Innocence Project Calls for New Trial for 1973 N.H. Murder Conviction

Mar 23, 2016

The Innocence Project, a group that works to exonerate wrongly convicted people, says an inmate convicted of killing a teenager in Concord four decades ago deserves a new trial. 

In a court filing this week lawyers for the group say that advances in science mean that key evidence used to convict Robert Breest should be considered inadmissible. 

When Breest was convicted in the 1971 murder of an 18-year-old Manchester woman, Susan Randall, the evidence included a piece of hair in Breest’s car that allegedly came from Randall's coat, more or less linking him to the crime. 

The forensic science behind that evidence was later deemed unreliable by criminal justice experts in the 1990s. 

But just last summer when Breest argued for a new trial due to new DNA evidence, a court allowed the state to rely on that forensic science.

Click here to see NHPR's earlier coverage of the case.

Dana Delger of the Innocence Project argues that because faulty forensic evidence is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions, Breest’s conviction should be thrown out and a new trial granted. 

“Science has advanced hugely since this trial – today this evidence wouldn’t be admitted,” Delger argued, adding that out of the 337 people exonerated in the U.S. half were due to DNA testing. Delger said in order to justly convict Breest, this evidence needs to be scratched from the record and a new jury needs to weigh in.

In 2012 a blood sample found underneath the victim’s fingernails was retested, finding DNA from at least two males. Breest's lawyer argues because the state's case rested on the fact that Breest acted alone - their narrative no longer stands. Thus without the old evidence linking Breest to the murder and the new DNA evidence calling for multiple assailants, Breest's lawyer says a new jury would have reasonable doubt. 

The New Hampshire Supreme Court will hear arguments this summer in whether Breest deserves a new trial.