Convicted killer seeks DNA testing in daughter's death

2013-11-04T14:57:00Z 2013-11-04T20:41:20Z Convicted killer seeks DNA testing in daughter's deathBy Edith Brady-Lunny

BLOOMINGTON — A man serving 100 years for the 1998 death of his daughter is asking for DNA testing on evidence that he says will point to his former girlfriend, also a convicted murderer, as the girl’s killer.

Lawyers for Barton McNeil filed the motion Monday in McLean County Circuit Court, asking for forensic testing on nine items collected from the Bloomington home where Christina McNeil was killed.

Barton McNeil has claimed that Misook Nowlin killed the child in retaliation for McNeil’s decision to end a relationship with her. Nowlin was convicted last year of killing her mother-in-law, Linda Tyda, shortly after Nowlin and her husband discussed a divorce.

The two scenarios involving breakups are “eerily parallel,” argued defense lawyer John Hanlon, a lawyer with the Illinois Innocence Project based at University of Illinois at Springfield.

Testing sought

McNeil wants testing on blood and urine stains found on the girl’s bed sheet, a fingerprint from the child’s bedroom window and several items of her clothing.

State’s Attorney Jason Chambers said he does not oppose a request he received from McNeil’s lawyers about a year ago for testing on urine stains, but he declined to give an opinion on the other items until his office meets with Hanlon later this week.

“When additional testing could definitively reveal that a convicted person is innocent, then I am all for doing the testing.

No one wants an innocent person in prison.

The difference is when it is more of a fishing expedition and the additional testing gives no definite answers,” said Chambers.

Confident of results

The prosecutor said he is confident results of testing on the urine sample will support the initial guilty verdict.

Hanlon said Monday that the defense “wants the light of day to shine upon the evidence and to test the evidence to see if another person was involved.”

The Innocence Project will cover the costs of the testing by a private lab, if a judge grants the defense motion.

McNeil’s legal team of Hanlon and Gwen Jordan hopes the DNA test results bring an opportunity for the defense to introduce Nowlin as a potential suspect in the case.

Bloomington police interviewed Nowlin after the child’s death but the state failed to follow up with testing of evidence that could link her to the crime, according to the motion.

McNeil told investigators Nowlin had a history of violence that included her own daughter as a victim. McNeil’s family members attended Nowlin’s trial in Bloomington and conducted extensive research as part of their ongoing efforts to exonerate McNeil.

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(9) Comments

  1. 61753
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    61753 - November 06, 2013 7:16 am
    Why this stuff was not tested before trial. Is what i want to know. Most likely he had a public defender and we all know who they work for. I would say any smart lawyer would of had all that tested before trial. i dont know the details of this case, so im not saying the lawyer is not smart but you would think all testing would have already been done
  2. plainjane777
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    plainjane777 - November 05, 2013 2:48 pm
    “When additional testing could definitively reveal that a convicted person is innocent, then I am all for doing the testing. No one wants an innocent person in prison. The difference is when it is more of a fishing expedition and the additional testing gives no definite answers,” said Chambers."

    I'm no lawyer, but are we reading the same criminal code? Because the one I read says it only need be materially relevant (advancing the claim of actual innocence), and may NOT completely exonerate the defendant.

    (725 ILCS 5/116‑3) (1) the result of the testing has the scientific potential to produce new, noncumulative evidence materially relevant to the defendant's assertion of actual innocence even though the results may not completely exonerate the defendant;

    How could you possibly know in advance whether the result will exonerate the person or not without testing? I have not read the motion, but it seems to me a fingerprint on the window, blood, and touch DNA testing on the that little girls clothes might be kind of important in advancing Mr. McNeil's claim, particularly if it points to other suspects - or even unknown persons (as in the Beaman case - who also fought for years to get testing).

    Ted, I agree with you 100%. It shouldn't be the decision of the SA to perform DNA testing if it falls under the guidelines of the statues, especially when not ONE PENNY of taxpayer dollars are paying for it. What does Chambers care if Hanlon wants to pay for testing for whatever reason? The state certainly tests left and right if it "may" prove a defendants guilt.

    Same resistance on the Alan Beaman, Don Whalen, and Jamie Snow as far as testing DNA. ALL prosecuted under Charles Reynard and fought and tooth and nail by successors. I hope he will do the right thing. It's about time someone does.
  3. limey101
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    limey101 - November 05, 2013 6:42 am
    How effective is testing urine for DNA? That may be the key to why the States Attorney is willing to have it tested while reluctant on the blood.
  4. novel
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    novel - November 05, 2013 2:27 am
    This is the fact...No one can change it.
  5. otis1949
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    otis1949 - November 04, 2013 9:33 pm
    what does preacher Chuck have to say
  6. FreeMarket
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    FreeMarket - November 04, 2013 7:49 pm
    I don't see where the State's Attorney is opposing it. The last paragraph makes it sound like he's saying yes to part and maybe to the rest.
  7. Smartone
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    Smartone - November 04, 2013 7:24 pm
    DNA Testing should be mandatory in murder and homicide cases. It is one thing not to have a sample of something to test, but it is another to ignore possible evidence that can convict or not convict an innocent person. If I were on a jury, I would have a very hard time convicting anyone in a murder or homicide case without proof that the right person is on trial for the charges being brought against them and this would include DNA or a video tape of the person if it is available from the location of the crime. Everyone is suppose to get a fair trial and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, today many times it is just the opposite and the defendant is presumed guilty without the trial first and without proof beyond a shadow of a doubt. For anyone to send an innocent person to jail for these crimes is a disservice to themselves, the defendant, and the community. When a prosecutor sends a person to jail just to get a conviction, without DNA testing that is available today, they may just be letting the real murderer walk around the community in public places with the rest of us. The judges should rule for DNA testing in any of these cases where someone is sitting behind bars without the real hard evidence, which includes DNA testing.
  8. Ted Kennedy's Swim Instructor
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    Ted Kennedy's Swim Instructor - November 04, 2013 5:51 pm
    You would think that a State’s Attorney would gladly welcome DNA testing on anything and everything if they believed it would firm up their case, and as long as the defendant or independent agency were paying the bill.

    But give that a State’s Attorney has zero incentive to actually solve crimes, you would be wrong. A State’s Attorney has an incentive to get a conviction against whoever they choose given that they have a nearly unlimited budget, are almost entirely immune to being sued for their decisions, and can win elections by convicting in the right cases that get them a solid voting bloc (Duke Lacrosse Rape Case).

    In this case, Chambers probably wouldn’t be opposed too much because it wasn’t his case. Still, the more things overturned from an agency that he inherited, the worse that agency looks. And ultimately he represents the agency as the head guy in charge so if he is sniffing out the possibility that this case might turn out badly (a guy in prison for a decade when evidence might point towards a vengeful ex) then he might try all he can to keep this testing from happening.

    Ask the same question as to why the State’s Attorney office has opposed DNA testing in the Bill Whalen murder? Maybe because they have a guy in prison for 22 years and it looks REALLY BAD if he turns out to be not at all involved.
  9. plainjane777
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    plainjane777 - November 04, 2013 3:55 pm
    Why would Chambers not oppose testing on the urine stains, but decline to give an opinion on the blood, fingerprints and clothing? So much for "Justice Over Politics."
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