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Michael Blair

Other Texas Murder Cases with DNA
On September 4, 1993, seven-year-old Ashley Estell was kidnapped from Carpenter Park in Plano, Texas, while with her family at her older brother’s soccer game. Her body was found the next day by a roadside.  She had been strangled.
Michael Blair was brought in for questioning several days later, when two Plano Police Department evidence technicians noticed his car while working in the area where the victim’s body was found.  They followed Blair as he drove away and conducted a traffic stop.  Blair said he had volunteered to assist in the search for the victim and wanted to see the location where the body was found. During a 10-hour interrogation, Blair repeatedly denied involvement in the crime.
Blair, who had a prior sexual offense conviction, quickly became the lead suspect in this case. Three eyewitnesses told police they saw him in the park that day, although two admitted they had seen Blair’s photo on TV before identifying him to police. No witnesses ever claimed to see Blair and Estell together. 
Blair was arrested on September 14, and charged with capital murder.  He was tried by a jury in 1994. In addition to eyewitness testimony, the prosecution based its case on microscopic comparisons of hairs, fibers, and plant material found on Blair, Estell, and in Blair’s car. Charles Linch, a trace evidene analyst recently retired from the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences in Dallas, testified that hairs found in Blair’s car were "the same in all microscopic chracteristics" as Estell’s hair. On further questioning, he said "there is a strong microscopic indication it came from Ashley." He also testified that two hairs recovered from a clump of hair found in Jack Carter Park were associated with Blair. Jack Carter Park was more than two miles from Carpenter Park, and there was no evidence Estell had been there on the day of the crime. Linch said that the hairs had an "opaque" characteristic and that he had "never seen a Caucasian or Mongoloid hair that was opaque like that" in 7 years of hair analysis. He added, "I haven't seen a hair like that before. Not a human hair." On further questioning, he said that "The opaque head hair . . . has strong indications that they had origin with Mr. Blair." He added that "the fine detail agreement . . . is microscopically exact." Linch also testified that the chemical makeup of fibers from a stuffed rabbit in Blair’s car resembled fibers found on the victim’s body, with only “subtle differences.” He further testified that plant material found in the ear of the stuffed rabbit "appeared by scanning electron microscopy to be the same as plant material at the crime scene." The jury deliberated for 27 minutes before convicting Blair. He was sentenced to death.
Blair was scheduled to be executed in July, 1999, but was granted a stay until more sophisticated DNA testing could be performed on the forensic evidence used in Blair’s conviction.  Testing began in 2001. Results provided no evidence that Blair had been at the scene of the crime, and contradicted the hair comparison used to convict Blair. Human tissue found under Estell’s fingernails did not match Blair, and testing conducted on the victim’s clothing pointed to the possible involvement of another man, now deceased, who was also a suspect at the time of crime.
In light of this new evidence, Collin County prosecutors asked a trial court judge to vacate Blair’s conviction, and then dismissed the charges against him in August 2008. Blair was removed from death row, but remains in prison serving a life sentence after confessing and pleading guilty to molesting the children of a witness who testified against him in the murder case.
In 1995, then-Governor George W. Bush signed “Ashley’s Laws,” named after the victim in the case, which expanded punishment and registration for sex offenders.  Ironically, this law is named after a case in which the suspect’s record as a sex offender misled the police, while the apparent real perpetrator, who had no record, evaded justice.
In August 2013, the Texas Supreme Court denied Blair's request for more than $1 million in compensation for his wrongful conviction.
 – Alexandra Gross

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Most Serious Crime:Murder
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1993
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes