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Court postpones Mattson murder trial

The Douglas County District Attorney's Office has waited more than 14 years to try Michael David Mattson for allegedly beating his girlfriend to death in Superior.

The Douglas County District Attorney's Office has waited more than 14 years to try Michael David Mattson for allegedly beating his girlfriend to death in Superior.

It's going to have to wait even longer. And if public defender J. Patrick O'Neill wins the argument he made in court on Monday, Mattson could have his first-degree murder charge dismissed.

Douglas County Circuit Judge George Glonek postponed Mattson's trial, scheduled to begin Tuesday, so that an evidentiary hearing can take place on O'Neill's motion to drop the case against his client.

O'Neill argued that investigators either willfully destroyed, or allowed to be destroyed, the coveralls Mattson was wearing on Feb. 19, 1993 -- the day that Mryna Jean Clemons was bludgeoned to death in the Allouez neighborhood home that they shared.

O'Neill said he filed the motion to dismiss the case against his client on Friday -- only four days before the trial was scheduled to start -- because he just learned from a state crime lab report that the prosecution had evidence that Clemons had blood spatter on her clothing.

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"In other words, her own blood flew through the air and landed on her clothing," O'Neill said outside the courtroom after the hearing. "Thus, that increases the likelihood that whoever caused those injuries would have been in the same proximity of the victim and also have the blood sprayed upon them. So being able to show that, in fact, there was no blood on the coveralls demonstrates Mr. Mattson's innocence.''

A hearing will take place Thursday to determine whether the court will grant O'Neill's motion to dismiss the case against his client. The court will decide whether the missing evidence would obviously benefit Mattson. If Glonek finds it would have, O'Neill argues that's all that is necessary to suggest police were careless or negligent in not preserving evidence, thus denying his client a fair trial. If the court finds that the evidence did not obviously benefit the defendant, but potentially did, the defense has to prove that there was some intent on the part of law enforcement to get rid of evidence that might benefit the defendant.

Douglas County Assistant District Attorney James Boughner told the court there was no intent by the state to destroy evidence. Boughner filed a written response on Monday to O'Neill's motion. The prosecutor wrote: "The anticipated testimony will establish that the coveralls were not apparently exculpatory evidence but just potentially exculpatory evidence. Plaintiff is confident that the defendant will not be able to show that the evidence gatherers ... made a conscious effort to suppress exculpatory evidence.''

Mattson, 56, was first charged in 1993 with slaying Clemons, 50. However, a Douglas County court commissioner ruled at that time that the state didn't have enough evidence and threw out the first-degree reckless homicide charge against Mattson.

Police said Mattson came forward in October of last year and admitted that he murdered his girlfriend. According to the criminal complaint, Mattson said 13 years of remorse and guilt led him to a bad bellyache, a cancer-like pain and his confession.

O'Neill said Monday that his client's confession can be explained in his defense. He declined to publicly elaborate. Mattson is being held in the Douglas County Jail.

MARK STODGHILL can be reached weekdays at (218) 723-5333 or by e-mail at mstodghill@duluthnews.com .

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