Doubt about LaGuer’s DNA test — is anyone reporting this?

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.

From Prof. Daniel Hartl, Professor of Biology at Harvard:

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.

Dean A. Wideman, forensic biologist, NucleoGenix, San Antonio, TX:

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.

Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky of John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City: (BTW, here’s his bio page)

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.

Forget about the governor’s race for just a second: Anyone wanna touch this one with a 10-foot pole? Anyone? Jon? Adam? Bueller?

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8 Comments . Leave a comment below.
  1. Thank You Charley!

    Rest assured these experts are not hacky and none of them have been paid for these opinions. You can take that to the bank. There are several reporters in the MSM who are well aware of these experts. It's time one of them showed the curiosity to call these guys up.

    Charley, you are showing once again why we need BMG. You are great.

  2. Media integrity is dead

    "Willie Horton Lives"?!

    Can anyone explain to me the difference between Keller and, say, Matt Drudge?

    • careful

      I think in that post, Keller actually is talking about the dangerous political angle for Patrick -- and he's damn right. Healey's got $15 million to spend on this crap. Patrick better come out swinging.

      That being said, I haven't seen a peep of skepticism in the media about the DNA test, even though it would seem to be quite deserved. Hey, maybe LaGuer is guilty and maybe he's not, but if problems remain with the evidence, shouldn't that be investigated by people with chops and a budget?

  3. Globe editorial from 1994.

    Here's a globe editorial from March 24, 1994. It contains a lot of information not being reported here. I've highlighted the things I haven't seen yet in this recent discussion.

    When Benjamin Laguer was sentenced in 1984 to life in prison for raping a Leominster neighbor, the jury ruled without a shred of physical evidence linking him to the crime. Later, the judge dismissed allegations that racist remarks had been made by the jury after questioning only four of the 12 jurors, and despite one member's affidavit asserting that explicit racial insults had been made.

    In mid-November, the Massachusetts Appeals Court heard arguments for Laguer's right to a new trial. The court promised that a decision would be made within four months. It has missed its deadline.

    The evidence for a new trial is overwhelming. William Nowick, one of the 12 white male jurors in Laguer's trial, signed an affidavit recalling these remarks by the jury's foreman: "The goddamned spic is guilty just sitting there. Look at him. Why even bother having a trial." When jurors speculated as to how the eight-hour rape could continue for so long, Nowick says that the same juror said: "Spics screw all day and night."

    During the trial, Leominster police asserted that all their evidence, including fingerprints and the victim's pocketbook, had been lost. The prosecution's case rested on the victim's identification of Laguer in a photo lineup.

    But the victim, a diagnosed schizophrenic who was taking pain medication when she fingered Laguer, had trouble distinguishing between white and black men during the trial. Evidence of her mental state was deemed inadmissable.

    Clearly, the prosecution fell far short of meeting the standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But the foreman's alleged statements suggest that Laguer's Puerto Rican heritage was the most damning evidence against him.

    Whether Laguer, who has spent ten years in prison, is guilty of the brutal crime he was convicted of remains a matter for the courts to decide. That Laguer should be granted a new trial is not a matter of debate.

  4. I still can't figure out

    what in the name of all that is holy this has to do with the 2006 gubernatorial race, and Deval Patrick's fitness for office.

  5. Good Job Charley

    eb3-fka-ernie-boch-iii   @   Tue 4 Dec 7:00 PM
  6. Fingerprints

    We have Jose Gomez's fingerprints on file since he has been arrested for rape. Why hasn't anyone compaired them to the ones found on the slimline phone? I am having a very hard time understanding why Ben LaGuer has become a poster boy for getting railroaded.

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