Court okays use of DNA to convict North Carolina school board member killer

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- The North Carolina Court of Appeals has ruled that it was okay for prosecutors to use DNA evidence to convict Jason Williford in the 2010 murder of N.C. State Board of Education member Kathy Taft.

Williford was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2012 after he was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree rape.

Prosecutors said he attacked Taft in the Raleigh home of a friend as she recovered from plastic surgery.

During the trial, they presented DNA evidence collected from a cigarette butt discarded by Williford that linked him to the sexual assault on Taft.

Defense attorneys argued police did not follow proper rules of evidence when they picked up the butt and violated Williford's privacy.

In its ruling Tuesday, the appeals court said detectives acted properly.

Click here to read the ruling (.pdf)

"Local law enforcement and Crime Lab scientists worked tirelessly to solve this brutal murder, with DNA evidence helping investigators zero in on the right suspect. Today's ruling means law enforcement can continue to combine old-fashioned detective work with high-tech science to solve cases and achieve justice," said NC Attorney General Roy Cooper in a statement.

Taft served on the State School Board for 15 years. She also ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in 2008. Prior to that, she served on the Pitt County Board of Education.

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