Military judge denies Hennis' bid for 4th trial

The Fayetteville ObserverFebruary 5, 2011 

A military judge has denied Timothy Hennis' request for a new trial.

Col. Patrick Parrish issued his ruling Jan. 27, but the order was not released to the public until Thursday.

Hennis' lawyers argued for a new court-martial last month during a hearing at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., saying problems at a North Carolina state crime lab entitled him to a fourth trial in the 1985 killings of a mother and two of her children in Fayetteville.

Now that Parrish has rejected Hennis' request, the trial record goes to Fort Bragg's commanding general, according to a Fort Bragg spokeswoman.

Hennis' lawyers will have an opportunity to present matters to the commanding general for consideration before the general either approves Hennis' conviction and sentence or grants relief if he deems it appropriate.

With the commanding general, Lt. Gen. Frank Helmick, currently deployed to Iraq, the trial record will be reviewed by Maj. Gen. Rodney Anderson, according to news releases issued by the Army on Friday.

Hennis, a former Fort Bragg soldier, was sentenced to death for the murders of Kathryn Eastburn and two of her daughters, 5-year-old Kara and 3-year-old Erin. He has been on death row at Fort Leavenworth since his court-martial at Fort Bragg in April.

Seesaw verdicts

Last year's court-martial was the third time Hennis was tried in the Eastburn murders.

He was convicted in civilian court in Fayetteville in 1986 and sentenced to death. He won an appeal and was acquitted during a trial in Wilmington in 1989.

The Army began its prosecution in 2006 after a DNA test linked Hennis to semen collected from Kathryn Eastburn's body in 1985.

At the Kansas hearing on Jan. 21, Hennis' lawyers argued that problems at the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation crime lab, which originally tested the semen, could cast doubt on that key piece of evidence.

The SBI crime lab has come under scrutiny since then-Director Robin Pendergraft admitted that the agency did not always automatically provide complete crime lab test results for use in trials.

Hennis' lawyers wanted the opportunity to use the lab's problems to impeach lab workers who conducted the DNA tests and testified at Hennis' court-martial.

Prosecutors said there was no need to hold a new court-martial because there is no evidence any information was suppressed in Hennis' case.

The hearing was the first in Hennis' appeal, which is mandatory in a case where a defendant has been sentenced to death. Hennis has a separate appeal in federal court that deals with whether the military had the jurisdiction to court-martial him on the murder charges.

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