McGrath, Paxinos: DNA Evidence Exonerates Prisoner
HELENA – Attorney General Mike McGrath and Yellowstone County Attorney Dennis Paxinos today filed a motion in Yellowstone County District Court, seeking to vacate the judgment and dismiss the charges against Jimmy Ray Bromgard. If granted, the action seeks to have Bromgard released from the Montana State Prison following an October 1 hearing.
The filing comes after DNA analysis performed last week by the state Crime Lab in Missoula and an independent lab in California showed that the DNA from the scene of a 1987 sexual assault does not match Bromgard’s DNA. Bromgard, now 33, has been in prison since 1987, when he began serving a 40-year term for three counts of sexual intercourse without consent.
“Clearly there has been an injustice in this case,” said Yellowstone County Attorney Dennis Paxinos. “The last thing anyone wants is to keep a man behind bars when in fact he did not commit the crime that put him there.”
The case dates back to 1987, when an eight-year-old Billings girl was threatened, gagged and sexually assaulted in her bedroom. Bromgard was identified in a police line-up and charged with three counts of sexual intercourse without consent. A Billings jury found him guilty of all three counts in November 1987.
Recently, Bromgard and attorneys from the Innocence Project requested further testing of evidence samples by an independent lab. Those tests, together with the follow-up tests from the Montana Crime Lab confirmed that seminal fluid found on the victim’s clothing at the time of the crime did not belong to Bromgard.
DNA testing was not available at the time Bromgard was prosecuted.
“We are grateful that this new technology has allowed a not-guilty man to be set free,” McGrath said. “We hope, using the same technology, investigators will be able to apprehend the person who did commit this crime.”
McGrath said the Crime Lab will compare the DNA from the crime scene with CoDIS, the national Combined DNA Index System, in search of a match. McGrath said the lab will do the national database search and could get results in a few days.
(For more information on The Innocence Project, visit www.innocenceproject.org)