Editor’s Note: A correction was made in the story to state that Hilarie learned about Greg from Rabia Chaudry, not the podcast, “Serial.”
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A murder trial from more than 20 years ago is getting new scrutiny with help from the Innocence Project, known for advocating in cases where DNA evidence could change the outcome.
Greg Lance was convicted of a 1998 double murder and arson in Cookeville. His case is in the spotlight through the efforts of an actress turned justice advocate.
“When I learned about Greg’s case from her, I feel very strongly that he is another example of a wrongful conviction. There’s a mountain of physical evidence that the state never thought valuable to test and our world is very different in 2022 than it was in 1998,” said Hilarie Burton-Morgan.
Her show, “True Crime Story: It Couldn’t Happen Here” featured Lance’s case. Burton-Morgan is known for her role on “One Tree Hill” but she studied criminal justice in college. She is using the show to examine murder cases affecting small towns across the country.
In 1998, Lance was found guilty of shooting and killing Victor and Alla Kolesnikow then burning their home to destroy the evidence. The Innocence Project argues new DNA testing could show Lance is innocent and may shift the blame on the two other people of interest.
Lance was in court along with attorneys for the innocence project Wednesday asking for touch DNA testing on the evidence. Touch DNA testing was not available at the time of the original trial. “Touch DNA” is obtained from biological material transferred from a person to an object during physical contact.
In addition, the results could be tricky to interpret since so many people have touched the evidence since then.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and have been surprised with some things that I never would have thought would give me a profile, have given me a beautiful profile,” said Cathrine Cross, forensic DNA expert.
“There’s a potential for contamination and when you get a DNA result and there’s a mixture of 6 or 7 people, what does that tell us about the case?” said Mark Gore, Putnam County asst. district attorney.
Burton-Morgan said that Rabia Chaudry of the “Undisclosed Podcast” brought her into learning more about the case. Burton-Morgan thinks Lance could be another to have his conviction overturned.
“We have so many advances in technology and it seems like a no-brainer that if we have all this evidence sitting there we should test it,” said Burton-Morgan.
The Innocence Project also asked the court to have a fingerprint found on a battery entered into a national database to see if there are any matches. The state adds regardless of what DNA may be found on the items, there’s still strong circumstantial evidence against Lance.
The judge has 30 days from Wednesday’s hearing to decide on the next steps.