DNA evidence clears Louisville man of murder charges
August 15, 2012 – By Gene Kang – WHAS11.com
LOUISVILLE, Ky (WHAS11) — A Louisville man who faced the death penalty is free tonight. That’s after prosecutors dropped a murder charge against him.
It was DNA evidence that ultimately cleared him but not before he spent several years behind bars.
The Hall of Justice is where Carlos Lagantta claimed his freedom in more ways than one.
He was waiting for trial for five years – three for the current case and two for an unrelated charge.
But Lagantta says he never grew bitter after being wrongfully accused of murder.
Overall, Carlos Lagantta served three years in prison for a murder he did not commit.
He felt an overwhelming sense of freedom as a court of law declared that he’s innocent.
WHAS 11 News: “What are you doing here at the Hall of Justice today?”
“I’m turning in my HIP equipment and being a free man. Once I turn this in I’m all the way free,” said Lagantta.
“Not only did he put this behind him but he was facing the death penalty,” said Ryan Vantrease, Lagantta’s lawyer.
“It is the Commonwealth’s decision to dismiss without prejudice,” said prosecution in Judge Audra Eckerle’s court in Jefferson County.
Prosecution tossed out murder and robbery charges against Lagantta from 2007.
Exculpatory evidence emerged recently and earlier this year Lagantta’s previous defense attorney requested DNA testing.
That proved that the DNA under the murder victim’s fingernails, that of Tina Taro, did not belong to Lagantta.
In fact, it was from Taro’s boyfriend, John Bulkhead.
Lagantta said: “When that new DNA evidence came back it was kind of shocking but overall it’s not my business anymore. My heart goes out to that woman’s family but I didn’t have nothing to do with it.”
WHAS 11 News: “What does this say about our justice system? There are some flaws.”
“This is why it is so important to let the facts come out before making a decision. Had Mr. Magenta tried to go to trial before this exculpatory evidence he wouldn’t have had the benefit of the DNA,” said Vantrease.
Time in prison cost Lagantta his marriage and a relationship with his young son.
With all this behind him, Magenta returned his ankle bracelet and monitoring equipment having served four months under house arrest.
But says he never lost confidence in the justice system.
“Anybody else who is in my situation stay patient and focused. The truth will come out it always does,” said Lagantta.
WHAS 11 News: “What are you going to be doing once you return this HIP equipment?
Lagantta: “Just positive things. A whole list. My main focus is to get my son and go fishing this weekend.
Lagantta did plead guilty to burglary and tampering with physical evidence.
So far no charges have been filed against Burkhead.