DNA tests raise questions in N.Chicago attack conviction
Long-awaited DNA test results in a savage North Chicago attack show no link to the Chicago man who was convicted of the crime and sentenced to prison, defense attorneys said in Lake County court Thursday.
David Owens, an attorney with the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School, said Marvin Williford's DNA does not appear on any items recovered at the crime scene where Delwin Foxworth was beaten and set on fire in January 2000. Owens and co-counsel Jennifer Blagg said the next step is to meet with prosecutors to attempt to resolve the case, for which Williford is serving an 80-year prison sentence.
Because the most recent tests fail to show a link to Williford's DNA, Blagg said, it's time for prosecutors to "fish or cut bait."
"A decision needs to be made at this point," Owens said. "We are hoping to have it resolved by the next hearing. But, if we don't have a resolution in hand, we intend to file something."
He would not detail what that "something" is, but it could be a motion to grant a new trial or to have the conviction overturned.
Williford, 43, was convicted by a jury in 2004 of breaking into Foxworth's residence, beating him with a 2x4 wooden board, tying him up with duct tape, then setting him on fire. Foxworth was able to extinguish the flames and walk to a neighbor's house where he called for help, police said.
Foxworth, who was 39, told police three men held him at gunpoint and beat him in an effort to get money. They poured gasoline on him and set him on fire when he failed to meet their demands, police said.
He survived for two years, but died at Loyola University Medical Center from his injuries in August 2002.
Williford was arrested in February 2003 and convicted of Foxworth's murder a year later. Williford has maintained his innocence throughout his arrest and trial, Owens said.
An earlier round of DNA tests showed Williford's DNA was not present on the board, the duct tape or the gas can recovered after the attack, Owens said. Further testing was done on clothing Foxworth was wearing, Owens said.
Touch DNA samples recovered from the board matched a sample taken from the 1992 murder of Holly Staker in Waukegan.
Staker, 11, was found stabbed, raped and strangled inside a Waukegan apartment where she was baby-sitting.
Juan Rivera, formerly of Waukegan, spent 20 years in prison for Staker's murder after he was convicted by three juries. DNA evidence exonerated Rivera, and he was released from prison in January 2012.
No one else has been charged with Staker's murder since Rivera's release.
A partial DNA sample was also recovered in the most recent round of tests in the Williford case, Owens said. However, he said, while that test sample was deemed inconclusive, it did not rule out a match with the DNA found in the Staker murder.
Assistant State's Attorney Ari Fisz told Judge George Bridges in court the two sides intend to meet at least twice to discuss the case before they return to court March 3.