Most of the media and public are understandably saying that a 2002 DNA test definitively proved Benjamin LaGuer’s guilt in a brutal assault and rape. Having read the letters from supposed DNA experts posted at Eric Goldscheider’s site, I thought I’d digest some of them here. My emphasis throughout.
From Dr. Theodore D. Kessis of Applied DNA Resources in Columbus OH, responding to a request for comment from Rep. Ellen Story:
… Many instances of DNA testing errors have lead to the false conviction of individuals. The types of errors seen in these cases are typically of the human kind, individuals failing to understand the strengths, weaknesses and limitations of the test at hand. It is my opinion that we have encountered such a case here.
I have examined the material you provided to me in the case of Ben LaGuer. I do not have anything much to add to the reports prepared by Dean A. Wideman and Theodore D. Kessis. Having examined these reports, I can join in agreement with their concerns that the DNA evidence in this case was very possibly tainted.
…There is, in my opinion, ample reason for a full inquiry into this case, and I hope that the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will agree.
In summary, there are numerous deficiencies in this case relating to the criminal investigation, evidence collection, evidence handling, evidence storage, chain of custody, serology testing, and DNA testing. [Yes, but other than that, how was it? --ed] The types of errors and mistakes in this case are the result of individuals not adhering to the accepted standards and practices of criminal investigation and forensic laboratory testing.
An exculpatory fingerprint report, prepared the day LaGuer was arrested, was withheld from the defense for 18 years.
… The miniscule level of DNA the FSA [Forensic Science Associates] report relies upon is of an amount that could be consistent with contamination. [The whole thing is rather more harsh than even these quotes let on. --ed]
Now, I don’t know these people, whether they are expert-witnesses for hire, whether they are reputable in forensic biology, or whatever. But they don’t smell hacky to me. Perhaps these issues deserve to be explored thoroughly in the mainstream press. The intense skepticism that these experts have expressed squares with the doubt that was expressed before the 2002 DNA test. To these experts’ minds, that DNA test clears up exactly squat.