Judge upholds 1999 murder case


POSTED: Thursday, April 09, 2009

A state judge denied a murder defendant's request yesterday to dismiss the case against him because of improper statements made to the grand jury.

Darnell Griffin, 50, is awaiting trial for the 1999 rape and murder of Evelyn Luka.

Griffin provided transcripts from the grand jury proceeding, in which a lawyer assigned to answer the jurors' legal questions suggested that Griffin is a convicted sex offender and that could be why police had his DNA to match it in the current case.

Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario and the state agreed with Griffin that the statements were improper. But while there are statutes and case law regarding misconduct in grand jury proceedings by prosecutors, Del Rosario said no laws govern misconduct of lawyers assigned to answer the jury's questions.

Del Rosario said Griffin didn't show how the statements prejudiced the grand jurors. And Griffin's lawyer concedes that the state did present enough evidence to the grand jury for it to return an indictment in 2007.

Luka's murder went unsolved until police said they were able to match Griffin's DNA. Police had his DNA because of a 2005 state law requiring all convicted felons to provide samples to a national database.

In 1983, Griffin was sentenced to life in prison for the 1980 strangulation of a 26-year-old woman. He was paroled in 1996.