Las Vegas Sun

October 1, 2014

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Judge to review tape of store robbery

District Judge John McGroarty on Monday said that sometime after Sept. 27 he will review videotapes with prosecutors and the lawyer representing a man who claims NASA technology can prove he was too tall to have been the robber of a convenience store.

In 2001, prosecutors used fuzzy security videotape from a Circle K store to convict Bryon Garnett, who was sentenced to at least 40 years in prison.

Garnett's lawyer, Don Topham, from Rocky Mountain Innocence Center, a Salt Lake City-based nonprofit that looks at cases in Nevada, Utah and Wyoming, argues when NASA technology is applied to the same tape it could prove his client's innocence.

In the video, a man in a red baseball cap enters the store, approaches the clerk behind the counter and pulls out a gun. The two bend down to the safe. A woman walks in seeking change for a $100 bill. The robber takes the bill, vaults over the counter and runs out.

The surveillance videotape and the eyewitness identification given by a store clerk who testified he was "85 percent sure" Garnett was the robber, served as the bulk of the case against Garnett.

Topham said by using a video-enhancing method developed by NASA scientists it's clear that the robber in question was 5 feet 8 inches tall, and not Garnett, who is five inches taller than that.

Additionally, Topham said the store clerk who identified Garnett said he thought he was 5 feet 8 inches.

The video enhancement method, developed out of research on reading satellite and telescope images, has been used by prosecutors in high-profile cases including the 1996 Olympics bombing and the 2002 kidnapping of Salt Lake City teenager Elizabeth Smart.

Deputy District Attorney Martin Hart successfully argued McGroarty should also review the original analog tape retrieved from the convenience store and not just the tape NASA scientist David Hathaway, based in Alabama, enhanced using the Video Image Stabilization and Registration method, which he helped invent.

Hart said the Hathaway version details only 30 seconds of the five minutes captured by surveillance cameras the night of the crime and contains only angles that benefit Garnett.

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