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13 years later, DNA frees man in family death
"I just want to go home" to Wisconsin, he says.
Published December 5, 2007
JACKSONVILLE - A 33-year-old man convicted of killing his sister-in-law walked out of jail Tuesday after 13 years behind bars, as prosecutors decided that he should not be retried because his DNA did not match evidence found at the crime scene.
Wisconsin native Chad Heins wore a Green Bay Packers shirt as he hugged his lawyers after being freed. His first-degree murder conviction and life sentence were tossed this year after a group that helps the wrongly convicted secured the DNA testing.
The system "didn't work in the beginning, but it worked at the end," Heins said as he left the Duval County Jail. "I made it one day at a time and watched my back. I just want to go home to my family and get out of the state of Florida."
He had been scheduled for a new trial this month, but it was delayed with the release of even more evidence that seemed to clear him of Tina Heins' murder in 1994.
Heins was required to sign a document that he would waive a speedy trial and the statute of limitations if the state found new evidence and decided to charge him again.
The newest evidence was semen from an unidentified man that matched foreign strands of hair on Tina Heins' body. She was stabbed 27 times in the Mayport apartment she shared with Chad Heins and her husband, Jerry Heins. Jerry Heins, Chad's brother, was aboard a Navy ship at the time of the killing.
When the state's announcement was made, two lawyers for the group that helps the wrongly convicted, the Innocence Project, pumped their fists in court.
Project lawyer Jennifer Greenberg said nine people in Florida and 210 in the United States have been cleared through DNA evidence by the Innocence Project.
Robert Link, Heins' attorney, said that new technology allowed his client to be freed and that he did not blame the state for convicting an innocent man and fighting his release until Tuesday.
"Chad is going back to live in Wisconsin with his family and live his life again," Link said.