- Associated Press - Friday, May 20, 2016

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - An inmate convicted of murder in 1984 will not get a new trial even though the prosecution relied on discredited FBI bullet-matching science, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Jurors probably would have found Glendale More guilty even if inaccurate FBI testimony linking a bullet in his possession to the bullets that killed the victim would have been excluded, the court ruled in a 7-0 decision.

Justices said they were troubled by the invalid science and other prosecutorial misconduct, including the failure to disclose a reward to a juvenile offender who put More at the crime scene.

“Yet … we cannot conclude that More’s trial, though flawed, was fundamentally unfair in light of the entire record, which points in the direction of More’s guilt,” Justice Brent Appel wrote.

More is serving a life sentence for the 1983 slaying of his girlfriend, Wauneita Townsend, who was found shot to death in her car outside a Davenport car dealership. Now 73, More lives at the Fort Dodge Correctional Institution.

He filed for post-conviction relief in 2007 after the FBI disavowed compositional bullet-lead analysis, which it had used in thousands of cases. The technique used chemistry to try to link bullets found at crime scenes to others in the possession of suspects, based on their elemental characteristics. The FBI stopped using the technique in 2005 after a scientific review concluded that it was unreliable.

At More’s trial, prosecutors argued that bullets recovered from Townsend’s head and car were a match for a bullet found in More’s pocket days later. A nurse found the bullet on More at a psychiatric unit, where he was placed after exhibiting bizarre behavior in the hours after Townsend’s death.

An FBI agent implied in testimony that all three bullets must have come from the same box of cartridges. A defense expert countered that the FBI’s interpretation of the science was not supported by forensic chemists.

But a prosecutor told jurors in his closing argument that the FBI had been using the technique for a long time and the agent was confident when he testified “the bullets match.”

In 2009, the FBI acknowledged the testimony in More’s case “exceeds the limits of the science and cannot be supported.”

Justice Appel wrote that the FBI’s disavowal of the technique amounts to new evidence but that it probably wouldn’t have changed the outcome. He cited strong circumstantial evidence against More, including that he was with Townsend minutes before her death at a grocery store and that she had been planning to leave him. More was struggling financially and was a beneficiary on Townsend’s recently-acquired life insurance policy.

“More certainly had motive, he had the means, he was at the right place at the right time, and his behavior generally and repeatedly points in the direction of guilt,” Appel wrote.

It was the third time courts have found fault with More’s prosecution, but declined to order relief.

The Iowa Court of Appeals ruled in 1985 that prosecutors violated the doctor-patient privilege by calling the nurse and a psychiatrist to testify, but that those were harmless errors.

The appeals court ruled in 1999 that prosecutors failed to disclose evidence that they offered a 13-year-old offender a $350 reward for his testimony, but that also was deemed harmless. The witness testified that he was at the dealership looking for a car to steal when he heard two gunshots and saw More trying to set Townsend’s car on fire. The witness recanted his testimony years later, but a judge called the recantation “completely incredible.”

Appel said those errors “undermine confidence in our system of justice.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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