Appeals court rejects death row inmate’s request to reopen case


An appeals court has denied a Tennessee death row inmate’s request to reopen his case after unknown DNA was found

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — An appeals court has denied a Tennessee death row inmate’s request to reopen his case after unknown DNA was found.

The Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals ruled late Thursday that 71-year-old Oscar Smith “has not presented new scientific evidence establishing that he is actually innocent of the victims’ murders,” The Tennessean reported.

Smith’s attorney, Amy Harwell, earlier Thursday filed for a stay of execution with the Tennessee Supreme Court so the lower court could consider the request. The motion in execution status was still pending Friday afternoon.

Smith is due to receive a lethal injection on April 21. He was found guilty of fatally stabbing and shooting his estranged wife, Judith Smith, and sons, Jason and Chad Burnett, 13 and 16, at their Nashville home on October 1, 1989. Smith has maintained that he is innocent.

Earlier this month, Smith asked the Davidson County Criminal Court to reopen his case after a new type of DNA analysis found DNA from an unknown person on one of the murder weapons. The judge denied that request as well as a second request for reconsideration, writing that there was ample evidence of Smith’s guilt. Smith appealed.

Smith’s lawyers argued in Thursday’s motion that the criminal court judge applied the law incorrectly when he denied Smith’s request to reopen his case.

Smith has previously sought to prove that the fingerprint evidence used against him was unreliable. In Thursday’s motion, Smith’s attorneys argued that the combination of a fingerprint and DNA from an unknown person on one of the murder weapons should be considered strong evidence of his innocence.

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