02/09/14 — Neal ruling set for March

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Neal ruling set for March

By John Joyce
Published in News on February 9, 2014 1:50 AM

William Jackson Neal

A Superior Court judge will decide next month whether a convicted rapist will receive a new trial.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Arnold O. Jones will rule March 3 on a motion for appropriate relief filed by William Jackson Neal.

Neal, convicted in 2007 of the 1987 rape of a 12-year-old girl, claims the evidence used to put him in prison was contaminated and, therefore, he should be granted a chance to challenge his conviction.

A Wayne County jury found Neal guilty on DNA evidence found in a Goldsboro Police Department evidence locker. That evidence was found only after another man, Dwayne Dail, spent 18 years in prison convicted of the same crime.

Dail, convicted on hair sample evidence and witness testimony in 1987, always maintained his innocence. All the items entered into evidence at his trial were destroyed following his conviction.

But evidence collected by the police, but not used to convict Dail, was later locked away in a police storage room.

When Dail's attorneys requested the chance to examine the evidence in the case, Wayne County's Clerk of Courts Office told them the evidence had been destroyed.

When the evidence from the storage locker finally turned up in 2004, a nightgown with a semen sample was found sealed inside a brown paper bag, which had been stapled shut.

When the semen sample was tested for DNA, a procedure that was not available at the time of Dail's conviction, the results cleared him as a suspect.

Dail was released from prison, and the case reopened.

William Jackson Neal was convicted three years later. He is currently serving two life sentences in Pamlico Correctional Center.

Dail received $368,000 from the state as compensation for his time in prison. And in 2013, the City of Goldsboro settled a civil suit with Dail in the amount of $7.5 million and issued an apology.

Neal alleges, among other claims, that the chain of custody of the evidence used to free Dail and to convict him was broken, thus rendering the evidence contaminated.

Wayne County District Attorney Branny Vickory, in an interview in May 2013 when Neal's motion was filed, said he was present when the evidence bag was opened.

"A lot can happen to DNA over time, but no matter what degradation might occur, DNA cannot magically become someone else's," Vickory said.

Since Neal first filed his motion for appropriate relief seeking a new trial, he has entered a slew of other motions including a request that a lawyer from outside the 8th Judicial District be appointed to his case, and another seeking a window of time to reply to the state's response to his motion for appropriate relief.

Jones considered these and other motions this past week in an administrative session and decided he would rule on the matter in its entirety March 3.

Neal has until then to reply. After March 3, Jones' rulings will be final.