Steve Miers, Mr. Blair's defense attorney who handled the original trial, said he doubts his former client will be tried again in Ashley's death.
"In my opinion, that's not very likely, because exhibit number one is going to be the press release from Mr. Roach saying that there's another suspect," Mr. Miers said.
Collin County investigators found a "person of interest" who might have been connected to Ashley's death. That man could not be cleared as a suspect, but he died more than 10 years ago.
Hair evidence that supposedly connected Mr. Blair to Ashley's body has been disproved by DNA testing that was not available at the time of the trial. Additional DNA testing showed that there was no forensic evidence placing Mr. Blair at the crime scene or connecting him to Ashley.
Ashley's death prompted state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, to create a series of stricter sex offender legislative changes, now known as "Ashley's Laws." She said in a written statement Wednesday that Mr. Blair's overturned conviction doesn't lessen the value of those laws.
"That does not diminish the fact that Ashley Estell was molested and murdered; and that Ashley's Laws ... stand as strong today as they ever have," Mrs. Shapiro said. "From 1995 until today, these laws forever changed the way the state of Texas deals with these heinous crimes."
Sen. Shapiro sounds a little defensive, and perhaps she should. She's correct that Blair's exoneration indeed does not "diminish the fact that Ashley Estell was molested and murdered." What it does do, however, is demonstrate how easily the harsh laws Sen. Shapiro spearheaded can be applied to the wrong person. (The man DNA identified as Estell's actual killer died ten years ago without being prosecuted for the crime.)
Three factors contributed to Michael Blair's wrongful conviction: Inaccurate eyewitness testimony, shoddy forensic science, and assumptions of guilt by police based on Blair's past conviction for sex crimes. The sex offender laws Shapiro spearheaded institutionalized such assumptions - encouraging instead of preventing them - making it more likely in such cases the wrong person gets convicted and the guilty man goes free.
Frankly, IMO the whole sex offender registry idea was always more a public relations stunt than a public safety strategy. The registries includes too many petty offenders, they tend to be filled with errors and perhaps most importantly from a public safety perspective, research shows that "community notification deters first-time sex offenses, but increases recidivism by registered offenders." (emphasis added)
Sen. Shapiro is correct that the registration laws she passed "forever changed the way the state of Texas deals with these heinous crimes," but not for the better, and not in ways that necessarily make anyone safer. Indeed, to the extent the laws arose from lessons learned in the Ashley Estell case, they were literally based in error from their inception.