innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Whitley Attorney Files Appeal

By Bill Moushey, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Claiming DNA tests prove Drew Whitley is innocent of the brutal 1988 slaying of a McDonald’s restaurant night manager near Kennywood Park, his lawyer today asked an Allegheny County judge to free him from 18 years of imprisonment or grant him a new trial.

In a 17-page motion filed with Common Pleas Judge Walter Little just three days after he learned a DNA test proved six hairs found in a stocking mask believed to be worn by the killer of Noreen Malloy did not match Mr. Whitley, attorney Scott Coffey said his client deserves relief because the new evidence would have changed outcome of his 1989 trial.

Mr. Coffey argued that while there were some questionable eyewitness accounts at trial, and testimony from a jail-house snitch who said Mr. Whitley confessed to him, an Assistant Allegheny County District Attorney argued repeatedly at trial that the hair evidence was what specifically tied Mr. Whitley to the crime.

The assailant wore a trench coat, nylon stocking mask, a hat and gloves when he attacked Ms. Malloy, then shot her twice when she broke loose and tried to flee to her car. The clothing and mask was found nearby.

“Virtually the entire case revolved around the hairs found in the stocking mask, and now it has finally been determined, after 18 years that (Mr. Whitley) has spent in a state prison, that the hairs do not belong to (him),” Mr. Coffey wrote of the case that ended with a second-degree murder conviction and life sentence for Mr. Whitley.

“This proves him innocent,” he said in the appeal, suggesting the case should be dismissed and Mr. Whitley freed because under the circumstances another jury would have “a practically impossible time proving (Mr. Whitley) guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Mr. Coffey said under the circumstances, he will also ask Judge Little to put the matter on an expedited hearing track to resolve the appeal as soon as possible.
Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala, who was not in office when Mr. Whitley was tried, is reviewing the entire matter.

Earlier this week, he conceded the hair evidence was important to the case against Mr. Whitley, but said he is trying to determine whether evidence from two eyewitnesses and a few others who provided less specific testimony implicating Mr. Whitley in the killing is enough to convince him that justice was done.

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