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Convicted murderer keeps trying for new trial Evidence from 1985 too small for DNA test

Seven motions for a new trial have been filed since Peter King was convicted of the August 1985 murder of a Buffalo woman.

All seven appeals have been turned down, but King continues to swear he is innocent.

And his attorney, James Ostrowski, now is asking the state court system an eighth time to grant King a new trial.

"We feel that Peter King never got a fair trial and that no appeals court has ever grappled with the fairness of his trial," Ostrowski said on Sunday. "We've filed another appeal. I wouldn't keep doing it if I didn't think he had a chance."

In Ostrowski's view, it's "a tragedy" that evidence in King's case will never receive the kind of modern DNA examination that led to the release earlier this year of Anthony Capozzi. Capozzi spent 22 years in prison for two Delaware Park rapes that police now know were committed by admitted Bike Path Killer Altemio Sanchez.

"We received a ruling [in 1998] that some blood on a jacket that was seized from Peter would be tested using sophisticated modern techniques," Ostrowski said. "But the swatch of jacket that the authorities had kept was too small to test. Peter never got the benefit of those tests."

King, 47, has written and called The Buffalo News repeatedly over the past 12 years, swearing that he was framed for the murder of Diane Rumph, who was 28, an insurance company employee who lived on Dunlop Avenue in Buffalo's University section.

Buffalo Police Homicide Bureau detectives said King stabbed Rumph to death when she surprised him in her home during a late-night burglary that netted the thief $23. Police called the attack a "tragic and brutal" slaying and called King a career thief. They said he made statements to two East Side men admitting to the killing.

King has always insisted that the men were lying, that he was not there and that his conviction was a case of mistaken identity.

Prosecutors from the Erie County District Attorney's office and the State Attorney General's office argued repeatedly that King was properly arrested, fairly tried and properly convicted.

A retired homicide detective who handled the case, Robert M. Grabowski, said he does not remember every detail of the crime but believes -- based on his recollection -- that King was properly convicted.

"I do wish we had the DNA evidence, though," said Grabowski, now 73 and retired since 1994. "I remember that [Rumph's] blood type matched up to what was on the jacket, but we didn't have DNA evidence then."
Grabowski said he recalled that testimony from one of King's friends, claiming that King took responsibility for the killing, was key evidence in the case. "The jury apparently did believe him," Grabowski said.

That testimony was false, King insisted.

In December 1986, one month after a jury verdict against him, King was sentenced to 25 years to life in state prison. Convicted of intentionally murdering Rumph during a burglary, he is being held in Livingston State Correctional Facility. He is eligible for a parole hearing in 2010.

Reached at home Sunday evening, District Attorney Frank J. Clark said he was not familiar with Ostrowski's request for a new trial.

"I can say that DNA evidence was not available to us until the early '90s, and then, it was prohibitively expensive to use it," Clark said. "There are lots of times where you wish you had DNA evidence at the time the crime was committed. . . . We don't want innocent people in jail."

Court papers filed by Ostrowski also allege that King received "ineffective" representation at his 1986 trial from an attorney who was struggling with his own drug addiction.

In a letter sent to The News last month, King said: "I am innocent. . . . I believe no man deserves to be put though what they have put me through."

e-mail: dherbeck@buffnews.com

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