FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE : Wednesday, November 26, 2014
CONTACT: Sara Rabern (605)773-3215
South Dakota Supreme Court Affirmed the Denial of Post-Conviction Relief for Lewis Ashker
PIERRE, S.D – Attorney General Marty Jackley announced that the South Dakota Supreme Court has affirmed the denial of post-conviction relief for Lewis Ashker.
“This confirms what a jury decided 28 years ago. Ashker was found guilty of first degree murder and that conviction stands,” said Jackley.
In 1986, Ashker was convicted by a jury of first degree murder of Jerry Plihal, who died of multiple stab wounds. Both Ashker’s conviction and sentence were affirmed by the South Dakota Supreme Court in 1987.
Ashker requested DNA testing under SDCL Ch. 23-5B, a law passed in 2009 that allows convicted felons to have DNA testing done in their case if a number of conditions are met. Ashker sought, and received, mitochondrial DNA testing on certain hairs that were found in the victim’s right hand and neck wound. The Arizona Department of Public Safety Criminal Laboratory completed the testing. The lab determined that it was highly probable that two of the hairs tested belonged to the victim.
The results from the other hairs were inconclusive. Accordingly, no results exonerated Ashker from a jury conviction. This led Judge Anderson to conclude that there was an insufficient basis under the statute to grant Ashker a new trial. The Supreme Court affirmed Judge Anderson’s decision.