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Hanley files motion to reconsider Patrick Pursley’s certificate of innocence

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Argument over ballistics evidence in Rockford man’s Certificate of Innocence continues

ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Winnebago County State's Attorney's Office has requested a judge reconsider a certificate of innocence that was given to Patrick Pusley earlier this year.

Patrick Pursley was granted a certificate of innocence by Hon. Judge Joe McGraw in February.

Pursley was wrongly convicted in the 1994 murder of Andy Ascher and was officially found not guilty during a 2019 retrial in the 17th Circuit Court.

Pursley was granted a retrial after ballistics tests showed the gun presented in the original trial may not have matched bullets and shell casings found at the scene of the crime.

The certificate of innocence clears the way for Pursley to sue the state of Illinois. He has already filed a federal lawsuit for wrongful conviction.

Winnebago County State's Attorney J. Hanley's office says the motion filed on Wednesday is not looking to overturn the verdict in the retrial, but rather the certificate of innocence Pursley was given in February.

The state's attorney's office says the motion was filed on Wednesday after newly discovered evidence.

According to the motion, the newly discovered evidence is twofold:

  1. The Ascher Crime Scene Evidence and test-fired evidence was never compared against each other through the Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS), despite the court's order requiring the comparison on May 13, 2011.

    According to the motion, the newly discovered evidence was testified to for the first time on March 19, 2021 during the deposition of William DeMuth II, an Illinois State Police organizational witness whose deposition was sought by counsel representing Petitioner in a federal civil rights suit pending in United States District Court.

    During his preparation, Demuth II discovered the Ascher homicide crime scene evidence was never compared through IBIS to the test-fired evidence from the Ascher homicide case.

    The motion says IBIS ran results from the crime scene, but not the test-fired bullets, meaning IBIS would not and did not compare those exhibits against one another.
  2. Upon properly submitting crime scene casings and a test-fired casing through IBIS, the results showed associations among the crime scene casings and a test fired casing from Pursely's gun.

    The motion says two discharged casings from the crime scene and one test-fired casing from Pursley's gun were compared to each other in late March.

    ISP reported the casings from the crime scene and the casing Pursley's gun are associated with one another.

    The formal reports relating to this analysis are in the process of being completed and will be produced to counsel and the court upon receipt.

However, attorneys who represent Pursley's legal team say this motion involves the people named as defendant's in Pursely's federal case, who are upset and what to ruin his reputation.

"This is really much ado about nothing," says attorney Ashley Waddell Tingstad. "The intervenors in this motion are defendants in a civil case brought by Mr. Pursley. We view this as an attempt to sully his name. The ISP State Crime Lab has been saying since 2011 that IBIS cannot match bullets to a gun. Only a firearm examiner working with a microscope can do that. Judge McGraw's order granting Mr. Pursley's Certificate of Innocence last month wasn't based on IBIS at all, it was based on testimony and the findings and credibility of the firearms examiners who examined this under a microscope."