Local News

Prosecutors Ask For New DNA Testing In 12-Year-Old Death Penalty Case

Posted April 21, 2004

— Appeals attorneys argue a jury that convicted a man of murder years ago was misled about blood evidence. Now, that evidence is getting a second look, but some claim the evidence is contaminated.

Leon and Margaret Batten had more than two dozen stab wounds between them when they were found at a Bentonville mobile home in February 1992. Three suspects were arrested, tried and convicted.

Investigators found blood on both Eugene DeCastro and Chris Goode. Although George Goode admitted he was there, no blood was found on his clothing.

Defense attorneys claim State Bureau of Investigation Agent Duane Deaver misled jurors about blood on George Goode's boots. When WRAL spoke to District Attorney Tom Lock last week, he downplayed the debate over blood because other evidence was overwhelming.

"I don't think the presence or absence of blood on the boots by itself would be all that significant," Lock said.

The state recently won approval from the court to retest a knife found near where George Goode was captured, along with his coveralls and boots.

Although no one ever detected blood on the clothes before, Deaver now says he has noticed some foreign substance. In the interest of justice, the state believes it warrants additional DNA testing that was not available at the time of the murders.

"All of a sudden, now he [Deaver] sees this phantom stain and thinks, 'Oh, let's go test this now for DNA.' That seems highly suspect," appeals attorney Diane Savage said.

Goode's attorneys faxed in motions to the Supreme Court to try and block the testing. Savage argues in 12 years, countless people have handled and cross-contaminated evidence from the victims and the suspects.

"It wasn't preserved properly for DNA. It wasn't collected properly for DNA," she said.

Goode's attorneys hope to get a ruling from the Supreme Court by Thursday. In the meantime, the SBI is moving forward with the retesting of the evidence. The appeals hearing begins in Johnston County on Monday.

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