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Lawyers for Carlton Gary, the man dubbed the Columbus, Ga., “stocking strangler,” attempted to convince a federal judge last week that their client was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death by a Muscogee County jury in August 1986. An Alabama forensic expert discredited semen tests used by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in the case. DNA analysis has made the test obsolete now, but a successful challenge could affect other cases in which the test was used to link a person to a crime. WORK SHEETS CHALLENGED At issue are 23-year-old Georgia Bureau of Investigation work sheets that show the results of tests on semen found at murder scenes. The work sheets were obtained earlier this year by defense attorney John R. “Jack” Martin of Atlanta’s Martin Brothers, following an open records request with the GBI. However, the semen samples cannot be found, precluding DNA tests that now could identify whose semen actually was found. The defense contends that the work sheets raise doubts about the guilt of Gary, who was convicted of murdering three elderly Columbus women between Sept. 15, 1977 and April 20, 1978. Four other women were killed in their homes during the same period. An eighth victim survived and identified Gary as her attacker. The killer was dubbed the “stocking strangler” because he used the victims’ own stockings to kill them. Gary was arrested in 1984 when police linked him to a gun taken from the home of one of his victims. His fingerprints also were found at all the crime scenes. Gary admitted to burglarizing the women’s homes, but denied killing them. Despite the other strong evidence against Gary, defense attorneys are convinced that if they’d had access to the semen tests during the trial it would have helped them cast doubt on the state’s case. Rodjer Morrison, director of the Huntsville office of the Alabama Bureau of Forensic Science, testified last week before U.S. District Court Judge Hugh Lawson in Macon that the GBI crime lab used the wrong test to evaluate semen found at the crime scenes. If the crime lab had used the right test it “probably would have excluded Gary as the donor of the semen,” Morrison testified. This contention was vigorously contested by John Wegel, quality manager of the GBI’s Division of Forensic Science. Wegel was the forensic serologist who examined semen collected from the crime scenes. Wegel testified that he performed two tests on the samples — absorption-inhibition and absorption-elution. The absorption-inhibition showed no positive link to Gary while the absorption-elution showed weak positive reactions. Morrison testified that the absorption-elution test should never be used because it is “hyper sensitive” and can result in false positive readings. Wegel countered that “if you use proper set-up procedures and correctly evaluate the test results you can avoid false positives readings.” Wegel says he was attempting to establish whether the samples were from a person who is a “secretor” or “nonsecretor.” Secretors transmit their blood types in bodily fluids such as saliva and semen, while nonsecretors do not pass along their blood types. Studies have shown that 80 percent of the population are secretors. In a habeas corpus petition the defense lawyers allege that the state had a duty to hand the sheets over to original defense counsel August F. “Bud” Siemon but failed to do so as required by Brady v. Maryland No. 373 US 83 (1963) and Gigilo v. United States No. 405 US 150 (1971). Senior Assistant Attorney General Georgia Susan Boleyn argued that the defense waived the issue by not raising the point earlier. She also argued that there was still an overwhelming amount of evidence supporting the guilty verdicts. Lawson took the case under advisement.

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