John Grega, a New Yorker and NASA contractor, was vacationing with his wife and son in West Dover, Vermont when his wife was found strangled and raped 20 years ago.  He was convicted of aggravated murder within a year and served 18 years of his life without parole sentence before DNA testing discovered unknown male DNA from skin cells.  A Vermont judge overturned his conviction, now Grega has filed two wrongful conviction lawsuits.  His lawsuits argue that his 1995 conviction was based upon flawed police work and unconstitutional actions by investigators.

“Mr. Grega’s wrongful conviction was no accident, but rather the result of unconstitutional and tortuous acts by the defendants to this lawsuit, as well as policies, customs, and practices that were deliberately indifferent to Mr. Grega’s civil rights,” the federal lawsuit said.

Grega had no history of violence and no criminal record, but police immediately focused on him as their main suspect.  There were no witnesses and no physical evidence introduced at trial.  He was convicted on entirely circumstantial evidence and was the first person in Vermont’s history to receive a life in prison without parole sentence.

Grega’s 31-year-old wife, Christine, was found raped, beaten, and murdered in the bathtub of their rented Dover condo.  Grega always maintained his innocence.  He said he was at the playground with his son.  Investigators thought he made conflicting statements.  They attributed Christine Grega’s bruises and beating to “rough sex” with her husband earlier in the day.

In 2011, the Superior Court of Vermont ordered the state of Vermont to test untested biological samples from Grega’s case.  The Vermont Forensic Laboratory concluded that Grega was excluded as the source of DNA.  Prosecutors agreed that in light of the newly discovered evidence, Grega was entitled to a new trial.

Grega was released from prison in 2012 and his conviction was dismissed in 2013.  Prosecutors were free to retry him if new DNA testing supported it.  In his lawsuit, he says that 2 investigations, both the investigation before his conviction and the investigation after new DNA was discovered, were botched and that evidence was mishandled.  He stated that he suffers from PTSD and acute anxiety disorder as a result of his “many years of unjustified imprisonment and humiliation”.  He says he also fears future wrongful arrest and imprisonment, has nightmares, panic attacks, and fears of “police officers breaking down his door”.

The original investigators, the Windham County State’s Attorney, and Dover were named in the federal lawsuit and the state of Vermont was named in the state lawsuit.  Former Windham County State’s Attorney Dan Davis told the media that the “jury returned the correct verdict.”

His lawsuit also claims that the government did not properly investigate the newly discovered DNA.

Judge John Wesley concurred with the state, in his ruling overturning the conviction, that the new DNA evidence did not conclusively prove that Grega was innocent and that only a new trial could do so, “…the evidence which led to the agreement to vacate the defendant’s conviction certainly justified a new trial, yet did not positively [show innocence]…”  The new DNA is “a piece of scientific evidence which is not yet explained…”

Grega has not been retried and no one else has been arrested.  In fact, the source of the unknown male DNA has not been identified.

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