Judge: No new trial in latest Lake County DNA case

  • Marvin Williford, 47, of Chicago

    Marvin Williford, 47, of Chicago

Updated 5/31/2018 6:15 PM

A Chicago man serving an 80-year prison sentence for the murder of a North Chicago man should not receive a new trial despite a lack of his DNA on any evidence tested at the gruesome crime scene, a Lake County judge ruled Thursday.

Judge Daniel Shanes's 41-page ruling says there is not enough credible evidence to support a new trial for Marvin Williford, 47, in the murder of Delwin Foxworth.


Most important, Shanes wrote in the ruling obtained by the Daily Herald, Williford's lack of DNA on key pieces of evidence does not prove Williford was not behind Foxworth's death after he was attacked at his North Chicago apartment in January 2000.

Lake County State's Attorney Michael Nerheim did not comment on the ruling.

Defense attorney David Owens, from the Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School, was not immediately available for comment.

Authorities said three men entered Foxworth's apartment, beat him with a wooden board, bound him with duct tape, then used gasoline to set him on fire. Foxworth, who was 39 at the time, survived the attack by extinguishing the flames and crawling to a neighbor's house to phone police. Authorities said he died from his injuries in August 2002.

The board, duct tape and gas can were tested for DNA. Those tests did not result in a positive hit against Williford.

However, Shanes' ruling said the absence of Williford's DNA at the crime scene does not clear Williford of Foxworth's murder.

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"This theory assumes that a person necessarily leaves a sample of DNA sufficient for comparison purposes any time he touches an object," Shanes wrote. "This assumption is unsupported by the credible evidence -- and, in fact, is specifically refuted."

Shanes also denied the new trial request saying unreliable identification evidence did not violate Williford's due process rights as defense attorneys contend. He also felt Williford's trial counsel was not ineffective as argued, and the state did not withhold evidence that would have changed the mind of jurors in Williford's 2004 trial.

Owens has said previously in court that DNA recovered from items involved in the murder also matched a DNA sample taken from the 1992 murder of 11-year-old Holly Staker. Staker was found stabbed, raped and strangled inside a Waukegan apartment where she and her twin sister, Heather, frequently baby-sat two small children.

Juan Rivera, formerly of Waukegan, spent 20 years in prison for Staker's murder after he was convicted by three separate juries. DNA evidence eventually exonerated him, and he was released from prison in January 2012. No one else has been charged with the crime.

Like Rivera, Williford has long maintained his innocence and never confessed to the crime, Owens said. No forensic evidence or past witnesses link Williford to the crime, Owens said.

This was the latest of several DNA cases in Lake County courts in recent years. Previously, murder cases involving Rivera, Jerry Hobbs and James Edwards, and rape cases against Bennie Starks and Angel Gonzalez, were overturned because of DNA evidence.

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