PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The family of an imprisoned woman is looking forward to her release after a federal judge on Thursday ruled DNA evidence indicates she may not be guilty of the killing.
Lisa Marie Roberts pleaded guilty to manslaughter in the death of her girlfriend, Jerri Williams, in 2002.
Williams was strangled, and her naked body was found dumped in North Portland’s Kelly Point Park. Roberts admitted the crime during her 2004 trial.
But DNA evidence raised doubts about the evidence, and on Thursday Judge Malcolm Marsh also concluded Roberts’ lawyers were ineffective, thus violating her right to effective counsel.
Roberts, now 48, was sentenced to a 15-year prison term. She’s been in the Coffee Creek prison for about 10 years.
But she said she didn’t do the crime.
Federal public defenders said updated DNA technology points to a man the victim knew as the real killer.
And they said she pleaded guilty only after her lawyer told her the state had damning evidence from cellphone pings that placed her at Kelly Point Park.
But experts said that’s not true. Judge Marsh found Roberts’ lawyer failed to properly investigate that.
The state has 90 days to decide whether to drop the charges and release her or order her to stand trial again.
In a written statement, Multnomah County DA Rod Underhill said, “We are working to determine all of our options and then we will review each option and make a decision about which is the most appropriate one to pursue.”
Roberts’ family also released a statement to KOIN 6 News: “We completely support Lisa and are looking forward to her release.”