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Mo. Death Row Inmate to Get New Trial

February 12, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ The state Supreme Court on Tuesday unanimously overturned the conviction of a man sentenced to death for a double murder, saying his lawyer failed to pursue evidence that would have cast doubt on his guilt.

Based largely on the testimony of one witness, Danny Wolfe was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for robbing and killing Leonard and Lena Walters in February 1997.

No physical evidence linked the killing to Wolfe, whose lawyer argued that the prosecution’s chief witness, Jessica Cox, was trying to frame him.

Cox _ who was given immunity from prosecution _ had testified that she was driving when Wolfe shot Leonard Walters from the back seat during a test drive of a car he was selling. She said she then waited outside while Wolfe went into the couple’s home and killed Lena Walters.

After the trial, hairs found in the back seat of the car and in an ammunition box found in a trash bin were linked to Cox.

``This court’s confidence in the fairness of the trial and the reliability of Wolfe’s conviction is seriously undermined,″ Judge Richard Teitelman wrote for the state’s highest court, which also ordered a new trial.

Wolfe’s lawyer argued only that the hair found in the car and trash bin wasn’t Wolfe’s. But he could have easily arranged a scientific comparison of the hair fibers before the trial, the court said.

``The results of the hair analysis would have likely cast doubt on Cox’s credibility,″ Teitelman wrote. ``The evidence would have directly contradicted Cox’s testimony and supported Wolfe’s defense that Cox was framing him.″

Wolfe’s two trial attorneys, both public defenders at the time, did not immediately return calls to their offices Tuesday.

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