Grega's release from prison could pave way for others - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Grega's release from prison could pave way for others

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BURLINGTON, Vt. -

The chances of getting out could change dramatically for prisoners who claim they didn't do it. Tuesday, prosecutors dismissed charges against John Grega, a New York man initially convicted of raping and murdering his wife but freed by DNA evidence.

"This is a landmark case, because this is really the first Vermont case of its type," Dan Richardson said.

Richardson is a private practice attorney who writes a Vermont Supreme Court law blog. He says Grega's case represents the first time a prisoner was released due to a post-conviction DNA test, available due to a 2008 change in the law.

"It's the first time we can say-- at least in the eyes of the law-- that a person was wrongly-convicted," Richardson said.

Grega served 18 years in jail for killing his wife, Christine, during a trip to West Dover in 1994. The Long Island man has maintained his innocence ever since.

But do prosecutors believe him now?

"What I believe or do not believe is not relevant. What is relevant is what I can prove in a court of law and right now it's an ongoing investigation," Windham County Prosecutor Tracy Shriver said.

Last August, a judge scrapped Grega's conviction after modern genetic testing techniques found DNA from an unknown male within the rape kit. Shriver says she re-filed charges because only one of the two swabs contained the unaccounted for DNA. Dismissing charges before a judge could, allows her to bring the allegations again if more evidence is found. But she would not say if Grega is still a suspect.

"No comment on an ongoing investigation," Shriver said.

Richardson says the criminal case is likely over.

"You almost cannot retry it because so much has changed," he said.

Witnesses move, memories fade and a family may never know what really happened to their loved one.

Grega's attorney says Grega won't comment until it's clear prosecutors don't plan to charge him again. However, Grega did tell his hometown paper, The Long Island Newsday, that he's "blown away... imagine, after 20 years, seeing them dismiss a case against you for a crime you didn't commit. I don't even know how to feel."

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