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JUDGE OVERTURNS LEAH FREEMAN MANSLAUGHTER CONVICTION FROM 2011
A Malheur County Judge has overturned a manslaughter conviction in which Nicholas McGuffin of Coquille was convicted of killing his teenage girlfriend. 15-year old Leah Freeman’s body was found dumped a few miles from her home in Coquille almost 20 years ago. Janis Puracal of the Forensic Justice Project says McGuffin has maintained his innocence since being convicted in 2011. While looking into the case almost four years ago, her team discovered the existence of DNA evidence that was never disclosed by the state crime lab. That DNA, found on a bloodstained shoe, belonged to an unidentified male, not McGuffin. According to Puracal, the judge said the information not disclosed at trial was material and exculpatory. By failing to disclose it to the jury, the state violated McGuffin’s rights. The judge did, however, deny the team’s claims of actual innocence saying they did not establish the merits of the claim. In addition, the opinion indicated that District Attorney Paul Frasier’s testimony on the evidence presented in the case could lead a jury to find the defendant did commit the crime. McGuffin was set to be released in August next year after serving his 10-year sentence on the manslaughter conviction. The State will have until December 30th to decide if it will appeal the decision. If they do not appeal, the Coos County District Attorney can either retry the case or dismiss the charges. Puracal says if the charges are dismissed, they’ll move to have the conviction expunged from McGuffin’s record.