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SALT LAKE CITY — A convicted murderer has asked the state of Utah to perform DNA tests on evidence gathered at the scene of the 1997 death of then-62-year-old Edward J. Livsey.
After being imprisoned since his arrest the day after Livsey was found dead by hikers in Emigration Canyon, Hilario Medina still proclaims his innocence and with help from the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center, has filed a lawsuit against the state in hopes of proving it.
Court documents filed in 3rd District Court state that Medina's conviction was "based almost entirely on the uncorroborated and inconsistent testimony" of a self-proclaimed witness, Roberto Sanchez-Martinez, who was arrested at the same time as Medina on Aug. 27, 1997. The two had been traveling together in Livsey's stolen vehicle.
Martinez's testimony, which earned him a plea agreement with prosecutors, included that Livsey and Medina had picked him up from a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City to do day labor, but instead ended up drinking beer in Emigration Canyon. Martinez told the court that Livsey and Medina had argued about money and then Medina choked Livsey, dragged him into the bushes, made sure he was dead, tied Livsey up and committed a sex act with Livsey's dead body, before driving to Las Vegas, where they were arrested, the lawsuit states.
Medical examiners determined that Livsey was strangled to death. His body was found with his hands and feet bound with shoelaces and a bandana tied around his neck. Livsey's pants were down but there was no evidence of sex, according to court documents.
Medina was convicted of Livsey's murder and in August 1998 and sentenced to serve five-years-to-life at the Utah State Prison where he is currently being held.
Medina says in the suit that he was not in Salt Lake at the time of Livsey's murder and had not been since earlier that year. He said he was in Las Vegas after just returning to the U.S. from Mexico. He also states that he purchased Livsey's car for $300 from a stranger at a bar in Las Vegas.
He is asking the court to reconsider evidence of hair and skin particles found at the scene, as well as items of clothing worn by Livsey and beer bottles located near where Livsey's body was found, as evidence of his innocence, as he believes his own DNA will not be matched to them.
The evidence, which is in possession of the Salt Lake County Sheriff's office, has not previously been tested for DNA.
According to data from the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center, 220 U.S. prisoners have been exonerated as a result of DNA testing since the first case was presented, in 1989. The 220 exonerees came from 36 different states and each served an average of 12 years of prison time.