EXCLUSIVE: OSP reacts to overturned manslaughter conviction

OSP defends its handling of certain DNA evidence in the case, which a judge just recently cited as the reason for overturning Nicholas McGuffin's manslaughter conviction.

Posted: Dec 18, 2019 4:08 PM
Updated: Dec 19, 2019 11:21 AM

COOS COUNTY, Ore. -- As Nicholas McGuffin spent his first full day as a free man on Wednesday, questions continued about certain DNA evidence in the case.

It's that evidence that recently overturned his 2011 manslaughter conviction. A judge accused Oregon State Police of withholding information. 


Now, OSP Forensic Science and Pathology Major Alex Gardner, former Lane County District Attorney, is defending his agency. 

"We provided all of the information," said Gardner. "What we didn't do was comment on the potential existence of male DNA, which at the time, given the system constraints at the time, we couldn't confidently identify as male DNA."

In 2000, the DNA was discovered on victim Leah Freeman's shoes. As it turns out, it was from an unknown male. But according to court documents, that wasn't revealed at trial about a decade later. Gardner maintained that the OSP crime lab experts did their job. 


"We provide all of the information, the raw data. But we don't draw conclusions that aren't confidently supported by the data," he said.

KEZI 9 News also spoke to Janis Puracal, McGuffin's attorney. She said the mystery DNA should have been reanalyzed and reported during the trial. 

"So it didn't actually come to light. And it wasn't actually reported until we got into the post conviction case," Puracal said. 

"Do you believe that (OSP) purposely withheld that evidence? Do you think that they just mishandled it? How would you characterize their responsibility in all this?" KEZI 9 News anchor Bryan Anderson asked.

"I would say that the state lab definitely mishandled this case," answered Puracal. 

Gardner denied that accusation. 

"I'd like folks at home to understand that we have incredibly capable people who are scientists. They are not advocates. They say what they can say using the best techniques available at the time," Gardner said. "But science evolves. It's not CSI. It is not magic and in six hours we know who the suspect is by a profile on every case. It just doesn't work like that."

Below is the full interview with OSP's Gardner:

Below is the full interview with McGuffin's attorney:

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