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Posted by: Tanja Trezise on Jan 28, 2014

Head Comment: With concurring opinion.

Court: TN Court of Criminal Appeals

Attorneys 1:

Bryce Benjet, Innocence Project, New York, New York and Joseph McClusky, Memphis, Tennessee (on appeal); John Campbell, Innocence Project, New York, New York (at trial), for the appellant, Ricky Lee Nelson.

Attorneys 2:

Robert E. Cooper, Jr., Attorney General and Reporter; Kyle Hixson, Assistant Attorney General; Amy P. Weirich, District Attorney General; and John Campbell, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellee, State of Tennessee.

Judge(s): WILLIAMS

In 1990, the petitioner was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon, second degree burglary, and aggravated rape. He received an effective sentence of twenty-five years. His convictions were affirmed on direct appeal and in post-conviction litigation. In 2010, the petitioner filed a Motion for Post-Conviction DNA Testing of a knife believed to have been brandished during the crimes, and the post-conviction court denied the motion after a non-evidentiary hearing. This court remanded the case to the post-conviction court for reconsideration in light of Powers v. State, 343 S.W.3d 36, 56 (Tenn. 2011). On remand, the post-conviction court conducted another hearing and again denied the motion. On appeal, the defendant claims that the post-conviction court erred by: (1) finding that the knife at issue was not in adequate condition to permit DNA testing; and (2) holding that exculpatory results would have been insufficient to establish a reasonable probability that the defendant would not have been prosecuted or convicted of the crimes. After review, we agree that the postconviction court applied incorrect legal standards and reached erroneous results when it made these determinations. Using the correct legal standards as set forth by our supreme court in Powers, the defendant has established his entitlement to DNA testing of the knife handle. The judgment of the post-conviction court is reversed, and the case is remanded to the postconviction court for entry of an order granting the request for DNA analysis.