Court sends doctor wife slaying case back to Mass.
BOSTON—The U.S. Supreme Court, citing its recent guidance on DNA testimony, ordered the state's highest court to reconsider the case of a once-prominent Massachusetts doctor convicted of killing his wife.
The high court on Friday sent Dirk Greineder's case back to the Supreme Judicial Court for further review.
Greineder, a well-known allergist at Brigham & Women's Hospital, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2001 in the death of his wife, Mabel "May" Greineder, in Wellesley in 1999.
Prosecutors said he killed his wife of 31 years after she found out about his secret life of prostitutes and Internet pornography. Greineder claimed she was killed by a stranger after he and his wife became separated during an early-morning walk near their home.
The Supreme Judicial Court upheld Greineder's conviction in 2010 and denied him a new trial. On Friday, the Supreme Court vacated the SJC's judgment and sent it back for the court to take another look.
The high court said the case needs further consideration in light of its June 18 ruling in an Illinois case. In that case, the court upheld a rape conviction despite objections that the defendant did not have an opportunity to question the reliability of DNA evidence.
The court's 5-4 ruling in the Illinois case went against a string of high court decisions that bolstered the right of defendants to confront witnesses against them.
The court split into three factions. Four justices joined in a strong opinion that would give prosecutors more leeway to use lab reports without having to put the analysts who prepared them on the witness stand. Four other justices said the Constitution does not permit the use of the lab analyst who helped convict the defendant. Justice Clarence Thomas said the lab report used in the case could not be considered testimonial and so does not fall under the Constitution's cross-examination requirement.
Norfolk District Attorney Michael Morrissey, whose office prosecuted Greineder, said he respects the court's ruling and is "hopeful that the Supreme Judicial Court reaffirms the conviction."
In the Greineder case, a DNA expert testified for prosecutors even though she did not do the DNA testing herself. Greineder's lawyer argued that it violated Greineder's constitutional right to confront witnesses against him "to allow one DNA analyst to testify about the results of another DNA analyst who doesn't testify."
Dr. Robin Cotton testified that DNA on gloves found near the knife used to kill May Greineder matched Dirk Greineder's DNA.
"Our complaint is -- especially in a case where the DNA evidence was so critical to the outcome -- this basically deprived Dr. Greineder of his constitutional right to challenge those results through the person who came up with them," said Greineder's attorney, James Sultan.
Sultan said the SJC could order attorneys to submit written briefs or could hold a hearing to hear oral arguments. The court does not sit again until September.