Attorneys for condemned inmate say he's innocent

Attorneys for condemned inmate say he's innocent
Richard Albert Leavitt
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The attorney representing a death row inmate scheduled to die in two weeks says he has passed a polygraph test that proves he's innocent.

Richard Albert Leavitt was convicted of the 1984 stabbing murder of Blackfoot resident Danette Elg. Proseuctors said he stabbed her repeatedly and then cut out her sexual organs. He is scheduled to be put to death by lethal injection on June 12.

But Leavitt has long maintained his innocence in the case, and now his attorney, David Nevin, is asking the federal court to accept a polygraph test as proof of that claim. Polygraph tests are typically not admissible as evidence in court.

Nevin is also asking for the court to allow DNA testing on some evidence from the crime scene. The judge has previously turned down the request, saying he doubted the "proposed testing would bring favorable results."

But Nevin contends that it's not possible to know what, if anything, the DNA testing will reveal until it's completed. If the blood of a third person were found at the scene, that would be exculpatory, Nevin said.

"The state is rushing headlong into executing an innocent man. Surely it is not too much to ask that important evidence in the case be tested at no expense and no risk to the state," Nevin wrote to the court.

He also said a renowned polygraph expert, Boise State University psychology professor Charles Honts, examined Leavitt and found him to be truthful when he denied involvement in Elg's murder.

Honts asked Leavitt three questions, according to court documents: "Did you stab Danette Elg?", "Did you remove Danette Elg's internal genitals?" and "Were you present when Danette Elg was stabbed?"

Leavitt answered "no" to all three, according to the filing. Honts also found that Leavitt's breathing, heart rate and other physiological signals were consistent with those expected when someone is telling the truth. Honts concluded that Leavitt's answers had a high statistical possibility of being truthful.

"Mr. Leavitt's passing the polygraph examination provides eloquent confirmation that he is not Danette Elg's killer, and that he is, on the contrary, innocent," wrote Nevin.

Leavitt was arrested after authorities discovered Elg's body in her blood-spattered bedroom four days after her June 18, 1984 murder. Just a day or two before her death, Elg called 911 and reported a prowler had tried to enter her home. When police arrived they found signs of attempted entry but nothing else, and Elg told them she suspected Leavitt was the culprit.

Prosecutors also say that during the four days between Elg's murder and the discovery of her body, Leavitt was exceedingly interested in her whereabouts, finally getting permission to enter the home with police who discovered the body.

Additionally, Leavitt's blood was found in the bedroom. He later claimed that he'd gotten a nosebleed while in the room several days before Elg's death.

And prosecutors claimed that one of the strangest elements of the murder — that Elg's internal sexual organs were removed in a way that would be difficult to accomplish without some knowledge of anatomy — were explained when Leavitt's ex-wife testified that during a hunting trip she had once found Leavitt removing the female sexual organs of a deer and playing with them.