We congratulate the New England Innocence Project (NEIP) on their efforts in getting John Grega out of prison. Grega has maintained his innocence since his conviction 18 years ago for the rape and death of his wife, Christine Grega. He was Vermont’s first life sentence without parole and is now its first release based on DNA testing.
Vermont’s DNA testing access law came rather late in the year of 2007. This finally allowed those convicted of serious crimes to request the testing of existing DNA evidence that had never been tested before their trial.
In November 2010, a request was made to have swabs from Christine’s body tested. However, the testing did not occur until May of this year. This DNA testing showed that male DNA from collected on the anal swab could not have been left there by Grega.
Judge John Wesley granted Grega a new trial. Grega’s attorney, Ian Carleton, and State Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver filed a joint motion asking for a new trial and for the court to vacate the conviction. In exchange, Grega’s legal team agreed to temporarily drop the motion for exoneration and allow the State the option to retry him. For its part, the State appears intent on retrying Mr. Grega even for a rape murder that DNA evidence seems to prove he did not commit.
Grega’s parents posted the $75,000 bond to release him. NEIP Executive Director Gretchen Bennett said that Grega’s work on his own case largely contributed to the speedy advancement of his case. He knew that the DNA existed and made all the proper communicative moves with lawyers to get it tested. The Southern State Correctional Facility Superintendent, Mark Potanas, found him to be a model prisoner who helped his fellow prisoners with their cases while he worked in the library.
Judge Wesley released him under the condition that he does not see his late wife’s family and that he periodically checks in with New York police.
But let us rewind to note how the State responded to the DNA test’s exclusion of John. The State set out to test everyone they could think of in an effort to prove contamination. While this action could be explained as the State making sure the DNA evidence is relevant in this case, their efforts to find another consensual partner suggests that Grega’s late wife was having an affair. Not only is this insulting to him, it is not merited by any other part of the investigation. The family was on vacation in West Dover with their two-year-old son when Christine was murdered. Does the state mean to suggest that she had her affair with another partner amidst this family vacation? Instead of recognizing the clear import of this new DNA evidence for Grega’s innocence, the State went the opposite way, trying to prove that the DNA evidence is irrelevant and does not in fact prove innocence. Of course, the State’s efforts were not successful.
This attitude towards DNA evidence is just another amongst the many that arise in resistance to its findings. Yet somehow each resistance is disguised in its own way.