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McGuffin conviction overturned due to Oregon State Police error

A Malheur County circuit court judge has overturned the 2011 manslaughter conviction of Nicholas McGuffin in the death of teenager Leah Freeman.

McGuffin conviction overturned due to Oregon State Police error
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A Malheur County circuit court judge has overturned the 2011 manslaughter conviction of Nicholas McGuffin in the death of teenager Leah Freeman. After a trial for post-conviction relief last August, Sr Judge Patricia Sullivan rendered a decision last Friday finding that the Oregon State Police laboratory violated McGuffin’s constitutional rights when it failed to provide evidence of touch DNA on the victim’s shoes belonging to an unknown male.

Leah Freeman, 15, went missing on June 28, 2000 and her body was found on August 2 of that year on an embankment about eight miles from Coquille. According to the decision the initial investigation into Freeman’s disappearance was “hampered by local law enforcement.” Materials were not provided to the District Attorney until 2009 and 2010 after a new police chief, Mark Dannels, took over the Coquille Police Department.

A grand jury was convened in July 2010 and McGuffin, 18 at the time Freeman went missing, was arrested and charged on August 24. He was tried and convicted of Manslaughter 1 in July 2011 by a verdict of 10 – 2.

Janis Puracal, lawyer for the Forensic Innocence Project filed a petition on behalf of McGuffin for post-conviction relief citing 16 claims including inadequate representation by counsel. Because the unknown DNA did not provide enough markers to provide an identification at the time of the original testing Oregon State Police Crime Lab policy allowed that such trace amounts can be considered “background noise” or “clutter”. While the alleles of the unknown contributor were included with the OSP findings they were not documented in the report leaving both the defense and the prosecution with the false belief that the only DNA collected from Freeman’s shoes belonged to the victim and identified law enforcement officers who had handled the shoes.

The first Frasier heard of the unknown DNA was 2017. Due to advancements in DNA technology the crime lab would not handle the results in the same way.

Sr Judge Patricia Sullivan denied fifteen claims including a claim for actual innocence citing “…Petitioner has not shown, based on newly discovered and reliable evidence it is more likely than not that no reasonable juror could have found petitioner guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” 

Sullivan did allow that the jury should have been notified of the potentially exculpatory DNA results. “While the unknown DNA could have been deposited by innocent transfer, it is also possible it was not.” Further, had the defense been aware of this DNA evidence “… the trial strategy would have been different…” potentially leading to a different outcome.

District Attorney Paul Frasier expressed his disappointment in the decision and stands by the conviction. He also noted that in the 30 plus years he has worked with the Oregon State Police “this is the first time anything like this has ever happened.”

“The judge found that the prosecution acted appropriately and there was no wrongdoing on our part”, said Fraser. “We have also completely cooperated with the Forensic Innocence Project’s request for documents and information.”

An email from Puracal says, “We believe that DNA of another man on the victim’s bloody shoe is perpetrator DNA, but that is a question of fact, and the original jury should have heard that evidence.  In post-conviction, we argued that the DNA, in combination with Mr. McGuffin’s alibi and the absence of evidence against him, proves his innocence.  The post-conviction court did not agree.  Judge Sullivan, instead, limited to relief to the constitutional claims arising out of the failure to disclose the exculpatory DNA evidence.”

The prosecution’s case was built on an abundance of circumstantial evidence. Circumstantial evidence and physical evidence are considered equal under the law.

The Oregon Department of Justice will decide whether to appeal Judge Sullivan’s decision.

McGuffin is scheduled to be released in August of 2020.

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Avatar When my oldest son, a Marine, left for war and crossed the border from Kuwait into Iraq in March 2003 I started writing my conscience. After two tours that young combat veteran’s mother is now an ardent peace activist and advocate for social, environmental and economic justice. MGx has matured since those early vents and ramblings and now covers relevant and important local and regional matters in addition to national and global affairs.

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37 Responses to "McGuffin conviction overturned due to Oregon State Police error"

  1. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 7, 2019 at 8:08 PM

    McGuffin went back to the Haga residence  =  This places McGuffin at Elm St., where Leah’s first shoe was found.

    Elm St is where Leah’s shoe was found.  Elm St. is also on the way to the Haga residence. 

    Affidavit, dated July 6, 2000, for search warrant to search 1967 Ford Mustang owned by Nicholas McGuffin

    Affidavit for Search Warrant July 6, 2010

    I, Dave Hall, after being duly sworn, depose and say that:

    Chief Mike Reeves of the Coquille Police Department interviewed Nicholas McGuffin. I know Chief Reeves to be a truthful and reliable police officer. Chief Reeves has informed me that McGuffin indicated: that after dropping Leah off at the Mitchell residence, that he drove around Coquille for awhile in his car; that he then went back up to the Haga residence where he had been previously; that he then went to the Fast Mart, (which I know based upon my own personal observations is located on Central Avenue between McKay’s Market and Hunter’s Restaurant); and that at approximately 9 PM he returned to the Mitchell residence to pick up Leah. McGuffin indicated that he learned that Leah had all ready left on foot. He then indicated that he drove north on Central and drove to Knott Street. McGuffin indicated that he did not see Leah and that he then turned around and drove south on Central looking for Leah. McGuffin indicated that he did not find her.

    Reply
  2. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 7, 2019 at 4:12 PM

    McGUFFIN’s COURT RECORDS:

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS J DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Careless Driving0851811135Infraction Class B06/16/1999

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS J DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Failure to Obey Traffic Control Device0767811.265Violation Class B03/20/2001

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Poss LT 1 Oz MarijuanaD4101884759924FViolation Unclassified10/11/2001

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Fail To Use Seat Belts5130811210Violation Class D03/10/2002

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionStatuteLevelDate1Attempt to Commit a Class A Felony161.405(2)(b)Felony Class B09/16/2003
    2Criminal Trespass in the First Degree164.255Misdemeanor Class A09/16/2003

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionStatuteLevelDate1Manslaughter in the First Degree163.118Felony Class A06/28/2000

    DetailsMCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS J DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Violating the Basic Speed RuleD709496811.100Violation Class B09/04/2003

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS J DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Minor Possess/Purchase Liquor30124714301Violation Class B03/28/2003

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS J DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1 Driving UninsuredD173728806.010Violation Class B04/04/2001

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS J DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Passing in a No Passing ZoneB901780811.420Violation Class B02/02/2000

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS J DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Fail to Carry Proof Fin Resp1475806012Infraction Class B12/19/1999

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Obstruction of Vehicle Windows17208815.220Violation Class D09/16/2003

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Violating the Basic Speed Rule14990811.100Violation Class C07/14/2002

    Details MC, GUFFIN NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionStatuteLevelDate1Menacing163.190Misdemeanor Class A05/08/2002
    2Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree164.245Misdemeanor Class C05/08/2002

    Details MC, GUFFIN NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree10459164.245Misdemeanor Class C01/09/2002

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Causing Unreasonable Noise with a Vehicle002460815.025Violation Class D08/12/2000

    Details MCGUFFIN, NICHOLAS JAMES DescriptionCitationStatuteLevelDate1Operation Without Required Lighting Equipment1048816.330Violation Class C04/01/2000

    Reply
  3. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 7, 2019 at 1:59 PM

    McGuffin was diagnosed at the hospital with anxiety and GRIEF – BEFORE Leah’s first shoe was found. This tells me that McGuffin knew that Leah was deceased- at the time of his hospital visit. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been diagnosed as GREIVING.

    Reply
  4. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 6, 2019 at 8:38 PM

    I was threatened by administrator’s in that area. I am competent. The Coquiile PD and the DA’s office are corrupt. I witnessed it! They don’t like outsiders!

    Reply
  5. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 6, 2019 at 7:55 PM

    Later, the defense read an medical report from a local hospital written July 2, 2000, just days after Leah went missing, where McGuffin’s parents took him because he was extremely anxious, shaking, flushed and vomiting. Shortly after taking a lie detector test, he visited Cory along with his parents and vomited in their backyard. The medical description read before the court today was consistent with how McGuffin appeared during his arraignment; flushed, shaking uncontrollably and weeping.

    Reply
  6. Avatar
    magix  December 6, 2019 at 10:04 AM

    There is no question that the Coquille PD police chief at that time, Mike Reeves, was both incompetent and guilty of not performing his duties to protect the public and in so doing further victimized Leah’s family. The very fact that the case was eventually brought to trial belays your claim of some sort of blanket corruption in the area.

    Reply
  7. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 6, 2019 at 9:59 AM

    McGuffin’s mom worked at Coquille hospital. McGuffin was seen at the Coquille hospital and treated for anxiety and GRIEF. Why ? Because he knew Leah was dead. The DA’s office SHREDDED McGuffin’s medical records. Why. ? = CORRUPTION ! ! !

    Reply
  8. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 5, 2019 at 10:39 PM

    Oregon Judicial Department: Nicolas James McGuffin

    McGuffin was seen at Coquille Valley Hospital for anxiety and grief in June 2000.

    Case: 10CR0782

    McGuffin’s Coquille Valley Medical Records SHREDDED

    05/17/2011 Report – Medical 

    Comment: Med Records CVH – DA subpoena 8/4: not used as exhibit, shredded;

    Case Number

    File Date

    Type

    Status

    Location

    10CR0782

    08/23/2010 Offense Felony Closed Coos
    03CR1566

    09/16/2003 Offense Felony Closed Coos
    B025130

    03/19/2002 Offense Violation Closed Coos
    01NB1430

    10/24/2001 Offense Violation Closed Coos
    B010767

    03/26/2001 Offense Violation Closed Coos
    B990851

    10/12/1999 Offense Infraction Closed Coos

    Reply
  9. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 5, 2019 at 11:43 AM

    McGuffin was smoking meth with Stephanie on the night that Leah disappeared.

    McGuffin was reported smoking pot and drinking before he went to pick up Leah.

    McGuffin was driving while intoxicated.

    MuGuffin was stopped twice that night by police.

    It doesn’t sound like McGuffin’s innocent- at all!

    Reply
  10. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 5, 2019 at 5:37 AM

    Things repeat themselves- through waves.

    Cassidy LeeAnn Rose was hit and killed- in that same area- on December 26, 1995- by a 17 year old male driver.

    I’m guessing that’s what happened to Leah Freeman.

    McGuffin was driving while intoxicated.

    McGuffin was heading to the Haga residence to get Bartley.

    McGuffin was pulled over twice that night for a broken headlight.

    McGuffin borrowed his mom’s vehicle.

    McGuffin was admitted to the Coquille hospital suffering from anxiety and grief.

    Reply
  11. Avatar
    Chris Halkides  December 4, 2019 at 9:06 PM

    Did the police swab Leah Freeman’s fingernails for blood or DNA? If they did, this could yield important information on the identity of the killer.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      magix  December 4, 2019 at 10:19 PM

      Leah’s remains were processed as best as possible

      Reply
  12. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 6:54 PM

    Coquille PD had several witnesses, in which they failed to take reports on. Coquille PD is definitely covering up corruption! Coquille’s intellect is about 20 years behind the rest of the world! I was not impressed with that town- at all!

    Reply
  13. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 6:47 PM

    Fact:

    McGuffin was driving under the influence.

    McGuffin was heading to the Haga residence after he left Cheri’s house.

    McGuffin and Freeman were both near the school area around 9:30 pm, according to the timeline.

    Leah’s shoe was found around 11:30pm on Elm St, June 28th.

    Leah died between 9:30pm – 11:30pm on June 28th.

    McGuffin was stopped by the police twice on June 28th for a broken headlight.

    McGuffin borrowed his mom’s vehicle.

    McGuffin was treated at the Coquille hospital on the night of June 28th (or) early morning on June 29th. He was treated for anxiety and grief.

    Reply
  14. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 6:30 PM

    Bartley was at the Haga house on the night of June 28th. That’s where McGuffin was heading, after he left Cheri’s house.

    Reply
  15. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 3:45 PM

    Court records claim that McGuffin was pulled over twice by police- the night that Leah went missing. Cause: broken headlight. How did the headlight break ?

    Reply
  16. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 3:12 PM

    Leah’s shoe was found on Elm St = she was involved in a struggle (or) hit with a car. Take your pic. McGuffin was on Elm St, at the same time. Coincidence ? Read the timeline! Leah died between 9:30pm and 11:30pm on June 28th. Those are the facts!

    Reply
  17. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 2:45 PM

    Have you been to Elm St? I have. There’s NO traffic on that road at night. McGuffin was on that road around 9:30 pm. He was heading to Bartley’s house. Read the timeline. Leah was in that area, at the same time. Do the math! You’re avoiding the fact that McGuffin was seen at the Coquille hospital, suffering from anxiety and grief. Why? Because he’s GUILTY! Those are the facts.

    Reply
  18. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 2:37 PM

    First of all, I’ve done the research regarding this case. I don’t appreciate being talked down to. Secondly, you’re dealing with very corrupt individuals. You should probably do more research, before you get involved.

    Reply
  19. Avatar
    magix  December 4, 2019 at 12:37 PM

    Please read the statements of fact from the decision linked above and stop speculating

    Reply
  20. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 12:27 PM

    Leah fell down on the pavement- near the site- where her shoe was found. Was there any water near the site- where her shoe was found ?

    Reply
  21. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 12:20 PM

    June 28th: Leah’s shoe was found around 11:30pm on Elm St.. Leah died between 9:30pm – 11:30pm on June 28th on Elm St. McGuffin drove down Elm St- on the way to Bartley’s house – during that time frame. McGuffin was driving intoxicated. It’s a dark road. I’m guessing she died between 9:30pm – 9:45pm. My theory: Leah was walking to Bartley’s house. McGuffin was driving to Bartley’s house. McGuffin was driving- while intoxicated- Elm St is dark- McGuffin hits Leah with his car. McGuffin places Leah in the trunk- and drives to the dump site. Later that night / morning- after he sobers up- he arrives at the hospital. The carpet in McGuffin’s trunk was removed. That theory makes sense.

    Reply
  22. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 11:49 AM

    Rock or pavement ?

    Reply
  23. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 11:47 AM

    If you listen to McGuffin’s conscience, a rock was probably involved with this murder.

    Reply
  24. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 11:18 AM

    My conscience tells me that McGuffin was driving while intoxicated and (something) happened to Leah- near the area where her shoe was found- on Elm St. McGuffin was in that area- at that time- and later treated for grief and anxiety at the hospital. Why was McGuffin treated for grief and anxiety? Because he’s guilty!

    Reply
  25. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 11:04 AM

    As I’m sure you’re aware, the judicial system isn’t fair. Otherwise, every crime would receive the same punishment. Follow the money!

    Reply
  26. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 11:00 AM

    Were Leah’s shoes brand new ? No. She could’ve picked up DNA from anywhere! I’m sure she had McGuffins DNA on her- she was with him all day. Where’s that evidence ? ? ?

    Reply
  27. Avatar
    magix  December 4, 2019 at 10:37 AM

    There is really little point in re-litigating this issue. A jury found him guilty on circumstantial evidence like you have raised. At issue here is that the OSP neglected to inform the prosecution and the defense of an unknown male’s touch DNA on Leah’s shoes. McGuffin’s new counsel believes this exonerates him, the judge disagreed. However, the judge did feel that the defense strategy may have changed if counsel knew about the DNA possibly changing the outcome. Therefore, he is entitled to a new trial or to have the charges dropped.

    Reply
  28. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 10:36 AM

    McGuffin’s 100% guilty! It’s a very tight knit community- and full of corruption ! ! !

    Reply
  29. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 10:31 AM

    I’m not sure of the exact time he was admitted to the hospital. It was during the night that Leah disappeared, though. It was late at night or early morning. Why would McGuffin be grieving, if he had no clue where Leah was ? His conscience was talking to him. That’s why!

    Reply
  30. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 10:21 AM

    McGuffin was stopped by an officer that night, in Coquille. He wasn’t arrested.

    Reply
  31. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 10:18 AM

    While Leah was at her friends house, McGuffin was smoking pot and drinking with his friends. He then- left his friends- to go and pick up Leah = he was driving while intoxicated. This would’ve been around 9:15 pm. He stated that he couldn’t find Leah. *** He drives to Bartley’s house. This is the area where Leah would’ve been- and where her shoe was found. He was seen at the hospital on the night that Leah disappeared. McGuffin’s mother was an employee of the hospital. Coincidence ? I don’t think so!

    Reply
  32. Avatar
    magix  December 4, 2019 at 9:53 AM

    McGuffin was taken to a doctor by his parents a day or two after Leah went missing suffering from extreme anxiety. This is from testimony at the trial that I recall hearing. If McGuffin was driving while drunk there is no record that I am aware of him being stopped and arrested.
    Secondly, there was no evidence of head trauma on Leah’s corpse and the medical examiner was unable to determine the exact cause of death due to advanced decomposition. Read the decision linked above for additional details.

    Reply
  33. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 9:36 AM

    I’d imagine that Leah had head trauma. McGuffin mentioned to several officers- that Leah was probably walking by the river, fell, and hit her head on a rock. McGuffin was driving while intoxicated. Follow the timeline on McGuffin to Bartley’s house. McGuffin went back to Bartley’s house. This is the same area where Leah’s shoe was found. Coincidence ? I don’t think so!

    Reply
  34. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 9:23 AM

    McGuffin was a patient at the Coquiile hospital the night that Leah went “missing”. He was suffering from grief and was an emotional wreck. The DA’s office was aware of this, as was the sheriff’s department. It’s a huge cover up! Coquille’s a very corrupt little town. Do the research! Stay in the light ! ! !

    Reply
  35. Avatar
    magix  December 4, 2019 at 9:03 AM

    While I tend to agree that McGuffin is guilty please explain how “chart notes” at a hospital relate to Leah’s death.

    Reply
  36. Avatar
    Jill Smith  December 4, 2019 at 8:33 AM

    McGuffin’s guilty. Read the chart notes from the Coquille hospital- the night that Leah “disappeared”. The DA’s office has copies. This is a HUGE cover up! The judicial system has failed Leah.

    Reply

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