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Paul DeForge

Other Manslaughter Exonerations Where No Crime Occurred
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On March 24, 1988, 45-year-old Paul DeForge called 911 in West Palm Beach, Florida and reported he had just shot his girlfriend. When police and emergency personnel arrived, they found 36-year-old Debra Trombley dead of a shotgun wound.

DeForge was arrested two days later and charged with second-degree murder.

DeForge said he shot Trombley, with whom he had lived for eight years, after she came at him with two knives. He said that he had no choice but to shoot her.

However, the Palm Beach County District Attorney’s office concluded that the shooting was not in self-defense based on a crime scene expert’s examination of the scene of the shooting. The expert had determined that the shooting occurred in an area of a hallway from which DeForge could have run away and sought refuge in another room.

In May 1989, DeForge pled guilty to manslaughter. The day after he entered the plea, while still free on bond awaiting sentencing, DeForge hired Stuart James , a blood spatter expert. James analyzed the crime scene photographs and the home where DeForge and Trombley lived.

James found traces of cloth fiber in a doorway in home. That doorway was down the hall from where the prosecution’s expert asserted the shooting occurred. The fibers were determined to have come from a sweatshirt Trombley was wearing when she was shot.

James also reviewed the same blood spatters that the prosecution said showed that Trombley was shot in the hallway. He concluded the blood spatters were misinterpreted and showed only that she was bleeding in the hallway, not that she was shot there.

In the end, James concluded the shooting occurred at a location in the home where DeForge could not have sought refuge and had to shoot to save his life.

The prosecution agreed to resubmit the case and present the new evidence to a Palm Beach County grand jury. In November 1989, the grand jury agreed that DeForge had acted in self-defense and that no crime had occurred.

On November 15, 1989, a judge granted a motion filed by the Palm Beach County District Attorney’s Office to vacate the conviction and the charge was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 7/9/2017
State:Florida
County:Palm Beach
Most Serious Crime:Manslaughter
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1988
Convicted:1989
Exonerated:1989
Sentence:Not sentenced
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:45
Contributing Factors:False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No