Roughly 30 years ago, James Genrich was convicted of planting pipe bombs in Grand Junction, Colorado, killing two people and causing damage to the city over the course of four months. In January 2022, he returned to court to argue his guilty verdict should be overturned and that he should get a new trial.
Between February and June 1991, three pipe bombs were detonated in various locations in Grand Junction. The bombings killed one adult and one child and injured others. Genrich was convicted of first-degree murder in 1993 and was sentenced to life in prison. He appealed almost immediately.
In 2019, Genrich appealed the district court’s denial of his motion for postconviction relief. He contended the district court erred in denying him an evidentiary hearing to prove allegations set forth in his motion and incorporated affidavit. The Colorado Court of Appeals agreed Genrich was entitled to a hearing to determine whether he should be given a new trial because of the potentially flawed toolmark evidence used in his original 1993 trial to tie him to the crimes.
21st Judicial District Court Judge Richard Gurley on July 10 ordered a new trial for Genrich. Specifically, Gurley agreed with Genrich’s lawyers from the Innocence Project and determined the conviction didn’t hold up to modern scientific standards and analysis. What was primarily at issue was the 1993 trial testimony of a federal agent, who asserted tools found in Genrich’s home were the only tools in the world that could have made marks found on pieces from several bombs.
According to the Korey Wise Innocence Project’s website, the handheld toolmark analysis in question is nothing more than junk science. “In another pattern comparison discipline, forensic analysts presume that every handheld tool (such as a screwdriver or pair of wirecutters) has distinctive features at the microscopic level that leave unique impressions or striations on surfaces,” the website notes. “Yet, no reliable studies validate this presumption or the ability of forensic analysts to accurately distinguish between different toolmark patterns. When similar pattern comparison disciplines (such as bitemark analysis) have been tested more rigorously, they’ve been exposed as nothing more than junk science.”
A status conference in the case has been scheduled for late July. A prosecutor in the case has informed local media the state is likely to appeal.