Man awaits judge’s verdict in retrial for 1993 Rockford murder

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The retrial of Patrick Pursley, who was originally convicted of the 1993 murder of Andrew Ascher, will finally come to an end Wednesday when a judge determines if he will remain a free man or head back to prison. 

Right now, Pursley is free, set loose after new ballistics evidence emerged in the case.

Originally sent to prison in 1994, Pursley is the first person in the State of Illinois to get a new trial under a new post-conviction law he personally lobbied for.

The law, which passed in 2007, admits the use of a computer forensics test as evidence, which can determine if certain bullets were fired by a specific gun.

The State’s only source of forensic evidence in the case against Pursely was the shell casings found at the scene of the crime.

The Illinois State Police forensic examiner said at trial that current tests of those casings, using the new software, were unable to match the bullets recovered from the crime to the alleged murder weapon.

Pursley’s defense team argued that the test results cast a reasonable doubt on Pursley’s guilt, and does not present enough evidence for a conviction.

“They didn’t bring in a confession,” Pursley’s attorney argued. “Their ballistic evidence doesn’t establish proof beyond a reasonable doubt, if at all.”

The State argued that the bullets and shell casings were mishandled and could have been damaged in the past 20 years while in storage, which could explain the current inconclusive test result.

“On review of the physical evidence, the conclusion of the experts stated that the court finds Patrick Pursley guilty,” said prosecutor F. James Brun.

Pursley’s defense team, however, says that aside from the new ballistic test results, prosecutors still have not presented other evidence proving Pursley’s guilt.

After closing arguments finished on Tuesday, Pursley told our reporter that his “fate is in the judge’s hands. It’s scary to have a foot in both worlds.”

The judge is expected to give his decision at 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.

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