DOJ: News Release

McGrath: DNA Analysis Clears Prisoner of 1987 Rape, Remains Imprisoned on 1989 Rape

HELENA — Attorney General Mike McGrath on Thursday released DNA findings that indicate Montana State Prison inmate Paul Kordonowy did not commit one of two rapes for which he was imprisoned. However, Kordonowy remains in prison for a 1989 rape to which he plead guilty.

In January 1990, a Richland County jury found Kordonowy guilty of aggravated burglary and sexual intercourse without consent in a case that occurred in 1987. He was sentenced to 30 years on the first count and 20 years on the second, to be served concurrently. At that time, the district court judge designated Kordonowy a persistent felony offender because of a 1986 conviction for felony assault and added another 20 years to his sentence, also to be served concurrently.

McGrath said his office will file a motion to have the conviction in the 1987 case dismissed and that portion of Kordonowy’s sentence vacated.

Kordonowy had earlier plead guilty to three felony counts in a 1989 rape case – sexual intercourse without consent, aggravated kidnapping and robbery. In September 1989, he was sentenced to a total of 70 years in prison. Based on that sentence, he is not scheduled to be discharged until 2010.

The new report by Forensic Science Associates of Richmond, CA, concluded that Kordonowy was “eliminated as a co-contributor to the male DNA” recovered from a Sidney woman who was raped in 1987. The sample did not contain any of four markers that would be expected had Kordonowy committed that crime. The testing was done at the request of Peter Neufeld, director of The Innocence Project in New York City.

The case is the second in which the hair comparison testimony of former Montana Forensic Science Laboratory employee Arnold Melnikoff has been proven incorrect. The first involved Jimmy Ray Bromgard, who was released from prison in September last year when DNA analysis performed by the state crime lab and confirmed by the Richmond lab showed that he had not committed the rape for which he was imprisoned.

Melnikoff left the Montana crime lab in 1989.

Following Bromgard’s exoneration, McGrath’s office initiated a comprehensive review of cases in which people were in prison and Melnikoff had provided testimony relating to his probability theory of hair comparisons. The analysis of evidence in Kordonowy’s conviction for the 1987 rape came as part of that state review.

McGrath said that his office is continuing to identify cases in which Melnikoff testified. He noted that the review involves cases that are at least 15 years old, so tracking down the court transcripts can be a slow, difficult process, especially if the case was not appealed.

“We will notify the defendants and their attorneys of our findings as each case is reviewed,” McGrath said. “Our goal is to complete our review next month and present our findings to the Forensic Science Laboratory Advisory Board meeting on May 29.”

McGrath said that group, which includes defense attorneys and a private sector scientist, will help his office determine any further action necessary.

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