Sunday, June 22, 2008
For the second time in less than 18 months, a Cayuga County murder conviction has been thrown out after DNA testing cast doubt on the trial verdict. Thursday, County Judge Thomas G. Leone tossed out Sammy Swift's 1995 conviction and ordered a new trial for the Auburn man. Last year, Roy Brown, who had served 15 years of a life sentence for murder, was freed from prison after DNA showed he wasn't at the scene of the crime.
Swift, now 54, was sentenced in 1995 to 20 years to life in state prison in the killing of Stephen DeLuca and 12 to 25 years for robbery. DeLuca was beaten and left unconscious in his 24 Underwood Ave. home in April 1994. He died five months later, and Swift was convicted of the killing in a jury trial.
Swift filed a motion earlier this year to vacate his conviction after new DNA tests more sophisticated than those available in 1995 showed that the blood found in DeLuca's home was not Swift's. The trial transcripts from 1995 contained repeated references to blood evidence, and testimony from a co-defendant said Swift wiped his bloody arm on a couch cushion.
Swift appeared before Leone in April, and the judge adjourned the case to give himself, prosecutors and the defense time to study the case file. The issue before Leone was whether he believed the
impact of the DNA testing would have changed the original verdict.
"There's a reasonable probability the verdict would be more favorable to the defendant," Leone said Thursday in announcing his ruling.
Cayuga County District Attorney Jon E. Budelmann said trial jurors heard testimony by co-defendants and other witnesses, and heard about other evidence in the case, such as DeLuca's wallet being found in Port Byron. Swift lived in Auburn and worked in Port Byron.
Budelmann told Leone he believes jurors would return the same verdict despite the DNA test and reminded the judge he must decide whether a different verdict was not simply possible but probable. [Mark Godsey]