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Judge won't allow DNA testing for man convicted in 1997 murder

Published October 1, 2013 7:43 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A judge has refused a convicted murderer's request for new DNA testing, saying the tests were unlikely to establish factual innocence.

Jimmy Dean Meinhard, who is serving up to life in prison, had sought testing of a fingerprint on the door of the car in which 38-year-old Ronald Reed Peterson was stabbed to death in 1997, as well as DNA found beneath the victim's fingernails.

Third District Judge L.A. Dever on Monday denied Meinhard's request, saying that no human cells were found under the fingernails in a previous test. Dever wrote that Meinhard's claim that evidence from the fingernails could exonerate him is "nothing more than a strained speculation of events."

Dever wrote that the fingerprint was no more helpful. In his ruling, he wrote that Meinhard hadn't shown "how, even if the latent fingerprint was determined to be that of another party, it would establish [Meinhard's] factual innocence."

Meinhard, now 68, was convicted in 1999 of murder and evidence tampering for which he was sentenced to serve up to life at the Utah State Prison. He was seen fighting with Peterson on Feb. 25, 1997 — the day the Kearns resident was killed.

Shortly after the scuffle, witnesses saw Meinhard climb into the victim's car. Later that night, Meinhard admitted to killing Peterson inside the car, and he was covered in blood, a witness said.

The same witness testified that he helped Meinhard use latex gloves and bleach to wipe down the victim's car, ridding it of blood and evidence.

According to testimony, Meinhard also told several others he stabbed Peterson to death and investigators found other physical evidence linking Meinhard to the slaying, including a solitary set of footprints in the snow that matched Meinhard's shoe size and gait.

The Utah State Prison inmate has maintained his innocence and claims the witness who helped him clean the car and dispose of evidence was actually the person who killed Peterson 16 years ago.