D.A. re-examining decades old criminal cases after FBI evidence declared invalid

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TRI-CITIES, TN (WJHL) – Nearly a dozen criminal cases involving violent crimes, even murders, are back under review because some of the evidence may be flawed.

According to First District Attorney General Tony Clark, The FBI recently notified district attorneys across the country that some evidence in certain cases is invalid.

The district attorneys then alerted the surviving victims and family members of victims in these cases.

We talked with one of those family members, LaVernge Craig, the daughter of Dolly Gouge. Gouge was murdered in Carter County nearly 30 years ago.

Craig said Clark’s office recently notified her that they are reviewing her mother’s case because a hair sample used by the FBI is now deemed invalid.

At a court hearing in a few months, Craig will hear all the details of her mother’s case once again. “It’s pretty devastating after all these years, for myself it’s been 29 years and so here we are back in court again,” Craig said.

Her ex-husband Ricky Harris is convicted of murdering her mom in 1987.

“Just the idea of having to go back in March even and hear every component of the case again, every piece of evidence, it’s really it’s almost more than you can stand sometimes, it’s very unsettling,” Craig said.

Gouge’s case is one of the many district attorneys are re-examining.

“The  FBI went back through, for whatever reason, went back through their files, documentation, and cases they had that they had testified to at the state level. They made a determination that those, a lot of those testings, DNA, those hair analysis whatever the forensic test may be were invalid for different reasons,” Clark said.

Clark said his office is currently reviewing about 10 cases from the 80’s and 90’s, digging out old files,  finding the evidence presented in the case, then sending a report back to the FBI.

“And the judge will make a determination as to whether there should be a new trial or if that in some way would prove the innocence of that individual,” Clark said. “I understand from the perspective of these individuals if they were wrongfully accused or if the evidence that was utilized against them is incorrect then we have to go back, and I think I have a duty as a D.A. to go back and make sure that these are done correctly.”

Clark said in the Gouge case, evidence is getting retested, and the issue will be taken up at a hearing in 2017. Craig said no matter how hard reliving the details may be, “I’m always there to represent my mother,” Craig said.

Clark said Craig’s family won’t be the last affected by the evidence review.

“Unfortunately there’s more to come because these are, they’re not finished yet, they’re still going through all their files,” Clark said.

Clark said despite the new scrutiny, he’s confident the outcomes of some of the cases won’t change because of what he believes is sufficient evidence apart from the evidence deemed invalid. But the ultimate decision on these cases will be up to a judge.

Copyright 2016 WJHL. All Rights Reserved.

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