Judges rule Denny is not entitled to have evidence from Grafton crime tested
The Supreme Court of Wisconsin has ruled that Jeffrey C. Denny, one of two brothers sentenced to life in prison for a gruesome 1982 murder in Grafton, is not entitled to have evidence in his case tested for DNA.
In issuing its ruling Tuesday, the court overruled the Court of Appeals, which had said Denny was entitled to have evidence in his case tested for DNA more than 34 years after the crime. Such tests did not exist when Grafton resident Christopher Mohr was bludgeoned and stabbed to death at his home on Jan. 26, 1982.
The decision also effectively reiterates one made by Ozaukee County Circuit Judge Joseph Voiland in January 2015 stating that Denny was not entitled to DNA testing of a shattered marijuana bong, a bloody towel, a pair of gloves and hair found clutched in Mohr’s hand.
Denny’s case is being handled by the Wisconsin Innocence Project, which argued that the absence of his DNA on the objects could suggest he is innocent and the presence of other’s DNA could indicate someone else killed Mohr. The state’s case is being argued by the Office of the Solicitor General.
One of the main issues before the court was whether the result of DNA test would be relevant in Denny’s case.
Ozaukee County District Attorney Adam Gerol said Wednesday that the court’s decision recognizes “this is simply one of the cases where the evidence of guilt is so extreme that the defendant doesn’t get it (the testing).”
However, Gerol said, there are still questions left unanswered in the decision about when a defendant is entitled to post-conviction DNA testing that may mean it will be appealed. “There are some interesting things I think might make it amenable to federal review,” he said. “I don’t know that the U.S. Supreme Court has really weighed in on post-conviction DNA testing.”
Denny was 17 and his brother Kent was 19 when they were convicted of first-degree murder after a nine-day trial.
Jeffrey Denny is incarcerated at the Oakhill Correctional Institution. Kent Denny has died, according to the Wisconsin Department of Corrections Division of Community Corrections.
The two were convicted in the death of Mohr, with the state arguing the murder grew out of a drug-related dispute between Mohr and the Dennys.