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Posts Tagged ‘DNA evidence’

He Didn’t Do It! (Yet Another) Rape Case Exonerated by DNA… 28 years later!

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 10:44 AM
Monday, July 30, 2012

Another case of wrongful imprisonment, a man is exonerated 28 years later by DNA evidence with the help of The Georgia Innocence Project.

Oct. 4, 1978, Meriwether County, GA - An elderly rape victim was asked to pick out her assailant in a lineup and she chose the man in the middle, Jerome White. White was convicted and imprisoned based solely on eyewitness testimony, as have been most cases without hard evidence, historically speaking.

Yet, as state-of-the-art DNA evidence has recently proven, White was not her assailant, another man in the lineup was and his name is James Edward Parham. While White was imprisoned for 12 years, Parham went free… free to rape again, that is. (DNA testing was unavailable at the time of the Aug. 11, 1979, sexual assault in Meriwether County when White was prosecuted.)

As fate would have it, the guilty party, James Edward Parham, happened to be in that same jail on an unrelated arrest at the time of the lineup and was pulled from his cell along with other prisoners for witness ID. The victim had her assailant right in front of her and still did not choose the correct person! Perhaps this was because:

a) The victim, who was 74 years old at the time (now deceased), was asleep on her couch, in the dark, at 4am.

b) When Parham broke into her home, he raped and beat her so severely that her face was left partialy paralyzed.

c) Before he left the scene of the crime, he handed her a pillow and said, “Hold this to your face until I get out.”

d) The woman had prescription eyeglasses but she was not wearing them at the time.

According to an article by Bill Rankin:

On Sept. 28, 1979, the woman was shown a number of photographs, including White’s, and she said she was “almost positive” it was him. When she was presented the lineup of five men at the jail a week later, she said she was positive that White — not Parham standing just a few feet away — was the man who raped her.

“It was just a fluke [Parham] was put in the same lineup with Jerome White,” said Aimee Maxwell, director of the Georgia Innocence Project, which secured White’s exoneration. “This is a tragedy, on many levels.”

Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) told White she will support legislation to compensate him for the time he spent wrongly incarcerated.

Benefield released drafts of proposed legislation that says, beginning July 1, 2011, all photographic or physical lineups must be conducted by officers who have successfully completed eyewitness ID training. The legislation also says if a law enforcement agency does not have written protocols on eyewitness ID by Jan. 1, 2009, the agency can be denied state funding or state-administered federal funding.

Benefield said improved eyewitness ID procedures are necessary because there are only so many cases where DNA evidence can be used to identify the perpetrator.

The GBI supports improved eyewitness ID protocols, spokesman John Bankhead said Thursday. “Nobody in law enforcement wants to arrest the wrong person,” he said.

The accused, Jerome White, was defended at trial by the current U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.). White’ s laywer did not have him take the witness stand at his trial, however, when the jury found him guilty, he told the judge he didn’t do it. He states, “Then, when they put me back in the holding cell, I just cried,”.

In 2004, after receiving a letter from White, while he was in prison, The Georgia Innocence Project investigated the case. The Project eventually learned that hairs linking White to the crime, through microscopic analysis, were still on file at the Meriwether County Clerk’s Office. They pursued the case on behalf of White and evidence showed that this hair did not belong to him, but to Parham, whose DNA was already in a state database.

White, now released, is the seventh man in Georgia cleared by DNA evidence and has stated that he supports passage of new laws setting protocols for officers to follow when gathering eyewitness identification evidence.
Original Article By BILL RANKIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/13/07
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2007/12/13/eyewitness_1214_web.html

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Amanda Knox Verdict – DNA Evidence Not Good Enough

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 12:12 PM
Friday, July 27, 2012

By now you have heard the news: On October 3rd, 2011, Amanda Knox and former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, won their appeal in an Italian court and were acquitted and freed for the murder of British student, Meredith Kercher. Despite a previous trial and guilty verdict based on supposed DNA evidence, both convicted parties won an appeal and a deeper trial over the evidence occurred.

While we could pick over all of the details of the case, we’ll leave that for another organization to discuss. Instead, allow us to focus alone on genetic evidence.

With no obvious motive, no independent witnesses and no confessions, the Italian prosecutors had to rely on genetic evidence found at the crime scene to convict Knox and Sollecito. This makes sense as genetic evidence is supposed to be iron clad.  Or is it?

The original conviction relied on traces of Sollecito’s DNA being found on the victim’s (Kercher) brassiere clasp, together with traces of DNA from both defendants being found on the knife allegedly used to slash Kercher’s throat. However, similar to our famous U.S. tales of botched crime scene evidence (ie. the Jon Benet Ramsey or OJ Simpson cases), the prosecutions evidence has been marred with rumors of bad police work and possible fabricated evidence. Furthermore, not only did the defendants know Meredith Kercher, but Amanda Knox lived with her.This complicates matters on an enormous level.

The first issue is called “contamination”. Unlike crimes where the victim and perpetrator don’t know each other, and therefore a genetic link is most likely an obvious connection, it is hard to do the same with roommates and their visiting friends – there will always be matching DNA present. And although DNA evidence puts a person ‘at the scene of the crime’; it does not necessarily prove they committed the crime.

Secondly, although DNA evidence can match the scene of a crime, it does not allow for “time-based evidence”. There is no telling if a match occurs because a victim or perpetrator was present at the time of the incident or exists because they were present at some other point in history.

Finally, although many people have been successfully prosecuted on DNA evidence, it is not failsafe or full proof. Typically, a DNA sample found on a murder weapon will be said to match the DNA of the suspect to the extent that only one person in one million would have the same profile. However, if a particular genetic profile is held by one person in, say, one million this means that in a country with a population of 60m will have 60 people that give a perfect mach for the DNA evidence and even more would match a partial profile of that evidence.

In the U.S., a man called Kerry Robinson was convicted a few years ago of gang rape. In an independent investigation last year DNA evidence from the crime scene plus Robinson’s DNA profile was shown to 17 ‘blind’ analysts with no contextual information: the 17 experts were hugely divided – 12 said the suspect could be excluded.

Although no one can or should doubt the genetic evidence is a powerful tool for solving crime, it is not perfect and it has it’s weakness, from false positives to human error.  One thing is for certain – this legal matter and it’s evidence will be scrutinized for a long time to come. Let’s hope that we can learn from it.

 

 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2044935/As-Amanda-Knox-walks-free-DNA-evidence-trial.html#ixzz1ZlPcRlgY

 

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DNA Proof Missing for Italy’s Amanda Knox Murder Trial

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 12:07 PM
Friday, July 27, 2012

Amanda Knox is an American woman convicted for the December 2009 murder of a British student studying in Italy. Italian officials claimed that Amanda Knox murdered Meredith Kercher in a drug-fueled sex game that turned violent. Amanda Knox has repeatedly protested her innocence and is appealing the sentence. Meredith Kercher was found in November of 2007 in her room in the cottage she shared with Knox.

Curt Knox, the father of Amanda Knox, told reporters on May 18th that DNA experts for the his daughter’s appeal were missing key information that was being held by Italian police. When speaking with the AFP Curt stated, “The independent experts have made requests for specific information from the forensic police related to the DNA testing of the knife in particular… this data is not being provided.”

According to Amanda Knox’s father, the independent experts appointed to review key forensic evidence had not been given access to all the evidence. He stated in an email that, ”They have requested the “row data” which in DNA testing is a vital part of the process of testing. I’m told that this data is not being provided and this is the reason for the independent experts to request an extension to filing their final report.”

In the process of appealing Knox’s case, fresh DNA tests were ordered on the presumed murder weapon and a bra clip found at the scene. The DNA team had 90 days to review the evidence but are likely to use the May 21st hearing to request additional time to submit their final report.

Curt Knox said that, “Amanda is not afraid of the truth.” He added, ”it will be interesting to understand why the forensic police are not willing to provide the independent experts the information they feel is necessary in order to provide a fully reviewed final report.”

According to Curt Knox after visiting Amanda in prison, “She is holding up as well as you would expect for a person who has been in prison now for three-and-a-half years for a crime she didn’t commit and still has faith in the Italian Justice system to seek the truth in her appeals trial.”

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Amanda Knox is Innocent of Brutal Murder, Retired FBI Agent Claims

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 12:05 PM
Friday, July 27, 2012

FBI Special Agent Steve Moore once believed Amanda Knox was guilty of murder now says he has no doubt that she is innocent.  The retired agent told Good Morning America, ”When Amanda Knox gets out, if she needs a roommate, I’ll send my daughter over… The evidence is completely conclusive.”

Moore, a FBI veteran with 25 years experience who investigated murders around the world before retiring two years ago, independently researched and analyzed Amanda Knox’s case for the past year while she waited for her appeal.

Knox, now 22, has spent nearly three years in an Italian prison since the November 2007 arrest for the murder of her British roommate, Meredith Kercher. Kercher was found sexually assaulted and her throat slashed, her half naked body under a duvet in her bedroom in the home shared with Knox.  Knox and her Italian boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were both convicted of murder in December 2009 after a nearly a year long trial. A third person, an Ivory Coast drifter named Rudy Guede, whose DNA was found at the crime scene, was convicted of taking part in the homicide in an earlier trial.

At first, Moore said, he firmly believed Knox was guilty as charged. ”The police said she is. She was arrested,” he said. Moore said his wife encouraged him to look into Knox’s case.  Moors has never spoken to Knox’s family or attorneys. In November, Moore obtained the crime scene video, autopsy photos and legal documents. He spent weeks poring through them. According to Moore his opinion quickly changed

He said, “I couldn’t figure out why Amanda and Raffaele weren’t eliminated on day one as suspects, I kept thinking the smoking gun would pop up — and it didn’t come. I didn’t know why they were in jail.”

The investigation found none of Knox’s DNA — no hair, blood or fingerprints — in the bedroom where Kercher was murdered. ”There is no DNA evidence. What they’re saying is that whoever killed Meredith cleaned up in Amanda’s bathroom. That’s all they say,” Moore said. “They found Amanda’s DNA in her own bathroom? Astounding.”

Moore said he spent hours watching video of Italian police officials combing through the crime scene and was shocked at what he saw. Moore says,”they were doing unsound forensic techniques that lead to cross contamination. Their techniques were horrible, if you showed that video tape in American court you would have lost more of your evidence.”

He also criticized Italian authorities for their interrogation of Knox, which he compared to tactics used by “third-world intelligence agencies.”  He drew those comparison from tactics that included her being questioned for hours, and at times when she would be exhausted.  Knox was given”no food, no coffee, no bathroom breaks — nothing,” Moore said.

Knox’s appeal is tentatively scheduled to begin Nov. 24. A new panel of two judges and six jurors from Perugia will reexamine Knox’s case. A decision is expected by March.

Knox’s appeal also called for an independent review of the DNA evidence, a request denied by a judge during her trial.

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Green River Killer Convicted In 2003 on DNA Evidence

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:29 PM
Monday, July 23, 2012

In 2001, based in large part on DNA evidence, the King County Prosecuting Attorney charged the defendant Gary Leon Ridgway with four of the Green River murders over the course of the next few years Gary Ridgway was convicted of over 60 murders.

Over the years use of DNA to break the case was attempted. In 1988, detectives sent evidence associated with several victims to a laboratory for DNA typing; however, based upon the existing technologies, no DNA profiles could be obtained.

In 2001, Detective Jensen the sole remaining detective on the case, hoping to take advantage of recent developments in DNA typing, sent biological evidence from several victims to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory (WSPCL) for DNA typing.  Using what were at the time new modes of DNA analysis called the polymerase chain reaction (P.C.R.) test and the short tandem repeat (S.T.R.) test.  Which allow scientists to sequence and copy very short fragments of DNA taken from crime scenes.  A profile was developed: it matched Gary Leon Ridgway.  WSPCL Forensic Scientist compared this Profile against vaginal swabs from victim. This DNA comparison linked Ridgway to only one dump-site and one lone victim.

The evidence used in 2001 had been collected on April 8, 1987, as the result of a warrant on Ridgway’s residence, his work locker, and several vehicles. Detectives seized hundreds of items of evidence, such as carpet fibers, ropes, paint samples and plastic tarps.  None of the evidence collected at that time linked Ridgway with any particular scene or victim. However, one item of evidence seized would prove to be significant: a saliva sample taken from Ridgway during the execution of the warrant.

On June 13, 2003, the King County Prosecuting Attorney and Ridgway entered into an agreement where, in exchange for avoiding the possibility of execution, Ridgway agreed to provide complete, truthful, and candid information concerning his crimes in King County and answer all questions during interviews conducted by the police or the Prosecuting Attorney.

In June, 2003, and continuing over the next five months, the Task Force interviewed Ridgway extensively. Detectives confronted him with all of the Green River murders and similar unsolved homicides. In all, Ridgway claimed that he killed over sixty (60) women in King County.

Gary Ridgway Incarcerated at Washington Sate Penitentiary in Walla Walla, Washington.

For More information see:Link to Prosecutor’s Summary of the Evidence

 

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New Hope for Old Cases: Full DNA Profile of Ted Bundy Now Available

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 2:32 PM
Thursday, September 22, 2011

New Hope for Old Cases: Full DNA Profile of Ted Bundy Now Available

Twenty Two years after Ted Bundy’s execution, and at least 30 dead, a full DNA profile of Bundy is now available though CODIS the FBI DNA database. It is hoped that his profile can bring closure to open homicide cases nation wide.

DNA was extracted from a vial of blood discovered in a courthouse where it had been stored for the last three decades. The profile was assembled by David Coffman, chief of forensics at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Coffman says that police departments can now enter DNA evidence they might have from cold cases into the system and see if there is any match with Mr. Bundy’s DNA

Coffman also said in an interview that he typically receives four or five calls a year from investigators located nation-wide asking about Bundy’s DNA in connection with unsolved cases. He went on to state that until now there has been no full DNA profile available. Because of the length of time Bundy was actively killing, and because he was active on both the west and the east coasts, many investigators would like to confirm or eliminate him as a suspect. Unfortunately, his crimes took place well before the advent of DNA technology and therefore, his DNA was not secured before his death. In 2002 a partial DNA profile was created from a tissue sample taken during Bundy’s autopsy, but the profile from the tissue sample was not complete enough to enter into the F.B.I. database CODIS. Until now.

Coffman’s department was contacted earlier this year by the Tacoma Washington Police Department for a cold case that involved an 8-year-old girl who disappeared from her house in 1961. They suspected Bundy because he was living in Tacoma at the time and alway claimed that he got is start as a teen. He was 14 at the time. Bundy denied responsibility for her disappearance.

Coffman’s department made an effort to extract DNA from two dental molds held at the department’s forensics laboratory. The impressions, which had been taken in the 1970s, matched bite marks on the left buttock of 20-year-old Lisa Levy, one of two students at Florida State University Mr. Bundy was convicted of killing. But the DNA in the dental molds was too degraded to use for a profile.

Coffman’s department then started calling contacts around Florida to see if any evidence might still exist that could contain DNA. Fortunately, a vial of blood was found in the evidence vault at the Columbia County courthouse. The blood had been taken in 1978 in connection with the death of 12-year-old Kimberly Leach in Lake City, Fla., the third murder Mr. Bundy was convicted for.

Despite being 33 years old, the sample was perfect and a full profile was created and uploaded into the F.B.I.’s DNA database, CODIS.

According to Coffman, at this time there have been no hits on any cold cases. The Tacoma police hope to test any DNA they can find from the Burr case against the Bundy profile. Cold-case detective in the Tacoma Police Department’s homicide unit, Gene Miller said his office was shipping biological material from the Burr house to the state’s crime laboratory and that if DNA can be extracted, it would then be uploaded into the F.B.I.’s database. He and his office feel that this could be “a huge step forward,” Detective Miller said. Even if it does not, “it will still be a great step forward,” because it will finally eliminate or confirm him as a suspect. It is likely that police departments in other areas where Bundy passed through will do the same.

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Austin Texas Crime Lab Under Scrutiny

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 3:23 PM
Monday, December 13, 2010

The National Institute of Justice will auditing the Austin, TX Crime Lab. They are looking into the lab’s use of the nation’s Combined DNA Index System.  This is part of an already scheduled inspection that has taken on a new focus once complaints about the lab by a former employee, Cecily Hamilton, hit the news. Cecily Hamilton allegations may lead to another independent audit. Hamilton doesn’t imply that any mistakes were made at the lab, prosecutors are bracing for the worst.

Hamilton who worked at the APD’s lab for three years before leaving earlier in 2010, wrote a memo to supervisors in February which consisted of a laundry list of complaints about the lab.  It notably, makes no complaints about the scientific work done by its analysts but instead focuses on personal conflicts with various employees that she alleges made the lab a “hostile work environment.” Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo said that Hamilton’s allegations had been investigated and deemed unfounded.

The lab, which opened in 2005, has never failed any of its audits, which are conducted by both the FBI and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors. Never the less the Austin Police Department has requested that the Travis County District Attorney’s Office select a company or individual of their choosing to come in and conduct another audit.

John Neal, first assistant Travis County district attorney, stated that prosecutors have begun to notify all defense attorneys in pending criminal cases about the allegations.  He also stated that they are now considering the logistics of how to notify defendants who have already been convicted in cases that involve work done at the APD lab. The effect of Hamilton’s allegations on the day-to-day workings of the criminal justice system remains to be seen.

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Illinois Becomes First State to Require Testing of DNA Evidence in Sex Crimes

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 10:19 AM
Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Illinois is now the first state in the country to require testing of DNA evidence from sex crimes. Their new law requires local police to submit rape kits collected from victims to state police for analysis. This must be done with 10 business days of the crime.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan said, “By using this DNA evidence we will be able to get sex offenders out of our communities and into prisons where they belong. Most importantly we will finally be pursuing justice for women and children who have been victims of this horrible and violent crime.”

It’s estimated more than four thousand rape kits are sitting untested in evidence rooms. Madigan says they could include vital DNA evidence to help prosecute offenders and exonerate others.

The other new law protects the confidentiality of statements victims make to rape crisis personnel. This new law passed the General Assembly unanimously and will go into effect January 1st, 2011.

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