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Court upholds sentence, questions DNA evidence handling

Reported by: Mel Carlock
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Updated: 8/29/2013 4:59 pm
JACKSON, Miss. (WTVA) -- The Mississippi Supreme Court has upheld the sentence handed down in a Calhoun County rape conviction, but not without making comments about how DNA evidence needs to be handled.

Billy Dale Hill, 57, pleaded guilty to charges of murder and rape is serving life plus 44 years in relation to the 1974 death of Minnie Hamilton, 87.

In 2011, The Mississippi Supreme Court had approved Hill's request for post-conviction relief to have the rape charge resentenced to meet state law and to have DNA testing done on biological evidence in the case.

Hill was orginally sentenced to life in prison on the rape charge, but was resentenced to serve 44 years.

The DNA evidence in question involved a laboratory slide containing biological evidence collected during the autopsy.

Justices directed the trial court to order the DNA testing, but Hill says the slide had been destroyed with other evidence from the trial.

He claimed it was a violation of his 14th Amendment rights.

In their decision on Thursday, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled the lack of evidence to test for DNA does not entitle Hill to any relief on appeal.

Justices did call attention to the DNA Preservation Act, a state law that sets guidelines for preserving biological evidence.

The opinion reminds the court biological evidence must be preserved is a case remains unsolved or for the period of time a person convicted of a crime remains in custody.

They say in this case, some evidence from the case had been destroyed, but the trial judge says the laboratory slide was not among the evidence.

Court officials say the slide was never received into evidence, never marked for identification and there is nothing in the trial transcript to suggest the slide still existed at the time of the originally trial.

Justices say the evidence presented is sufficient to prove the slide was not among evidence destroyed in 2010 because there is nothing to prove the court ever had possession of it.
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