GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL)- A Greene County judge heard arguments in a post-conviction hearing in the 25-year-old Lillelid murder case.

Attorneys for Crystal Sturgill, Edward Mullins, and Karen Howell are petitioning for fingerprint analysis based on a law passed last year.

Vidar, Delfina, and Tabitha Lillelid were killed in the April 6, 1997 attack. Peter, who was 2 at the time, survived.

The 2021 law allows incarcerated people to petition to have fingerprint analysis if there is evidence that hasn’t been analyzed and could make a difference in their conviction or sentence.

The Post-Conviction Fingerprint Analysis Act under T.C.A. $ 40-30-405 allows a

Court to order fingerprint analysis if the Court finds that all four (4) of the following

elements exist: (1) A reasonable probability exists that analysis of the evidence will

produce fingerprint results that would have rendered the petitioner’s verdict or

sentence more favorable if the results had been available at the proceeding leading to

the judgment of conviction; (2) the evidence is still in existence and in such a condition

that fingerprint analysis may be conducted; (3) the evidence was not previously

subjected to fingerprint analysis, was not subjected to the analysis that is now requested

which could resolve an issue not resolved by previous analysis, or was previously

subjected to analysis and the person making the motion under this part requests

analysis that uses a new method or technology that is substantially more probative than

the prior analysis; (4) and the application for analysis is made for the purpose of

demonstrating innocence and not unreasonably delay the execution of sentence or administration of justice. T.C.A. § 40-30-405

The four attorneys in court adopted similar arguments.

“If a fingerprint analysis had been performed on the firearms at issue and had shown conclusively that Karen Howell was not the shooter and that in fact Jason Bryant was the only shooter, is there a reasonable probably that Ms. Howell would not have received the maximum possible sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole?” said William Milliken, the attorney for Howell. She was the only defendant to appear in court and did so virtually.

The representatives for Howell, Mullins and Sturgill say their sentences should be looked at because Jason Bryant is the one who pulled the trigger.

“Not testing the weapons was a strategic move by the state. It was not tested we would contend because it would have negated or reduced the state’s ability to use the death penalty as a threat to enter a plea,” said Alex Chesnut, Sturgill’s attorney.

The attorneys say they aren’t trying to prove innocence.

“The results could be probative as to who is the shooter,” said Edward Crossings, the attorney for Mullins. “The application is not being made to delay justice or to delay execution or sentence.”

Mullins’ family was in the courtroom but declined to speak with News Channel 11.

District Attorney General Dan Armstrong argues that Howell, Mullins, and Sturgill are just as responsible even though they didn’t pull the trigger.

“They’ve conceited—they don’t meet the statutory requirements because they’re not here trying to prove innocence—they’re here trying to get a break,” Armstrong said in court.

Attorneys for the defendants declined to speak on camera after the hearing.

“I don’t have to prove that they’re the ones that actually fired the weapon,” Armstrong told News Channel 11 after the hearing. “I just have to prove that they were involved in the underlying felonies, that’s called felony murder and that they under the theory of liability in criminal law, you can be guilty…just as guilty as the shooter just by participating.”

The judge didn’t make a decision on fingerprint analysis Tuesday, but is expected to do so soon.