DNA evidence could exonerate men convicted in ’02 murder

HUNTINGTON – Newly tested DNA evidence would exonerate some men convicted in the 2002 murder of 21-year-old Deanna L. Crawford and might instead point to someone who has a history of abuse, according to documents filed with the Cabell County circuit clerk this week.

Phillip Scott Barnett, 37; his brother Nathaniel Barnett; and Justin Keith Black, 34, who are working with the Chicago-based Exoneration Project at the University of Chicago Law School and West Virginia Innocence Project, are asking their convictions be overturned and for new trials.

Crawford was found Aug. 8, 2002, in Salt Rock by two men walking along Hickory Ridge Road.

Investigators believed her death had followed an Aug. 5, 2002, party at Justin Black’s house. That evening involved drinking alcohol, playing video games and a vehicle ride that turned violent. The motivation for her death remains a mystery.

Crawford’s family then waited more than six years for an arrest.

The request for a new trial comes nearly two years after Cabell Circuit Judge Alfred E. Ferguson approved a request for possibly exonerating DNA evidence to be tested.

Read more about the trial, appeal, and DNA results here

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