Court Mistakenly Destroys Evidence Death Row Inmate Claims Would Free Him

Los Angeles County Courts have destroyed key evidence in a murder case that could have exonerated an inmate sentenced to death.

Scott Pinholster, 58, was convicted of murder in 1984. A pivotal part of the prosecution's case was dried blood on an old towel and a pair of workboots, which they believed had come from the victims. In a new piece about his situation by The L.A. Times, Pinholster says that modern DNA testing might have conclusively proved that the blood was actually his.

Pinholster's lawyer has requested a hearing to determine how the evidence could have been mistakenly destroyed and what should be done in to make up for it. He says that he plans to ultimately ask for a new trial.

The prosecutors who put Pinholster away say that a simple mistake staff members at court shouldn't be grounds for freeing a man who was convicted of murder.

California state law mandates that any evidence from a case where the defendant was sentenced to death be preserved until after the execution. It's a rule put in place for exactly this kind of scenario, and Pinholster demands justice.

A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Superior Court told the Times that this is the only known case of evidence being destroyed while a death row inmate was still alive in L.A. County. She said that the court has just recently reviewed their procedure for destroying evidence, and she can't say how this might have happened.

Out of the 744 inmates on death row in California, Pinholster is one of the 20 that have exhausted all their appeals. He's near the front of the line for execution. It's especially frustrating for him after Californians voted to speed up the execution process last year. At the time, he was among the inmates interviewed by the Times.

"After 30 years, you don't care one way or the other," he said.