DNA ruling upheld in homicide case

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) The Alaska Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling denying DNA evidence in the case of Newton Patric Lambert Friday.

    Lambert, 57 was convicted of the April,1982 murder of Ana Benolken at a Juneau apartment.  A jury acquitted Lambert in the murder of her husband James.  Both victims had been brutally stabbed and sexually assaulted.

    The state also charged Emmanuel Telles but he was acquitted at both trials.  He died several years later.

    Lambert requested that DNA tests be conducted on blood and semen samples taken from the clothing of Mr. Benolken, now housed at a private laboratory in California.

    In 2010 the Alaska legislature enacted a post-conviction DNA test law.  It created a procedural way where defendants who claimed to be innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted could seek DNA testing that could support their claim of innocence.

    The Superior Court ruled against the application.  The court found Lambert had failed to show that the proposed tests could raise a reasonable probability that Lambert was not guilty.

    Mrs. Benolken was stabbed approximately 60 times.  Authorities found Mr. Lambert's finger prints on a paper bag that contained a liquor bottle within arms length of the body.  A Juneau police officer testified he had seen the defendant near the apartment on the morning of the murder.  Witnesses saw two dark haired men in the apartment building the night before the murders and Lambert had dark hair.   Lambert asked a friend Gary Moses to lie to the police for him.  Moses girlfriend confirmed that story to the police.  He claimed he had no memory of that night and had been drinking and doing drugs.  Lambert also was treated at the hospital emergency room the day after the murders for an arm wound.  The state also found Lambert purchased a new knife a few days after the murder.  A broken knife was found under the body of the victim.

    Two jail inmates testified at the trial that Lambert had confessed to them that he had committed the murder and thrown the knife into the Gastineau Channel.  FBI expert Michael Malone tested strands of hair found on the body and testified that they came from an Alaska Native and virtually matched sample hairs taken from Lambert.

    Microscopic comparative hair analysis has come under increased scrutiny and there is now significant doubt as to its scientific reliability today, the court noted.

    Lambert also testified that he had been in the apartment that night and had lied to police about his whereabouts.  He mentioned he had a seizure, saw red flashes, and woke up in the couple's bathtub, finding the two bodies in the living room.  He testified at one point he thought he might have done it.

    Lambert was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

    The court found that Lambert failed to show that the DNA testing, if favorable, would raise a reasonable probability that the outcome of the trial would be different and dismissed his argument that he had falsely confessed.  The court also found that while demonstrating the DNA belonged to two unknown men could potentially undermine confidence in the jury's verdict, they raised the possibility that more than two men were involved.  Another legal issue was the evidence of blood and semen came from Mr. Benolken's clothing, and Lambert had been acquitted of a role in his murder.  During the appeal the state raised concerns that the samples could have been contaminated.

     

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