Father’s attorneys want DNA evidence thrown out | RecordCourier.com
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Father’s attorneys want DNA evidence thrown out

by Christy Chalmers, Record-Courier staff writer

Attorneys for Thomas Soria Sr. have asked District Judge Dave Gamble to throw out DNA tests used to link him to the murder of Krystal Steadman.

In a 20-page motion filed Friday, the lawyers argue that the DNA evidence shouldn’t have been introduced during the preliminary hearing in Tahoe Justice Court that resulted in Soria Sr., 39, being bound over for trial on murder, kidnapping and sexual assault charges.

They also claim prosecutors don’t have enough evidence for the murder charge, and Soria Sr. should be released.

Soria and his son, Thomas Jr., 19, were both charged in the 9-year-old’s death. She disappeared March 19 from a parking lot at the Stateline apartment complex where the Sorias lived. Her battered body was found a day later off Highway 50.

Soria Jr. pleaded guilty to murder and kidnapping and was sentenced Monday to life in prison without possible parole for the murder.

Soria Sr. has pleaded innocent. A trial is set for January and prosecutors have indicated they will seek the death penalty if he is convicted.

During the preliminary hearing in May, Soria Sr.’s attorneys challenged the introduction of the DNA evidence. Justice of the Peace Steve McMorris noted their objections but allowed it, and the attorneys have challenged that decision on several grounds.

McMorris should have required prosecutors to introduce evidence of the DNA tests’ reliability, and he also erred by letting the state use a database prepared by the Washoe Crime Lab to calculate statistical probabilities from DNA results, they said.

Plus, courts that have considered whether to allow results from the method of DNA testing used have ruled the results shouldn’t be introduced into evidence, they argued.

The attorneys also say they weren’t allowed to thoroughly cross-examine witnesses during the hearing, and they concluded there’s not enough evidence for a murder charge.

“The state’s theory is effectively that since Mr. Soria can be identified as a perpetrator in the sexual assault, he must also have been involved in the murder,” they wrote, adding that the theory violates Soria Sr.’s right to due process.

If Gamble agrees with the defense contention that the DNA tests shouldn’t have been admitted, the lawyers say prosecutors won’t have any probable cause to hold Soria Sr. There is no evidence putting him at the murder scene or connecting him to the body, they wrote.

Gamble has scheduled a hearing on the motion in August. Prosecutors are expected to file a response before then.

Soria Sr. remains in the Douglas County jail, where he has been since his arrest.