Monday, March 10, 2008

Fragile evidence dooms murder case

The P-I has an interesting article by Tracy Johnson looking at the uncertain evidence in a murder case that once seemed solid. Fragile evidence dooms murder case, Seattle P-I, March 9, 2008.

Prosecutors dismissed charges filed a year and a half ago because they realized their evidence wasn't as strong as it had appeared at first. DNA evidence -- saliva on a marijuana "blunt" -- showed some connection between the defendant and the victim, but the defendant could have rolled the blunt long before the murder. The gun that killed the victim had only a tenuous connection to the defendant. And the eyewitness who had come forward had a history of lying (having set up someone before) and could well have killed the victim himself.

"Scientific evidence, whether it's ballistics or DNA, seldom tells the whole story," Deputy Prosecutor Hugh Barber said. "We're not going to put a case before a jury unless we have absolute certainty."

The rare dismissal provides a look at how even the most painstakingly built murder case still can be fragile.

[The defendant's] attorneys credited the Prosecutor's Office for doing the right thing after they said they "uncovered significant problems with the state's case."

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