[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----ILL., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 8 09:54:04 CST 2004
Botched case forces state to change DNA reports
The state has changed the way it discloses DNA laboratory results to
police agencies because of a mix-up first reported by the Chicago
Misleading DNA information from the State Police crime lab led Chicago
detectives to the wrong suspect in an investigation of a string of
burglaries on the North Side, Chicago Police said.
When detectives submitted a sample of DNA found at one of the burglaries,
they were informed of a "hit" between blood recovered at the scene and the
genetic profile of a woman named Diane Myers.
Myers had submitted a DNA sample when she was paroled from state prison on
a drug conviction in May 2003, and her genetic profile was in a statewide
But because Myers had a solid alibi for the date of the burglary --she was
locked up in a Downstate prison -- she convinced detectives she wasn't the
person who slipped into the Chicago apartment Dec. 12, 2002.
Puzzled detectives immediately requested a review by the state. Last week,
the state told Chicago Police the "hit" was not based on a direct match.
Lab report misleading
Instead, State Police received only a partial match between the blood
evidence and Myers. The "hit" should have been considered only as an
"investigative lead" in the case, Chicago Police were told.
The paperwork that was passed along to Chicago Police did not point out
that the DNA "hit" was on shaky ground.
"If the state lab is telling us we have a hit, that word is very powerful
and causes us to take immediate action to investigate further," Chicago
Police spokesman Dave Bayless said. "If they now say there is an
'association' here, and it is just an investigative lead, that is less
powerful. We would like to be communicating with them a little more
clearly about this."
State officials have told the Chicago Police that they have changed the
form that is sent to police to state clearly when a DNA "hit" is a full
match and when it is a partial match, Chicago Police officials said.
Alibi may have saved jail stint
Myers knows about mistakes.
She has made some herself, and because of it she served time in prison.
But this mistake by the State Police crime lab has her rattled and
searching for assurances that she won't wind up back in prison for a crime
she did not commit.
Myers, 42, said she has been a "model" parolee since she was released from
Dwight Correctional Center.
She is working full-time, living in a Chicago suburb and plans to buy a
home with her fiance soon.
"I can't even think trouble," said the mother of 3.
When Chicago Police investigators called her last month to talk, she was
curious enough to drive to Belmont area detective headquarters on the
North Side. But she never expected to be read her rights, a moment she
describes as like "having a heart attack."
"I cannot express the feelings that were going through my heart, mind and
soul when I was told that my DNA was found and that meant that I was there
at the crime scene," Myers said.
All DNA evidence is double-checked at least once during the course of an
investigation of a suspect, a law enforcement source said.
Still, Myers is convinced that it is only because of her airtight alibi
that she was able to avoid being locked up again.
"I was thanking God for being in prison that day. Otherwise, right now I
would be sitting in Cook County Jail."
Foul-up troubling in other ways
The mix-up over Myers' DNA also has some in law enforcement worried. Top
Chicago Police officials said they fear the incident could lead defense
attorneys to file motions on behalf of clients taken into custody because
of DNA hits.
"It could call into question the integrity of DNA evidence," one source
said. "Do we have probable cause to take someone into custody for
questioning based on an 'investigate lead' from a partial DNA match? It
raises serious legal issues."
Lt. Lincoln Hampton, a spokesman for the State Police, said the state is
not aware of other cases in which the DNA reporting has been called into
Jack Rimland, a criminal defense attorney and former president of the
Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the Myers case is
troubling, especially because of how much police rely on DNA evidence.
"But for the fact that this woman was in prison . . . I absolutely believe
she'd still be in custody," Rimland said.
Kathleen Zellner, a Naperville attorney who relied on DNA evidence to
exonerate four men in the 1986 killing of medical student Lori Roscetti,
said it was "reassuring" the error was in paperwork, and not in the
scientific process, and that the mistake appears to have been addressed.
"Left uncorrected, that kind of flaw in the system would definitely
undermine probable cause findings," she said.
(source: Chicago Sun-TImes)
Deliberations to Resume in Peterson Trial
No unfiltered TV. No Internet. No visitors.
After a weekend without the creature comforts of home, sequestered jurors
in Scott Peterson's murder trial were set to resume deliberations Monday
for a third full day.
Jurors were monitored throughout the weekend in an area hotel where they
could only watch sports and movies on television, and could use a computer
without access to the Internet. They were forbidden from discussing the
Judge Alfred A. Delucchi has decided to allow them to deliberate only
Monday-Friday. 21 bailiffs have been sworn in to watch over them
throughout the process.
Peterson is charged with 2 counts of murder in the deaths of his wife,
Laci, and the fetus she carried. Prosecutors claim Peterson killed Laci
around Dec. 24, 2002, then sunk her weighted body in the bay.
The remains of Laci and the fetus were discovered a few miles from where
Peterson claims to have gone fishing alone the day his wife vanished.
Defense lawyers claim someone else abducted Laci while she walked the
couple's dog and killed her, then framed her husband.
Jurors have two choices should they decide to convict Peterson -- 1st-or
2nd-degree. 1st-degree convictions, carrying the death penalty of life
without parole, would mean jurors believe Peterson planned the killings in
advance. 2nd-degree murder convictions don't require a finding of
premeditation, and carry sentences of 15-years-to-life for each count.
On Friday, jurors asked to review some evidence, including the boat
prosecutors allege Peterson used to dispose of his wife's body. On
Thursday, they asked to review evidence including photographs taken at the
Petersons' home in the days after Laci vanished.
(source: Associated Press)
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