Suppressed Evidence Leads to Second Reversal in Case
By Richard Zitrin
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (APBNews.com) -- A former prostitute who has spent more than 25 years in prison for the murder of an out-of-town businessman is awaiting the decision that will determine whether he will go free or go on trial a second time.
Monroe County District Attorney Howard Relin told APBNews.com today that he will decide within the month whether to retry John Duval, whose conviction for the 1973 robbery and murder of a Philadelphia man was overturned Monday. Betty Tyson, another former prostitute convicted of the murder, was released from prison last year after her conviction also was overturned.
Relin said he is not surprised Monroe County Judge David Egan set aside
Duval's conviction because the legal issues are similar to those in the
Tyson case. Egan ruled, as Monroe County Judge John Connell did in the
Tyson case last year, that Rochester police withheld a report that contradicted
the testimony of a key prosecution witness and, thus, would have supported
"The idea that the court has reversed [Duval's murder conviction] is
not surprising to anyone," Relin said. "The difference is, whereas Betty
Tyson maintained her innocence through a 25-year period, John Duval has
appeared before the Parole Board and admitted he was involved in the homicides.
And he did this under oath. He was questioned by members of the Parole
Duval since has said he admitted to the murder to try to win parole.
"That is a little unusual, to say the least," Relin said. "The first time he said that was last year when Betty Tyson was freed."
Duval's mother said she told her son not to tell the Parole Board he committed the murder.
"But you know how those lawyers get together," Betty Duval-Rutley of Rochester told APBNews.com. "I think he was trying to play lawyer."
Mom spoke with son in prison
Duval's sister said her brother has been in prison so long he was willing to try anything to get out, including admit to the murder.
"He thought it would help his case, but it didn't," Sonya Duval said.
The timing of the decision to overturn Duval's conviction was particularly good, according to his mother. It came five days after his 47th birthday and four days after her 65th birthday.
Duval-Rutley talked by telephone Monday night with her son, who is being held at Collins Correctional Facility near Buffalo.
"He was very happy, of course," Duval-Rutley said. "This is the day he's been looking for. Hopefully, they will let him out. I'm very happy, and I'm relieved. If the Lord touched Judge Egan's heart, maybe he can also touch [prosecutor] Relin's heart."
Duval, who has been in prison since December 1973, was sentenced to 25 years to life. He became eligible for parole in July 1995 and has another parole hearing scheduled for next month, according to the New York state Department of Correctional Services.
Retrial a possibility
In the meantime, Relin's office is reviewing the case, including seeing how many witnesses from the 1973 murder trial are available, to determine whether to retry Duval or set him free. Relin decided not to prosecute Tyson last year after her conviction was overturned.
"This is the same exact case as the Tyson case," said Duval's attorney, Gilda Sherrod-Ali of Washington, who also is his cousin. "There is no physical evidence, just as there was no physical evidence to link her to the murder. We're very happy with Judge Egan's decision, and we hope they will not want to retry him, but it's entirely up to them."
Duval's sister is tempering her joy for now.
"I'm not going to be too happy until he's out," Sonya Duval said. "I
hope Relin decides to let him come home."