Appeals court overturns conviction in 1993 murder case despite DNA match

On Friday a murder conviction was overturned in the Michigan Court of Appeals. Now, Johnny Ray Kennedy could soon be a free man.

Kennedy was convicted in 2014 and has been serving a life sentence for the 1993 murder of Tanya Harris. The woman was found strangled to death, her body found in an abandoned building in what was once known as the Cass Corridor.

Years later vaginal and rectal samples from Harris' body were sent to the Michigan State Police crime lab for DNA testing. Johnny Ray Kennedy's DNA was a match

"It was known for she would have sex for money and drugs," said John J. Holler, a former attorney for Kennedy. "And did Mr. Kennedy have sex with her down in the Cass Corridor years ago? It's entirely possible but he didn't kill her."

But the conviction was overturned because the court determined that Kennedy's right to a fair trial was violated because he and his public defender did not have the same level of access to expert DNA witnesses as the prosecution did. 

"There should be a level playing field, no attorney should be put in a position where he is denied the resources that are available," said Holler. "What I asked for was just reasonable."

When Kennedy was charged with Tanya Harris' murder. He was about to be released from prison after serving time for second-degree murder in a different homicide.

In speaking with his former defense attorney about the Harris case, he revealed interesting information about DNA and the role it played in this case.

"Now this is going back, this trial was six years ago, but as I recall, there was some indication from some of the DNA, it was possible there was more than one donor," Holler said.

Keep in mind, Kennedy's DNA was already in the system because he was incarcerated at the time for a separate murder.

He is currently being held at the Lakeland Correctional Facility in Coldwater, Michigan. There is no indication when he will be released.

Johnny Ray Kennedy