Innocence Project fights to clear name of convicted serial killer Billy Glaze, even after his death

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A convicted serial killer’s decades-long quest to prove his innocence is continuing even after his death.

Attorneys for Billy Glaze, convicted of killing three women in Minneapolis in the late 1980s, filed their appeal at the Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday.

Three young Native American women were killed in 1986 and 1987, beaten and sexually mutilated with a foreign object.

In 1989, a jury convicted Glaze of the murders. Glaze died in prison in December 2015 while seeking exoneration based on new DNA evidence.

Four days before Glaze died of lung cancer he signed his will, which read, “It is my hope to someday clear my name from the crime of which I was convicted, even if that time comes after my death.”

Nearly a year after Glaze’s death, a Hennepin County judge ended Glaze’s exoneration attempts. In the order, the judge wrote that a piece of evidence had not been disclosed to the court, but Glaze’s attorneys say the item, which had no DNA from Glaze on it, was included as an exhibit in their brief.

The fight to exonerate Glaze resumed on Tuesday when attorneys working with the Innocence Project of Minnesota filed an appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court.

“We have a citizen of the state who spent 28 years, until the end of his life--when he died in prison for a crime he didn’t commit," said Ed Magarian, an attorney at Dorsey & Whitney, who is volunteering his time for the case. “It’s important to him, it’s important to whatever little family he has left, and it’s important for us as Minnesotans to understand how such a tragedy could occur and make sure we learn from it.”

Glaze’s attorneys argue that DNA evidence shows his DNA was not on 39 tested pieces of evidence. Instead, a convicted rapist’s DNA was found on one victim and on a cigarette butt at another crime scene.

Glaze was convicted mostly based on testimony from witnesses. His lawyers argue the witnesses had ulterior motives for the testimony; some witnesses have recanted. Another key piece of evidence was a shoe print that prosecutors said matched Glaze’s size and style. His lawyers counter the shoe size was common, and so was the style.

At the trial, the prosecutor told the jury, “Make no bones about it, with the exception of the size of the shoe print there is no physical evidence pointing to this man. But just the other side of the coin is this, there is no physical evidence pointing at anybody else.” 

Today, Glaze’s lawyers argue, there is evidence pointing at somebody else: a convicted rapist who spent most of his time in jail during the years of the killings—but was out of jail each time one of the women was murdered.

A spokesperson for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office told Fox 9 the county attorney is still confident Glaze is the killer.

The county attorney’s spokesperson said it is “not surprising at all that Glaze’s semen was not found in the victims. The women were not raped. They were violently violated with branches and other things.” He also said it is not surprising a convicted rapist’s DNA was found because some of the victims were prostitutes.

Glaze’s attorneys, like their deceased client, stand by his innocence and argue re-visiting the case is in the public’s best interest.

“We have a responsibility to make sure we help our community. And I can’t think of a greater way for us to help our community than to find people who have been convicted of crimes they didn’t commit. So not only they can be freed, but where they can’t, like in Billy’s case, where he died after 28 years in prison, to learn the lessons to make sure this doesn’t happen again," Magarian said. “And that allows me to sleep well at night knowing I played a role in allowing that to happen.”