Michael Googe Exonerated
August 6, 2015
Through a first-in-the-nation initiative by the Georgia Innocence Project, Michael Googe of Brunswick, GA was exonerated of the 2007 burglary of a convenience store. Not only that, but the initiative also revealed the true perpetrator of the crime. Read the story below.
Burglary, Unlawful Entry
Counsel: J. Wrix McIlvane
Glynn County, Georgia
Glynn County, GA | November 12, 2007
Implemented in 1998, CODIS (“Combined DNA Index System”) contains DNA profiles from crime scenes (forensic profiles) and DNA profiles from people convicted of crimes (offender profiles). The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) database contains more than 265,000 offender profiles and nearly 14,500 forensic profiles.
When new forensic profiles are collected at new crime scenes, they are routinely compared to the offender profiles already in the database to try to identify the perpetrator. When there is a match, it is referred to as a “CODIS hit.”
But what happens when a CODIS hit points to a different perpetrator in a crime where the wrong person has already been incarcerated? GIP wanted to find out.
So GIP, in cooperation with the GBI and the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia (PAC), secured a two year grant from the U.S. Department of Justice to launch the project that lead to Michael’s exoneration.
In 2007, based upon the statement of his acquaintance Paul Wright, Michael Googe was arrested in Brunswick, GA for burglary of a Jazz Mart store. Police collected DNA evidence from the scene: a drop of blood on a money order receipt in the cash register. They sent the DNA to the GBI for testing.
In 2008, before testing was complete, Michael pled guilty to three burglaries, including the one at the Jazz Mart, because he was offered a reduced sentence in exchange for an agreement not to go to trial. Less than a month later, the GBI results proved the blood at the crime scene did not belong to Michael. However, this proof of innocence was never shared with Michael’s defense attorney.
In 2009, prosecutors in the case received information that there had been a CODIS hit on the blood evidence collected at the Jazz Mart. The blood matched Paul Wright, the person who told police that Michael Googe had committed the crime. Again, Michael’s defense attorney was never told. The truth was only brought to light because of the project that the Georgia Innocence Project initiated with the GBI and PAC, which revealed the six year old CODIS hit that proved Michael’s innocence and further revealed systemic failings that enabled DNA-based proof of innocence to remain hidden from the imprisoned innocent person for years and years. According to Michael’s criminal defense attorney Wrix McIlvaine,
“Without the work of the Georgia Innocence Project on this matter, Googe had no ability to access the information that showed his accuser, Paul Wright, was the actual perpetrator that left blood at the crime scene..."
Were it not for the investigation into CODIS and the resulting case file discrepancies, it appears that the information would have never been discovered by Googe. He would remain ignorant of exculpatory evidence.” Michael Googe was exonerated in August 2015.