The first issue is probably most easily understood by watching this Dan Rea news broadcast from soon after the fingerprint report came out.
Rea ends his report on the “pending DNA test.”
That brings us to the second issue. It has taken almost five years for LaGuer to get the SJC to hear his plea for a new trial based on the withheld fingerprint report.
In most people’s minds, understandably, once the DNA says you are guilty there’s really no more to say. But in this case it turns out a string of documents show that the police took underwear from LaGuer’s apartment the day before he was arrested and mixed it in with the rest of the evidence. Several high level DNA experts have looked at the totality of the case and determined that contamination is a highly probable explanation for how the DNA test turned out.
You can read the full text of the DNA expert opinions at the LaGuer Web site. The most relevant quotes are:
many instances of DNA testing errors have led to the false conviction of innocent individuals . It is my opinion that we have encountered such a case here. – Theodore D. Kessis, Ph.D., Applied DNA Resources
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. 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. – Dean A. Wideman, certified forensic consultant.
“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.” – Daniel L. Hartl, Professor of Biology, Harvard University
Rehnquist’s position, and the one he can expected to argue in the brief to be filed at the SJC by September 11, 2006, is that a 2002 DNA test can play no role in determining whether a 1984 jury got to see all the relevant information, thereby enabling it to reach a valid verdict.
It is a fascinating and important case that deserves better than cheap shots such as the Herald took at it yesterday.