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Dec 10, 2021

Seattle Man, Convicted on the Strength of DNA Genetic Genealogy Tracing, Has His Conviction Overturned

The double murder conviction of a Seattle-area man found guilty in the cold-case homicide of a young British Columbia couple has been overturned due to juror bias. William Earl Talbott was arrested in 2018 on the strength of DNA genetic genealogy tracing, 31 years after the bodies of Tanya van Cuylenborg, 18, and Jay Cook, 20, both of Saanich, B.C., were found in northern Washington state.

In 2019, Talbott was found guilty by a jury of two counts of aggravated murder in the first degree and given two life sentences, which he appealed on the grounds that his right to an impartial jury was violated because a biased juror deliberated his case.

In a decision handed down Monday, the Division 1 Court of Appeals in Washington state said a woman identified as Juror 40 exhibited “actual bias” during her comments in voir dire. A voir dire is a legal procedure in which the admissibility of evidence and jurors is discussed.

Talbott was the first ever person to be convicted as a result of genealogy research. Police in Washington state used information from public genealogy websites to pinpoint him as a suspect, then arrested him after getting a DNA sample from a cup that fell from his vehicle.

Details may be found in an article in the CBC News web site at: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/william-earl-talbott-appeal-win-1.6275822.