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Conviction upheld for Louisiana serial killer

BATON ROUGE, La. - A state appeal court has upheld one of two murder convictions against Derrick Todd Lee, who has been linked by DNA evidence to seven killings in south Louisiana.

Lee was convicted in 2004 of second-degree murder in the 2002 death of Geralyn DeSoto of Addis. That conviction was upheld Wednesday by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal.

The 1st Circuit judges said prosecutors should not have been allowed to show the jury in the DeSoto case evidence of another killing linked to Lee _ that of Trineisha Colomb in Lafayette. However, they said Judge Robin Frees decision to allow the evidence was a "harmless" error and that Lee's conviction was "surely unattributable to the error."

Other evidence, which included DNA, a boot print, knife wounds and a telephone call made to Lee's former employer from Geralyn DeSoto's Addis home, all bolstered the jury's decision to convict Lee, the panel ruled.

Lee is serving a mandatory life sentence in the DeSoto case. He faces execution after being convicted of first-degree murder in 2004 in the May 2002 death of former LSU student Charlotte Murray Pace.

Despite ruling that evidence from the Colomb case should not have been presented to jurors, the 1st Circuit panel said there was nothing wrong with Free allowing the testimony of Diane Alexander, a Lafayette nurse who told jurors in the DeSoto trial that she survived an attack by Lee. The panel also said Free was correct when he allowed prosecutors to present evidence of other crimes Lee had committed.

Judges Randolph Parro, Michael McDonald and Jefferson Hughes III served on the 1st Circuit panel that reviewed Lee's appeal.

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