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Published October 21, 2011, 10:02 PM

Attorneys of Alfonso Rodriguez challenge credibility of well known Minnesota Medical Examiner

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- When attorneys for Alfonso Rodriguez filed an appeals motion in Federal Court this week, they challenged the credibility of a well known Minnesota Medical Examiner. Dr. Michael McGee has testified in several murder cases in our region, but none so "high profile" as the Dru Sjodin case.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- When attorneys for Alfonso Rodriguez filed an appeals motion in Federal Court this week, they challenged the credibility of a well known Minnesota Medical Examiner. Dr. Michael McGee has testified in several murder cases in our region, but none so "high profile" as the Dru Sjodin case.

Two legal experts weigh in on the likelihood the controversial medical examiner could change the outcome of the case.

We've told you about the focus of alleged false testimony by Dr. Michael McGee in other recent cases. His testimony at the Rodriguez trial helped convict him.

Now, years later, it's that testimony that could very likely send North Dakota's only death penalty trial back to the courtroom for a hearing.

Since 2006, when Alfonso Rodriguez Junior was sent to death row for brutally kidnapping, raping, and killing UND student Dru Sjodin, he has lost all appeals. But, maybe not this time. The 58 year's old last chance to save his life.

Bruce Quick (Criminal Defense Attorney) – “there's no stone left unturned”.

We sat down with two Fargo attorneys to get their take on the motion filed Monday, a day before the deadline. It asks to set aside the sentence and for a new trial.

Mark Friese (Fargo Attorney) – “It's a very very difficult burden for a defendant to overcome in a post conviction proceeding.”

Page after page questions Dr. Michael McGee. Defense attorneys claim the jury was swayed by his alleged shoddy lab work and questionable conclusions.

Mark – “It is surprising because typically the medical examiner or the folks serving in that capacity are seldom called into question.”

They say McGee mistook animal bites and decomposition for stab or slash wounds, used junk science and out of date testing to convince jurors Rodriguez raped the young woman up to 36 hours. The heinous nature of that crime is a key argument for death.

Mark – “It would be difficult to predict the likelihood of this particular issue alone having a direct impact on the sentence or the trial.”

The big question is if prosecutors knew of inaccurate or false testimony.

Mark – “If they knew of those types of claims at the time of the trial, the court will look at this much more closely and the likelihood of relief for the defendant is much greater.”

Attorney Mark Friese does not believe Rodriguez's life will be spared. There's simply so much other evidence. McGee is just one small piece of the puzzle. But what is possible, another courtroom visit.

Bruce – “if factual issues, factual controversies are raised, the judge can call an evidentiary hearing, hear testimony before he makes final conclusions.”

This motion sites three other murder cases where McGee's testimony was disputed. It does not argue Rodriguez is innocent. Neither of the attorneys is connected to this case.

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