New murder trial denied

Newly analyzed gunshot evidence isn’t strong enough to justify a new trial for a man convicted in the 1992 murder of a local builder, a judge found this week.

District Court Judge Jack Murphy turned down James Ludlow’s request for a new trial in the 1992 shooting death of builder Tracy Robbins. Ludlow claimed he had an unfair trial because his attorney didn’t investigate bullet wounds and fragments he said could have indicated that a different person shot Robbins.

But after a weeklong hearing last spring and a 500-page brief filed by Ludlow’s new attorney, David J. Brown, Murphy found “there is nothing that would have changed the outcome of the trial.”

Ludlow, now 37, claimed he was too drunk to remember the shooting. The only eyewitness called by the state was Robbins’ girlfriend, Valerie Hartley, who testified that Ludlow awoke from a drunken stupor, shot Robbins without warning with a 30.06 rifle, and then shot and wounded her.

She testified the rifle was the only gun fired that night. But a centerpiece of Ludlow’s request for a new trial was a doctor’s testimony that Hartley’s gunshot wound came from a smaller-caliber gun, a piece of evidence that could have put her credibility in doubt.

Murphy found, however, that Ludlow didn’t succeed in showing Hartley was shot with a different weapon. He also wrote that the arguments failed to establish that more investigation by trial attorney Harry Warren would have revealed “how the evidence would have altered the outcome of the trial.”

Ludlow is serving his sentence at Lansing Correctional Facility. His earliest possible release date would be February 2009.