JACKSONVILLE - A 33-year-old man convicted of killing his sister-in-law walked out of jail Tuesday after 13 years behind bars, as prosecutors decided that he should not be retried because his DNA did not match evidence found at the crime scene.
Wisconsin native Chad Heins wore a Green Bay Packers shirt as he hugged his lawyers after being freed. His first-degree murder conviction and life sentence were tossed this year after a group that helps the wrongly convicted secured the DNA testing.
The system "didn't work in the beginning, but it worked at the end," Heins said as he left the Duval County Jail. "I made it one day at a time and watched my back. I just want to go home to my family and get out of the state of Florida."
He had been scheduled for a new trial this month, but it was delayed with the release of even more evidence that seemed to clear him of Tina Heins' murder in 1994.
Heins was required to sign a document that he would waive a speedy trial and the statute of limitations if the state found new evidence and decided to charge him again.
The newest evidence was semen from an unidentified man that matched foreign strands of hair on Tina Heins' body. She was stabbed 27 times in the Mayport apartment she shared with Chad Heins and her husband, Jerry Heins. Jerry Heins, Chad's brother, was aboard a Navy ship at the time of the killing.
When the state's announcement was made, two lawyers for the group that helps the wrongly convicted, the Innocence Project, pumped their fists in court.
Project lawyer Jennifer Greenberg said nine people in Florida and 210 in the United States have been cleared through DNA evidence by the Innocence Project.
Robert Link, Heins' attorney, said that new technology allowed his client to be freed and that he did not blame the state for convicting an innocent man and fighting his release until Tuesday.
"Chad is going back to live in Wisconsin with his family and live his life again," Link said.
Metroid wrote:Man good for him but thats really too bad...13 years of his life are gone. How do you pay restitution for that? I think a million dollars for every year spent in prison would be a good start.
I seem to remember reading or seeing somewhere that Florida has had a great number of wrongful convictions overturned due to poor DNA testing and hack forensics.
No restitution is given back to you Met. The legal systems response is a sorry, but you were convicted by a jury, have a nice life. Someone else was released that was in prison for 33 years and you know what he got, one of these
only thing I can say for either is it is a good thing they were not put to death, but hey it would have been ok because they were convicted so they obviously did it right
Can't he sue for restitution? I think there was some guy in Illinois who was released after new DNA tests proved him innocent, and the first thing he did was file a lawsuit for millions of dollars. No idea what happened afterwards.
beanoX3 wrote:Can't he sue for restitution? I think there was some guy in Illinois who was released after new DNA tests proved him innocent, and the first thing he did was file a lawsuit for millions of dollars. No idea what happened afterwards.
Nothing. You cannot sue for that. You were tried by a jury of your peers and found guilty. You were given due process, but the system failed you. The only way to win is if the proescutor really should not have brought the case
Madison wrote:A bit confused. A Jury finds someone guilty, yet the state should pay restitution? I don't see the link there...
Found him guilty and took away 13 years of his life on bad evidence
Forgive me as I'm not familiar with the case, but it sounded like this is new due to DNA testing that wasn't available back then... am I mistaken? Because if I'm right, I definitely don't see how the state can be responsible for what the jury decided based on what was available at the time. Now if this was a botched, mishandled, misused (or whatever), DNA sample, then I could see possibly some sort of responsibility on the hands of whoever made the mistake. Still not sure if I'd blame the state, but that would depend on the exact details of who screwed up where.
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