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Justice and Science

Justice and Science: Trials and Triumphs of DNA Evidence

George “Woody” Clarke
Foreword by Janet Reno
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Justice and Science
    Book Description:

    Databases of both convicted offenders and no-suspect cases demonstrate the power of DNA testing to solve the unsolvable. George "Woody" Clarke is a leading authority in legal circles and among the news media because of his expertise in DNA evidence. In this memoir, Clarke chronicles his experiences in some of the most disturbing and notorious sexual assault and murder court cases in California. He charts the beginnings of DNA testing in police investigations and the fight for its acceptance by courts and juries. He illustrates the power of science in cases he personally prosecuted or in which he assisted, including his work with the prosecution team in the trial of O. J. Simpson.Clarke also covers cases where DNA evidence was used to exonerate. He directed a special project in San Diego County, proactively examining over six hundred cases of defendants convicted and sentenced to prison before 1993, with the goal of finding instances in which DNA typing might add new evidence and then offered testing to those inmates.As Clarke tells the story of how he came to understand and use this new form of evidence, readers will develop a new appreciation for the role of science in the legal system.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4394-9
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-x)
    Janet Reno

    Protecting innocent suspects and identifying those who actually commit crimes against society are probably the two most important goals of any system of justice. For hundreds of years police, attorneys, and courts have used the tools at their disposal to attain these treasured goals.

    Only in more recent time, however, has science presented the criminal justice system with the means to identify those responsible for some of the most serious crimes, including homicide and sexual assault. Borrowing from established fields like molecular biology and chemistry, scientists have provided law enforcement with the ability to pinpoint with laser-like accuracy the person...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Science in the Courtroom
    (pp. 1-2)

    Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, and Jessica Fletcher spent careers tracking down suspects responsible for committing crimes. The fact they are fictional characters is of little significance. Their tools—like those used by real-life detectives and investigators—saw little change from the nineteenth century to modern times. Revolutionary changes to the world of detectives and investigators are rare. Interrogation, eyewitness identification, and other police techniques have been honed and improved. But few dramatic changes have taken place in the world of solving crime.

    Fingerprints were universally hailed as one of the most significant new weapons placed at the disposal of law...

  6. Chapter One The Scientist Becomes a Victim
    (pp. 3-8)

    Dr. Helena Greenwood, a British citizen who had immigrated to the United States with her husband, Roger Franklin, was a molecular biologist engaged in research for a medical-diagnostics firm. Greenwood (she used her birth name in her work) and her husband eventually settled in the upscale town of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area of California.

    On the night of April 7, 1984, her husband was out of town so Greenwood was alone in the house. Shortly after 10:20 she woke up to find a man in her bedroom. In the darkness Greenwood could see only the man’s outline...

  7. Chapter Two A New Prosecutor
    (pp. 9-15)

    Icertainly wasn’t a likely candidate for becoming involved in pioneering the introduction of DNA evidence in trials. I had done everything I could to avoid taking science courses in high school and college. Law school was an easy choice for me. My oldest brother, Peter, was one of the most respected criminal defense attorneys in San Diego. We talked about some of his cases, even when I was barely a teenager. When I saw my brother in action in court and listened to him describe the practice of criminal law, I was hooked. After getting my bachelor’s degree from...

  8. Chapter Three The Transition to DNA Evidence
    (pp. 16-23)

    Ifollowed up on the tip that the blood experts had given me. To begin, I had to understand the basics of a revolution in genetics and molecular biology. By reading scientific journals and reaching out to the blood-test experts I knew, I learned why James Watson, Francis Crick, and Maurice Wilkins had been awarded the Nobel Prize for their discovery of the molecular structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, which came to be referred to by many as the “genetic blueprint of life.” (Only in the years that followed would the crucial work of another scientist, Rosalind Franklin, be...

  9. Chapter Four The Fight for Acceptance
    (pp. 24-33)

    The first cases in San Diego in which DNA evidence was offered proved to be difficult tests of the legal system. Many other forms of scientifically obtained evidence, ranging from fingerprints to drug-test results, had become accepted in courts not only in the United States but also around the world. Each new scientific technique had to overcome initial resistance until established over time. But certain techniques have faced protracted legal barriers. These include polygraph examinations—or lie-detector tests—hypnosis, and the analysis of voiceprints to try to identify voices. The use of each of these tests has met repeated opposition...

  10. Chapter Five A Stranger Rapist and a Murderer: Early Success with DNA Evidence
    (pp. 34-43)

    As the use of DNA evidence became common, some trials were avoided. Defendants connected to sex crimes by the scientific tool of DNA testing frequently decided to simply plead guilty. But the other side of the coin was equally important. Instead of relying heavily on eyewitness identification, prosecutors in sex cases involving victims and defendants who were strangers to one another now frequently had the benefit of scientific evidence linking the defendant to the crime. In some cases, that meant fewer offers to defendants to plead guilty to lesser charges. And because the California legislature had dramatically increased the penalties...

  11. Chapter Six A Double-Edged Sword: DNA for and against the Prosecution
    (pp. 44-63)

    DNA became the defining part of my career. Lectures became a way of life. Whether at the local Kiwanis, Lions, or Rotary club, university and law school classes, or meetings of state and national organizations, I tried to educate the public about DNA and its impact on the criminal-justice system. Fortunately, my audiovisual techniques improved from the days of the dark and unreadable slides I projected at the FBI Academy. Some of the visuals I used were professional-quality depictions of DNA testing. Others summarized court cases and rulings on the use of DNA evidence. I had entered the multimedia world...

  12. Chapter Seven A Child and a Critical Nightshirt
    (pp. 64-75)

    Child-molestation cases are often the most difficult, challenging, and draining ones for investigators, lawyers, and judges. They can evoke primitive and emotional responses from jurors and court watchers alike. But abuse of children is a fact of life and is often met head-on in courts across the United States. Courtrooms in San Diego are no exception. Other than in a handful of cases, I had managed to avoid the often-complex area of child molestation. One case, however, became a memorial to the difficulties and unique problems that can be encountered with child victims, their interviews, and the social-services systems that...

  13. Chapter Eight DNA and a Football Hero Collide
    (pp. 76-97)

    On Friday, June 17, 1994, I was sitting in our new house in the Mission Hills area of San Diego watching a National Basketball Association play-off game on television, when a curious news flash came across the screen. Suddenly, the network cut away from the game to a white sport-utility vehicle traveling down a Los Angeles freeway. What made the scene so odd was the fact that there was no other traffic on the interstate. In LA that happens only in the movies. This episode, of course, was the beginning of the investigation and trial of Orenthal James “O. J.”...

  14. Chapter Nine Back Home in San Diego: An Unusual Rape Case
    (pp. 98-107)

    San Diego seemed quiet compared with Los Angeles. Prosecutors and staff in my office, judges, and other lawyers were extremely supportive. The assistant district attorney, Greg Thompson, asked me what I wanted to do after the ordeal of the Simpson case. Thompson was the former number-two prosecutor in the Los Angeles district attorney’s office in the late 1980s and had been enlisted by District Attorney Paul Pfingst to take the same position in San Diego when Pfingst was elected in 1994. Thompson said he already had a slot in our felony-trial division waiting for me.

    The cases ranged from drug...

  15. Chapter Ten When a Match Is Not a Match
    (pp. 108-117)

    Many of the other deputy district attorneys in my office, along with prosecutors across California and the country, were becoming accustomed to using DNA evidence. I always found it interesting at the outset of my lectures to ask how many of the prosecutors in attendance had tried a case that included DNA evidence. As the years passed, the number of hands that went up kept increasing. The technology was clearly playing an increasingly important role in trials all over the United States. But even the most experienced deputy district attorney could be tripped up. All one could do was hope...

  16. Chapter Eleven Exonerations, Databases, and STRs
    (pp. 118-135)

    Scientists were busy in the 1990s finding additional locations on the DNA molecule that could be tested with PCR-based methods. The fact that these techniques could be used on small samples, as well as the speed with which the testing could be accomplished, led to an explosion in the popularity of PCR technologies. DQ-Alpha was joined by the five different genetic markers that were known as Polymarker, followed by the addition of three STRs that increased the ability of forensic scientists to tell people apart. Nationwide, more prison inmates—like Ricky Daye (Chapter 6)—asked courts for DNA testing in...

  17. Chapter Twelve A National Approach
    (pp. 136-145)

    As we saw in the previous chapter, Paul Vasquez was caught and eventually convicted by DNA testing evidence. What perhaps stood out most about the case was his decision to testify in his own defense. Saddled with prior convictions for crimes that he knew the jury would learn about if he testified, Vasquez nonetheless decided to take the witness stand. The best explanation for his decision may have been that Vasquez felt trapped by science. His jury learned that rape evidence collected from the victim came from him. That evidence may have left Vasquez, in his own mind, with no...

  18. Chapter Thirteen The District Attorney’s Office Searches for Innocence
    (pp. 146-161)

    District Attorney Paul Pfingst and Assistant District Attorney Greg Thompson were interested in the progress of the commission. Although our work seemed to go slowly, at least we were making inroads into the problems of unsolved cases and postconviction testing. The president’s signing of the backlog bill was a gigantic step forward. Pfingst and Thompson liked to hear about the topics that were the most hotly debated. They were both a little skeptical when I told them my belief that California would eventually collect DNA samples from every person arrested for a felony. At the time, California didn’t even require...

  19. Chapter Fourteen DNA Takes to Television
    (pp. 162-171)

    The search for innocent inmates wasn’t restricted to the in-house work of the district attorney’s office or that of the Innocence Project at Cardozo University. One day my telephone rang, and one of the most interesting conversations I had ever taken part in ensued. The caller was a man named John Bunnell, who explained to me that he was a close friend of a professional acquaintance of mine, Rod Englert. I had known Englert for years, our paths having crossed both in the prosecution of our San Diego criminal cases and at training seminars sponsored by the National College of...

  20. Chapter Fifteen The Tragic Case of a Small Child
    (pp. 172-178)

    Eritrea, a small African country, found itself embroiled in civil war in 1984. A six-year-old girl, Frewoini, immigrated to the United States with her family to avoid the dangers in her homeland. Her life in the United States was difficult, even though she was living with her family. When she was sixteen, Frewoini left home, met a man, and was soon pregnant with his child. The two lived together for more than a year, during which Frewoini gave birth to a daughter. Frewoini and the child’s father soon separated.

    She later went to work for a call center and met...

  21. Chapter Sixteen A Cold-Hit DNA Match Solves an Old Crime
    (pp. 179-186)

    The Daily Planet was a popular night-spot for young couples and singles in September 1993. Located along the ocean on Garnet Avenue in the Pacific Beach area of San Diego, it was typically hopping on a Friday night. September 10 was no different. Except it would forever change the life of a twenty-four-year-old woman. Monica was a server at Moondoggies, another popular beach restaurant. That Friday she ended her shift at 11:00 p.m., then met a few friends at the Daily Planet. She spent a couple of hours talking with them, then went outside for a little fresh air. Monica...

  22. Chapter Seventeen Helena Greenwood Revisited
    (pp. 187-194)

    The investigation of the murder of Helena Greenwood in San Diego had continued in 1987, even after David Paul Frediani had been sentenced to prison for his San Francisco Bay Area sexual assault on her. Detective Dave Decker, who originally investigated the killing, interviewed Frediani, who was imprisoned at that time in Vacaville, located near the state capital of Sacramento. Frediani told Decker that he had nothing to do with the killing of Greenwood, and no new leads were developed in the investigation. Although detectives investigating Greenwood’s killing strongly suspected Frediani had murdered her, they simply didn’t have enough evidence...

  23. Glossary
    (pp. 195-200)
  24. Index
    (pp. 201-216)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 217-218)