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Michael Googe

Other Plea Cases with Perjury or False Accusation
In August 2015, Michael Googe was exonerated of a 2007 burglary in Brunswick, Georgia as a result of an innovative and unique partnership of the Georgia Innocence Project, the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The saga of Googe’s wrongful conviction began on June 9, 2007, when police were summoned to a break-in at the Jazz Fast Fuel convenience store on Commercial Avenue in Brunswick, Georgia. Evidence showed that the store was broken into during the early morning hours and that $20 in cash, $55 worth of beer and a set of keys were reported stolen. Police found blood on a money order in the store and preserved it because they believed it might have been left by the burglar.

The burglary occurred at a time when numerous burglaries were being reported throughout Brunswick and surrounding towns in Glynn County. In one instance, particularly brazen thieves were reported to have cut the copper-plated walls off of a warehouse belonging to a sheet metal firm.

Police solved three of those burglaries on June 20, 2007 with the arrest of 26-year-old Michel Googe, a Brunswick resident with prior theft convictions. Googe was arrested based on information supplied by a police informant named Paul Wright, who said he saw Googe commit the burglaries.

In addition to the burglary of Jazz Fast Fuel, police said Googe was responsible for breaking into a truck at J & M Wrecker on June 15 and taking a $400 stereo, a $500 amplifier and a $200 handgun. And on June 16, Googe allegedly broke into the Rainbow Car Wash and took $700 from a bill-changing machine and caused $2,500 of damage to the machine.

On March 31, 2008, Googe pled no contest to the burglary charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison with eight years of the term suspended.

On April 24—about three weeks later—the District Attorney’s Office for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit, which covers four counties including Glynn County where the burglaries occurred, received a report from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation with results of the DNA testing on the blood recovered from the convenience store burglary. Although the test results excluded Googe as the source of the blood, the prosecution did not inform Googe or his defense lawyer.

The DNA profile was in due course submitted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to the FBI’s DNA database, Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which (as of June 15, 2015) had nearly 12 million DNA profiles of convicted offenders, more than 2 million DNA profiles of arrestees and more than 638,000 DNA profiles from open cases.

On February 7, 2009, the FBI reported that the database had identified match for the DNA profile of the blood found at the convenience store—Paul Wright, the informant who told police that Googe was the burglar. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation sent that information to the District Attorney’s office for the Brunswick Judicial Circuit on May 5, 2010.

But again, the prosecution did not disclose the information to Googe or his defense attorney.

More than three years later, the Georgia Innocence Project teamed up with the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in an innovative and unique project designed to solve cold cases as well as possibly exonerate wrongly convicted defendants. The initiative was funded by a $424,000 grant from National Institute of Justice to locate evidence and conduct DNA testing to identify suspects in cold cases and exonerate defendants who were convicted in error.

Christina Cribbs, staff attorney at the Georgia Innocence Project, said that as part of the grant, nearly 3,000 DNA matches from CODIS were designated for an examination to determine if the DNA profiles matched the DNA profiles of the defendants who had been convicted in the underlying cases.

The Innocence Project staff discovered that the DNA match from the Jazz Fast Fuel burglary matched not Googe—who had been convicted, but Wright—the informant who told police that Googe had committed the crime.

Googe, who had served his sentence and was released, did not know that anyone was looking at his case. He didn’t even know the Georgia Innocence Project existed until he was informed of the DNA test results.

On July 31, 2015, Brunswick attorney J. Wrix McIlvaine, on behalf of the Innocence Project, filed a motion in the Superior Court of Glynn County requesting a new trial for Googe.

“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,” the motion said. “Without this 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.”

On August 6, 2015, Superior Court Judge Anthony Harrison granted the motion with the consent of the prosecution. At same the hearing, Googe pled guilty to a burglary committed in 2015 and his probation from his other prior convictions was revoked and he was sentenced to two years in prison.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/20/2015
Most Serious Crime:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2007
Sentence:2 years
Age at the date of reported crime:26
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes