Articles Posted in DNA Analysis

From gathering evidence illegally to not gathering evidence which could potentially support a client’s files-sorainnocence when accused of a sex crime, there are many mistakes made in the obtaining/handling of evidence.  Unfortunately, innocent individuals are wrongfully convicted of sex crimes every day.  This may be due to improper forensic science, misconduct by police or prosecutors, mistaken identity, deceit, or even the fact the accused was represented by a defense attorney who was simply ineffective.  In some instances, those accused even confess to crimes they didn’t commit due to intense interrogation by police – they “fold” under pressure.

Sex crimes attorneys often challenge the case brought by prosecutors by confronting the forensic and physical evidence (or lack thereof) presented against the accused.  It’s important to keep in mind that scientific evidence is only as good as its collection and analysis, so there are questions that need to be asked.  Some of these include:

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In 2011, a woman who is now 41 years old was allegedly raped near a playground at Jessie Loomis Elementary School by someone she claimed was following her. Now, a judge in the case is asking for additional DNA information after the woman could not identify 21-year-old Kevin D. Champion Jr., her alleged attacker. dna-1-1010760-m

According to a news article at Mlive.com, reports which were introduced at Champion’s March 24 preliminary hearing regarding crime lab test results from Michigan State Police were not specific enough. The DNA sample taken from Champion when the defendant was placed into the prison system matches a semen stain found on the victim’s hoodie, however Saginaw County District Judge Kyle Higgs Tarrant said that she was not comfortable with the lack of definitiveness.

Champion was charged with armed robbery, extortion, second-degree criminal sexual conduct involving a weapon, kidnapping, and three counts of first-degree CSC involving a weapon after allegedly attacking the victim, who had purchased an item for her neighbor at the T & M Market and was walking back toward her home at approximately 9 p.m. The victim claimed her attacker dragged her near the school’s playground area after placing her in a headlock.

She testified in court that she could not see all of her attacker’s face because of the hoodie he wore, and that he was armed with a silver gun which he threatened to hurt her with if she wasn’t quiet. The woman alleged that her attacker took her money and cell phone after taking off her shoes. He then proceeded to remove her pants before raping her.

Saginaw Police Officer Jonathon Beyerlein responded after one of the victim’s friends called 911. At trial, he testified that the victim could not identify Champion; two years later, she still could not identify him in a photo lineup after authorities had determined that the first DNA sample taken from Champion matched the evidence found on the woman’s hoodie. Champion is 5′ 8″ tall and weighs 145 pounds, however the woman described her attacker as about 5′ 6″ tall and weighing about 140 pounds. While she described him as tall, she explained during her testimony that because she is under 5 feet tall, someone who is 5′ 6″ is tall in comparison. The woman also described her attacker as “light skinned,” a description the defendant’s attorney said was a matter of opinion.

The remainder of Champion’s preliminary hearing has been postponed until the results of the second DNA swab are obtained, which Saginaw County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Barnes said could take three to six months.

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Last week, the Detroit Free Press published an important editorial concerning the problems with eye witness testimony and the serious flaws that occur that may lead to innocent people being sent to jail for sex crimes and other criminal acts they didn’t commit. As explained by David Moran, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Innocence Clinic, “Of the more than 250 people exonerated by DNA evidence in the last 20 years, 75% had been erroneously identified by eyewitnesses.”

As an example, the article pointed to Ken Wyniemko who spent 14 years in a Macomb County jail for a rape he didn’t commit after the victim identified him in a lineup. Wyniemko was eventually cleared by DNA evidence and a man who looked nothing like Wyniemko was charged. The man implicated by DNA evidence was 17-years-younger, taller and significiantly heavier.

A recent New Jersey Supreme Court Case, State v. Henderson, recognized the dangers of eyewitness testimony as unreliable and often subject to suggestive influences that may alter his of her mental image of the perpetrator to match the defendant. As noted in the editorial, the landmark New Jersey Supreme Court decision states “We are convinced from the scientific evidence in the record that memory is malleable, and that an array of variable can affect and dilute the memory and lead to misidentifications.”

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An accused rapist was set free earlier this week after DNA evidence cleared his name. The Texas man – Cornelius Dupree Jr. – was declared innocent after spending 30 years in prison for a 1979 rape and robbery he didn’t commit.

Over the years he had been given two chances to make parole and be released, but only if he would admit to being a sex offender. Dupree Jr. refused to do so, steadfastly maintaining his innocence. Nationally, only two other people have been exonerated by DNA evidence after spending more time in jail.

Imprisoned as a young adult, the now 51-year-old Dupree stated, “It’s a joy to be free again.”

In Michigan, DNA analysis has exonerated two men over the last year of sex crimes they didn’t commit. It is unknown how many other innocent men and women sit in jail for crimes they didn’t commit, often waiting on DNA evidence that will prove their innocence. Unfortunately, a significant backlog of untested DNA evidence exists in Michigan and around the country.

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Last month the Detroit Free Press ran a series exposing a serious problem affecting all of those interested in criminal justice – the overwhelming backlog of cases requiring biological testing – including DNA testing – which is often the key to freedom for those wrongfully accused and convicted.

Today the South Bend Tribune echoed that sentiment, calling for the elimination of Michigan’s serious backlog of thousands of forensic cases.

As a Michigan sex crimes defense attorney, I agree. According to the Detroit FreePress,10,500 untested rape kits existed at the beginning of 2010. The number has since grown. In spite of this backlog, Michigan has passed legislation to collect DNA from all those arrested for felonies, but not yet tried or convicted. Rather than expanding the number of people subjected to DNA analysis, emphasis should be placed on processing rape kits and other samples. Often, DNA analysis is the key to freedom for those wrongfully convicted.

DNA evidence freed Kenneth Wyniemko who was imprisoned for nine years for a rape he didn’t commit.

DNA evidence freed Rickie Seggie, an innocent Sterling Heights man headed for trial on charges of criminal sexual assault.

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A wrongfully convicted Michigan man finally had his day in court. For over nine years, Kenneth Wyniemko was imprisoned for a rape he didn’t commit. Earlier this week, he was able to confront the man now accused of the crime for which he was falsely imprisoned.

Tragically, its unknown how many individuals sit in Michigan jails for sex crimes they didn’t commit. Every day innocent people are wrongfully convicted because of a shoddy police investigation, mistakes made by prosecutors or inadequately skilled defense attorneys. Further, those facing charges may unwittingly make serious mistakes at the beginning of a case – such as an accused talking to the police or CPS worker – innocently thinking the charges aren’t credible – only to be later incriminated by these statements. Consulting an experienced sex crimes defense attorney immediately can ensure the wrongfully accused does not become the wrongfully imprisoned.

In Wyniemko’s matter, he was received a sentence of 40-60 years in prison as the result of the victim’s incorrect identification of him as the stranger who broke into her home and repeatedly assaulted her.

Relying on DNA evidence, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Innocence project successfully exonerated Wyniemko in 2003. DNA evidence now links a different man to the crime. According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan State Police place the odds of the DNA match not being correct at “quadrillions to one.”

Because sex crimes often lack witnesses, tragedies such as Wyniemko’s are all too frequent. As a result, its crucial to utilize all possible methods to exonerate the innocent – including lie detector tests, DNA analysis, computer forensics, rape trauma analysis and child forensic protocols.

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A Sterling Heights man has been exonerated on charges of sexual assault after DNA evidence recovered at the scene failed to match his.

According to C&Gnews.com, prosecutors dismissed three charges of criminal sexual assault and one count of unlawful imprisonment against Ricky Seggie, 25, after they determined they had falsely charged the wrong man.

Unfortunately, many criminal sexual conduct cases are charged and prosecuted, with the potential for serious, life-long consequences such as jail time, probation, and placement of your name on the sex crimes registry, despite a lack of credible evidence.

In Ricky Seggie’s matter, Seggie was wrongfully accused and arrested after attempting to assist the assault victim. He had heard screams from the alleged scene of the crime, nearby Dodge Park and 16 ½ mile on July 17, 2009 and came out of his house to see if he could help. Seggie then saw the suspect back his car into a tree and then flee the scene. After giving the police a description, investigators then became suspicious of Seggie because of his physical similarities to the suspect and placed Seggie in a line-up. The victim then identified Seggie as the perpetrator.

Although DNA evidence was collected at the crime scene, significant backlogs at the Michigan State Police Crime Lab delayed release of the results. After a second man, Christian Phillip Margosian, was arrested in December for aggravated indecent exposure, DNA samples were collected and compared to the DNA from the July incident, ultimately implicating Margosian. These results were released in March, and charges were dropped against Seggie.

Despite the charges being dismissed, the Macomb County court still retains Seggie’s fingerprints and photographs. Sadly, he has legal little recourse against the system that falsely imprisoned him and charged him with criminal sexual assault.

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