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Overturned Conviction

The conviction of William Earl Talbott II, who was identified as a suspect by genetic genealogy, has been overturned, CBC News reports. It notes that the reversal was due to juror bias, not the use of genetic genealogy.

Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, a young Canadian couple, were killed in 1987 while on vacation in Washington State. More than 30 years later, genetic genealogy identified Talbott as a suspect through a close match to a second cousin, and Talbott was convicted in 2019. Wired reported at the time that that genetic genealogy did not feature prominently in the case, as attorneys treated it like any other tip investigators might have received. Still, it said that the outcome indicated genetic genealogy could not only identify suspects but lead to convictions.

But that conviction on two counts of aggravated murder in the first degree has been overturned, CBC News reports. An appeals court found that a juror in the trial had exhibited bias during voir dire but was still seated as part of the jury, it adds. According to Newsweek, the juror said that as she had experienced violence against women, she was unsure whether she would be able to remain impartial. CBC News adds that prosecutors have until early January to ask the state Supreme Court for a review of the ruling.

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