We’re referring to the murder of Christine Grega, a Long Island mother and wife who was brutally assaulted and killed in a Dover condo in 1994.
As has been well documented, the investigation quickly focused on Grega’s husband John as the killer. Within a year, he had been charged, tried, and convicted of the assault and the murder. At the time, it seemed like a cut and dried case. The trial lasted weeks, but the jury only took five hours of deliberation to come back with the guilty verdict. After the trial, the forewoman for the jury, a Wilmington resident, said that the evidence clearly supported the verdict.
Case closed. Grega was guilty of killing his wife and sentenced to life without parole.
But, evidently, the case was not closed.
Fast forward 18 years. Last week the news came out that there was new DNA evidence, previously not discovered, that may exonerate Grega. The evidence suggests that there was someone else, someone still unidentified, who had some type of contact with Christine Grega around the time of her death. That person may or may not have been the murderer, but until their identity is discovered, John Grega’s guilt will be in doubt.
This is a shocking development, to say the least. Consider the ramifications for Grega, his son, his family, his late wife’s family, and all who took part in the investigation and trial two decades ago. The possibility that an innocent man was convicted, the possibility that Christine Grega’s killer has been at large all this time, and the possibility that all of the investigative work done at the time was wrong is almost too much to comprehend.
But there it is. The possibility that John Grega is innocent, and has been wrongly locked up all those years, is real.
Granted, there’s a long way to go to reach that conclusion. All of this was brought about by a number of things, including a law enacted by the Vermont Legislature in 2008 meant to help overturn wrongful convictions in the state.
We’re not ready to say Grega was wrongfully convicted. The evidence at the time, albeit circumstantial, was very strong against him. But this new evidence certainly casts a very long shadow of doubt.
There is no doubt that should the new DNA evidence not be easily explained as that of a crime lab worker or first responder, Grega should be granted a new trial.
The whole idea behind that 2008 law is that a convict should get the opportunity, using newly-available technology, to prove beyond a reasonable doubt their innocence. It appears that in the Grega case the law will be put to the test for the first time in Vermont.
That’s exactly what the law is intended to do, and exactly what should happen in this case.