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DNA closes the case for DeJac retrial

A few dozen people wasted nearly an hour in court Tuesday morning. We were there because Frank Clark, our theatrical district attorney, refuses to acknowledge the obvious.

It is obvious there is a good chance -- based on new DNA evidence -- that Lynn DeJac did not kill her 13-year-old daughter in 1993.

Clark, for reasons uncertain, does not want the flawed case reopened. His prosecutor, J. Michael Marion, made feeble arguments Tuesday to that effect. The assertions were overwhelmed by recently uncovered evidence: DNA that almost certainly came from an accused killer was found inside victim Crystallynn Girard, on her bedsheet and in a blood smear on her bedroom wall.

There is just a 1-in-1,200 chance that the DNA fingerprint does not belong to DeJac's ex-boyfriend, Dennis Donahue. He was a key player in the murderous night's drama, stalking DeJac as she partied around town with her new man.

Donahue is a familiar name. He was recently charged in the 1993 murder of Joan Giambra, who was found -- like Crystallynn Girard -- strangled and naked on her bed. Maybe the similarities are, as the district attorney suggests, just a coincidence. I put the odds of that at about 1,200-to-1.

If DNA evidence connecting Donahue to Crystallynn's killing was known at the time, odds are DeJac would never have been charged, much less convicted. That is why DeJac, who has proclaimed her innocence the past 13 years, should be retried. It is the least the law can do.

DeJac's 1994 conviction was crafted on circumstantial evidence. Some of it hinged on her supposed barroom confession to a two-time felon. Wayne Hudson was looking at a third strike when he told cops about her alleged confession and cut a deal months after the killing. He was among a cast of criminals and barflies whom DeJac called friends.

What justice needed then is what we have now: evidence that does not come out of the mouth of a lifetime loser. The question is why Clark is fighting -- despite the DNA -- against reopening a crumbling case.

Clark declined to comment after Tuesday's hearing. He said recently that he wants to preserve the integrity of the system, including the jury's 1994 verdict.

Huh? The integrity of the system is preserved by convicting the guilty and by freeing the wrongly accused. Slamming the door in the face of new DNA evidence does not protect the integrity of the system, it perverts it.

Clark has gone after people with less evidence than the DNA uncovered in this case. He recently prosecuted sheriff's deputy George Avery on sexual assault charges. He did it on the word of a "victim" who is a pathological liar. He did it despite the absence of DNA that by all logic should have been present. To the surprise of no one, Avery was acquitted.

Yet Clark now argues against a new trial for DeJac, despite DNA that points guilt in a different direction. I am not sure what clouds Clark's judgment -- ego, inflexibility or a misplaced loyalty to the original prosecutor.

There may be another reason. If DeJac is cleared, no one will be convicted of Crystallynn's murder. In a questionable move back then, Donahue was given a free pass from prosecution in return for his grand jury testimony. His DNA was on the dead girl's body, and the law cannot touch him.

"The point is not whether Dennis Donahue can be charged," said DeJac's attorney, Andrew LoTempio. "It is whether Lynn DeJac should [remain] in jail."

Crystallynn deserved better from life than an early, violent death. There is no justice for her. There might still be some for her mother.


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