Murder Conviction Upheld for Man Charged 13 Years After Crime as Result of DNA Cold Hit

August 29, 2018 Updated: August 29, 2018

A state appeals court August 28 upheld the second-degree murder conviction of a man who was charged as a result of a “cold hit” DNA match 13 years after he fatally stabbed a San Francisco woman.

Anthony Hughes, now 59, was arrested in San Francisco in 2011 on charges of murdering Lisa Valdez, 32, in her studio condominium in the Diamond Heights neighborhood of the city in 1998.

He was convicted of second-degree murder in San Francisco Superior Court in 2016 and sentenced to 16 years to life in prison.

A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the conviction, rejecting Hughes’s claim that the delay in prosecution violated his state and federal constitutional rights to a fair trial.

Valdez, a computer programmer, was last seen on May 16, 2011, at a dinner, she prepared in her condominium for her mother and three other people. Her body with 21 stab wounds was found in her studio on May 20, 2011.

Hughes was identified as a suspect in a match of bloodstains on two pillows with a sample in a national database maintained by the FBI. The identification was made possible through advances in technology. Hughes was also matched to a fingerprint in the victim’s bathroom.

The appeals court said the delay didn’t substantially harm Hughes’s defense case and that prosecutors’ “justification for the delay was compelling” because of the new DNA evidence.

Justice Terence Bruiniers wrote for the court, “This new evidence amply justifies the delay and outweighs any minimal prejudice Hughes has presented.”

By Julia Cheever.