Friday, April 04, 2008

How an Innocent Person is Convicted, Part 11: Wait a year to perform a crime scene analysis; do it without all the evidence; then ignore its findings

As soon as Todd was charged, we pushed the police and prosecution to investigate the stabbing of Anthony Madril thoroughly. We accepted many delays to accommodate the state's slowness in processing forensic evidence.

We especially wanted the state to examine the blood stain on Todd's jacket, which we knew would be his, not the victim's. And we wanted the state to examine the black debris Detective Richer had seen on Todd's knife. We knew that it had to be from the puncturing of the right tire of Schwartz's truck, and that placing Todd at the right-rear of Charles Schwartz's truck while Brad Orgill and Anthony Madril fought fiercely to the front and left of the truck was important to understanding clearly what happened that terrible night.

But the state declined to perform DNA testing of Todd's clothing. Instead, they decided to test a blood-stained shirt that Orgill had given Todd to wear the day after the stabbing. (The DNA analysis of that shirt conclusively determined that the blood on it belonged to an unknown person.) The state never tested debris on the knife either.

So, after 14 months had passed, we obtained a court order to have the knife and Todd's jacket sent to an independent lab for testing. That lab confirmed that only Todd's blood appeared on his jacket. The shock for us, though, was learning at that time that the debris reported to have been on the knife when it was first examined by the police was now gone. We then learned that the debris was actually known to be missing seven months earlier while in the state's possession.

It was during this time--when the independent lab was doing this testing--that the Colorado Springs Metro Forensics Lab finally performed the only state-sponsored "crime-scene analysis."

Of course it was too late for them to analyze the debris that had once been on the knife.

When Kimberly Bjorndahl, one of the report's authors, testified, she repeatedly claimed that the victim had but one wound, the fatal stab to his heart, but the autopsy clearly shows that the victim also suffered incised cuts (defensive wounds) to his hand and a cut across the bridge of his nose. The failure to note these basic injuries, of course, raises questions about the adequacy of the resulting analysis, and, in particular, how much attention was paid to the autopsy.

Nevertheless, the report states in its closing paragraph that Brad Orgill cannot be eliminated as Anthony's assailant.

The report reasons, though, that Orgill is less likely to be the assailant because there is no evidence that he'd carried a knife. However, at trial Orgill admitted to carrying three knives in the past, and on one occasion being ready to use a knife should a fight erupt in a bar he frequented.

None of the three knives Orgill admitted carrying were recovered by police when they searched his house.

No comments: