Judge denies DNA test in Newton Lambert case

A judge has issued an opinion denying post-conviction DNA testing for a Juneau man convicted of a thirty-year old murder in the downtown area.

Superior Court Judge William Carey on Monday issued the long-awaited order in the Newton Lambert case.

Lambert’s defense attorney applied under a relatively new statute for DNA testing of evidence samples in the belief that there was an additional person at the scene of a downtown apartment in 1982 who may have murdered Anne and James Benolken. Another defendant, Emanuel Telles, was eventually acquitted at trial.

Judge Carey determined that there were problems in the chain of custody of shirt and pant fabric samples from the murdered James Benolken that are believed to contain blood and semen.

More importantly, Judge Carey was not convinced that the testing of the swatches would necessarily prove Lambert’s innocence since he was convicted at trial in 1983 of Anne’s murder, but acquitted of James’ murder.

Circumstantial evidence and Lambert’s own testimony place him at the scene. Judge Carey wrote in Monday’s opinion that DNA testing requires a theory of defense that would establish innocence. In this case, such testing might raise a reasonable possibility, but would not demonstrate a reasonable probability that Lambert did not commit the murder of Anne Benolken.

Another hearing in the case in Juneau Superior Court is planned for August 9th.

(Story corrected to reflect the movement of a scheduled July 29th hearing to early August.)

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