997 case. (MTN News photo)
Donna Meagher was beaten to death 22 years ago. Now the two men convicted of the crime want DNA evidence tested. Donna Meagher was beaten to death 22 years ago. Now the two men convicted of the crime want DNA evidence tested.
HELENA -

The body of Donna Meagher was discovered on Colorado Gulch two decades ago. She had been beaten to death.

On Tuesday, the two men convicted for her murder - Freddie Lawrence and Paul Jenkins - were back in court as part of an effort to challenge their convictions.

The victim’s family took up two rows in the courtroom as defense and state attorneys presented evidence from the 1997 case.

Lawrence and Jenkins have requested that the state conduct tests on DNA evidence from the murder.

Both men appeared at the hearing by video from prison.

Attorneys from the Montana Innocence Project told Judge Kathy Seeley that swabs and hair samples from Meagher's body could produce a male DNA profile that doesn’t match either of the two convicted men.

The defense also said that if the DNA does not match either Jenkins or Lawrence, the DNA can be entered into a national database.

“This is a way to find out if there is another perpetrator out there. Perhaps if the DNA is present, we will find who that is,” said Larry Jent, defense attorney and board member of the Montana Innocence Project.

Assistant Attorney General Catherine Truman responded by saying the autopsy showed that Meagher was not sexually assaulted, and that type of DNA should not be re-tested.

However, both sides agreed on some items to be tested, including rope found on the victim, a cigarette butt found near her body, and fingernail scrapings.

While this process isn’t easy for Meagher’s family, her daughter hopes this will solidify the 1997 verdict.

“I am fine with them testing it. I believe that it’ll probably prove the people more guilty and they’ll be where they are for life,” said Janelle Meagher. 

Both the defense and state have 10 days from Tuesday’s hearing to submit written arguments, and then the judge will decide whether the agreed items will undergo a DNA analysis.

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