Retrial nixed for man previously convicted in 1980 slaying

December 27, 2019 GMT

GUTHRIE, Ky. (AP) — A judge has dismissed a murder charge in the retrial of a Kentucky man previously convicted in the death of his girlfriend.

A prosecutor moved to dismiss Norman Graham’s charge last week, partly because of affidavits by the family of Janice Kay Williams that said they didn’t want to relive the events in another trial, the Courier Journal reported.

A third trial also wouldn’t be likely to result in a conviction, meaning it wouldn’t serve the public or Williams’ family, Logan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Neil Kerr said.

The 21-year-old Williams was found dead in a trailer rented by Graham in the summer of 1980. She had been raped, stabbed in the chest more than 20 times and her throat had been cut, according to court records and the newspaper’s account.

Graham had said he’d been out drinking and was asleep in his car outside the bar during the killing, according to court records. He told authorities he found Williams’ body upon returning home and alerted police.

At the time, forensic science couldn’t determine whose semen was on Williams’ jumpsuit, court records say. Graham was tried in her death in 1981 and freed by a deadlocked jury.

More than 20 years later, a state police officer said new evidence came to light and Graham was retried. Prosecutors reexamined the DNA evidence in 2003 and found that it matched Graham’s DNA to a statistical probability of one out of 506 trillion people, court records say. Graham was found guilty of murder and rape and sentenced to 40 years in prison.

He was freed and granted a new trial in 2017 after new evidence implicated another man, Roy Wayne Dean Jr., who has since been convicted of killing two women in a similar manner to Williams. The only difference in the crimes was the murder weapons, according to court records.

One of Dean’s ex-wives told authorities that Dean described the scene of Williams’ murder to her as if he had personal knowledge of it. She testified that she believed Dean is guilty of far worse than she initially imagined when they were married. She said she suspected Dean was a thief, having come home with odd scratches, bloodied pants and, on occasions, women’s wedding rings. She testified she had come to believe those were connected to women who vanished from the areas where Dean lived, court records say.

Two women, who were young teens at the time of the slaying, told the court they were playing hide-and-seek that night when they heard a woman’s scream. One of the women is a sister of a Dean who lived in an adjoining trailer. She testified that she then saw her brother covered in blood outside Grahams’ trailer on the night of the killing. She said Dean hushed her and ran off, but she later noticed that his hand was cut and bloody. The court determined the women previously were too afraid of Dean to come forward with their testimony, records say.

Citing that and other evidence, Special Judge Kelly Easton granted Graham a new trial. By then, Graham was 70 years old and had been diagnosed with cancer. It’s unclear what he plans to do now that another trial isn’t looming before him.