Prosecutors oppose new trial in 1980s MN serial murder case

Billy Glaze
Billy Glaze has been serving his sentence at the Delaware State Penitentiary since 1990.
Courtesy of Delaware State Police

Hennepin County prosecutors say a man convicted nearly 30 years ago for the serial murders of three women in Minneapolis should not get a new trial.

Prosecutors filed a brief Friday opposing a petition for a new trial for Billy Glaze, 71, despite recent DNA results that attorneys representing Glaze say proves he is innocent and someone else is the real killer.

A Hennepin County judge will make the final decision and could decide to grant Glaze a new trial, a hearing on the evidence or deny the petition altogether.

Glaze is serving three life sentences for the murders of three American Indian women in Minneapolis in 1986 and 1987. Kathleen Bullman, Angeline Whitebird Sweet and Angela Green were raped, murdered and mutilated in similar ways, leading police to search for a serial killer.

In its filing, prosecutors said the evidence of Glaze's guilt is overwhelming. They pointed to the fact that Glaze admitted to the killings at least twice and made several derogatory statements about killing and mutilating American Indian women.

• June: DNA tests show man innocent of 1980s Minn. murders, lawyers say

Glaze was convicted in 1989, although prosecutors at the time acknowledged there was little physical evidence tying him to the murders — only a footprint never confirmed to belong to Glaze.

In prison, Glaze wrote to the Innocence Project, a national group that has made headlines nationwide using new types of DNA analysis to re-open criminal cases.

The Innocence Project had three labs run DNA tests on dozens of pieces of evidence from the three Minneapolis crime scenes that led to Glaze's conviction. It took years to get all of the results. But Glaze's attorneys say those results show there is no trace of DNA belonging to Glaze at any of the crime scenes, proving his innocence.

Instead, the group said tests showed the DNA profile of another man — a convicted rapist — at two of the three murder scenes. A full DNA profile of the man was found on a rape swab taken from victim Angela Green, according to the Innocence Project.

A second partial profile was located on a fresh cigarette butt collected as evidence from the Angeline Whitebird Sweet murder scene. According to the Innocence Project, the DNA profile belongs to a man who kidnapped and raped a different American Indian woman in 1989.

In June, the Innocence Project filed court documents asking that his conviction be thrown out and that he get a new trial in light of the DNA results.

However, Hennepin County prosecutors said the DNA results are not convincing and said this is "not a DNA exoneration case," suggesting that DNA evidence can sometimes provide limited information. Prosecutors say the presence of DNA does not explain where or when it was deposited.

In this case, prosecutors said DNA on a rape swab identifies a person Angela Green had sex with, but does not identify the killer. Green was a known prostitute with multiple partners. Prosecutors also argued that the DNA could have been deposited several hours before Green was murdered.

As for the saliva on the cigarette butt, prosecutors also said it could have been deposited near the Whitebird Sweet murder scene at any time before the murder. In addition, they argued that relatives of the man Innocence Project attorneys pointed to as the real killer are not excluded as matches to the DNA found on the butt.

"Serial killer Billy Richard Glaze should not receive a new trial because the new evidence is inconclusive and unpersuasive, does not meet the clear and convincing standard required for a new trial and already was heard by the original jury," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement Friday.

Innocence Project attorneys say Hennepin County prosecutors got it wrong by opposing the petition for a new trial.

Attorney Ed Magarian represents Billy Glaze and said he is disappointed by the county's opposition.

"The [response] just reiterates discredited facts and adds a new level of speculation in their effort to try to defeat the petition and in essence keep an innocent man in prison," said Magarian.