The Supreme Court rebuked Circuit Court Judge David Burnett for not holding a hearing on the DNA evidence before rejecting Echols' request for a new trial in 2008. Burnett had ruled that the crime-scene DNA evidence - which shows no trace of Echols or the two other men convicted of the murders - was legally inconclusive and not enough to prove innocence.
"While there is a significant dispute in this case as to the legal effects of the DNA test results, it is undisputed that the results conclusively excluded Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley as the source of the DNA evidence tested," the court wrote Thursday.
It was not clear when the new hearings would occur, and the court ordered that a new judge be reassigned to the case because Burnett was elected this year to the state Senate. The district in which the cases will be heard has 11 judges - and two are the original prosecutors in the Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley murder trials.
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