"My client John is accused of murder. He wants his day in court. He wants to prove his innocence," said Ian Carleton, a lawyer for John Grega.
Grega has a team of attorneys and the Innocence Project trying to exonerate him. On Thursday, the New York man pleaded not guilty to aggravated murder for the second time.
In 1995, Grega was convicted and sentenced to life without parole for the brutal rape and murder of his wife while the couple was vacationing at a ski condo in West Dover. Police say Grega initially blamed her death on rough sex, and then later pointed the finger at pair of painters working in the complex.
"Mr. Grega spent almost 20 years in jail for a murder he did not commit," Carleton said.
Last summer, Grega was released and granted a new trial, after closer examination of his wife's rape kit revealed the presence of another man's DNA. The judge's decision to overturn Grega's conviction is based on a 2008 law that grants convicts a new trial if DNA evidence surfaces that was not used in their first trial.
"The fact that an unknown male DNA profile came from that particular location we believe is very strong evidence that the attack was perpetrated by someone else," Carleton argued.
But the state maintains Grega is guilty. As prosecutors prepare for a new trial, 16 items-- from clothing to stains-- found at the original crime scene but never examined need to be tested for DNA.
"More than two months down the road and we still don't have an agreement who's going to do these tests," Vt. Superior Court Judge John Wesley said.
Prosecutors say backups at the Vermont Forensics Lab have slowed the process and forced them to look for an approved out-of-state lab. But the defense claims these delays are violating Grega's right to a speedy trial.
"He's a free man today because of DNA testing," Carleton said. "So we're not going to stand in the way of that testing, but we're also not going to let the case languish."
The state asked for three additional months. The judge made no decision from the bench. And Grega remains a free man, at least for now.
The defense also filed a separate motion to dismiss the case. Grega's lawyers claim the charges are unconstitutional because the state has failed to share its theory of the case.
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