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Charges Dismissed For Oregon Man With Overturned Manslaughter Conviction

<p>Nicholas McGuffin sits during his trial in 2011.&nbsp;</p>

The World Newspaper


Nicholas McGuffin sits during his trial in 2011. 

UPDATE (Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019 at 10:40 a.m. PT) — The Coos County District Attorney has decided not to retry the case against Nicholas McGuffin. McGuffin, who has been in prison for the past nine years, was released Tuesday night, according to the Forensic Justice Project — a Portland nonprofit.  

McGuffin was convicted of manslaughter in 2011, accused of killing his girlfriend, 15-year-old Leah Freeman in 2000. His conviction was overturned earlier this month due to previously undisclosed evidence revealing another man’s DNA was present at the crime scene.  

The Oregon Department of Justice could have challenged that ruling but did not. The Coos County DA moved to dismiss all of McGuffin’s charges.  

“We are really pleased with the District Attorney’s decision to dismiss the charges,” Janis Puracal, executive director at the Forensic Justice Project and McGuffin’s attorney, said in a news release.

“Mr. McGuffin has been fighting to clear his name. The DNA evidence proves that he did not commit this crime, and now he can finally be reunited with his family."

Coos County District Attorney Paul Frasier said he does not "view this situation as an exoneration" and that there is evidence that McGuffin killed Freeman

"After having consulted with members of the original investigating team and the family of Ms. Freeman, I have decided to not pursue a new trial in this case," Frasier said in a news release. "As I have decided to not seek a new trial, I am required to dismiss the case against Mr. McGuffin."

In his motion to dismiss the case, Frasier said there are several issues with retrying McGuffin. Since it has been almost 20 years since Freeman's death, locating and subpoenaing witnesses would be a challenge, he said. 

In his motion, Frasier also stated he spoke at length with Freeman's mother, Cory Courtright. 

"She has indicated to us that while she believes the defendant caused the death of her daughter, she does not want to go through the pain and stress a new trial would bring," the motion reads.  

As for whether the case is closed, Frasier said his office would look at any evidence brought to his attention regarding Freeman's death. 

Copyright 2019 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Meerah Powell