A GALWAY law student working as an intern in New York has helped in the probable exoneration of a man on death row and has also unearthed evidence that could lead to the real killer.

Marcus Joyce from Renmore, Co Galway, is spending the summer working for the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic that works to overturn wrongful convictions through DNA testing.

Just seven weeks into the job, he has already featured in the prestigious New York Law Journal.

Joyce was assigned to the case on his first day and the exoneration of the accused is expected to be announced soon by authorities.

A new form of DNA testing, which gives results from shorter or more degraded matter, provided the breakthrough in the case of a woman murdered in 1997 after apparently struggling with a knife-wielding assailant.

These new tests, ordered by the Innocence Project last October, showed that DNA matter recovered from the dead woman's fingernails did not match the defendant's genetic code.

By combing through the trial transcript, Joyce further discovered the existence of three hairs plucked from the murder scene, which were dismissed as irrelevant by the prosecution.

The Innocence Project is now pressing for a new round of DNA testing.

"We've really got the killer here, and it's not our client, " the project's staff attorney, Colin Starger, told the journal.

Joyce (24) is due to return shortly to his final year studies at the Inns of Court School of Law in London. Speaking from Renmore yesterday, his father, James, said Marcus always had an interest in the law.

"His teacher in first class said that fellow will be standing on a crate defending someone some day, " he said.

Marcus had "very strong opinions" on the death penalty, racism and "any sort of inequality, " James added.