Wednesday, September 16, 2009

U-M team: Wrong man jailed for 23 years | | The Detroit News

The Cooley Innocence Project where I work, worked on this case for several years and could not find DNA to prove his innocence. I am glad U of M picked up the case and that he is likely going to be set free.

U-M team: Wrong man jailed for 23 years The Detroit News

Doug Guthrie And Santiago Esparza / The Detroit News

Detroit -- A University of Michigan legal research team is demanding the release of a man imprisoned 23 years for the rape of a 9-year-old girl, claiming he was the victim of bad science and prosecutorial misconduct.

Karl Frederick Vinson, now 54, was convicted on May 14, 1986, on the strength of a blood test that was frequently used in court before the advent of almost foolproof DNA testing.
But three new tests performed this year confirm that the original forensic examination was wrong, according to the Michigan Innocence Clinic of the University of Michigan. The 1986 test was performed by the Detroit Police Department Crime Lab, which closed last year after the discovery of massive errors in evidence handling and testing.

And the assistant prosecutor who handled the case misrepresented evidence to the jury by falsely including Vinson in a small category of people that the original test never confirmed, according to the University of Michigan Law School researchers.

"The jury was misled," said David Moran, an attorney and leader of the research team of law school students. "The prosecutor made sure the jury was confused."

In his years behind bars, Vinson has maintained his innocence, but all appeals were rejected.
Meanwhile, his wife divorced him and his 21-year-old son was murdered in 2001. Vinson wasn't allowed to attend the funeral, his brother, Robert Vinson, 52, said.

"My brother is innocent. It has taken 23 years for people to listen," Robert Vinson said.
"I did a lot of crying and praying over the years," said Vinson's mother, Mildred Pointzes, 73.
The girl at first couldn't identify the man who slipped through her bedroom window in southwest Detroit early on Jan. 3, 1986, except to say he seemed familiar. Vinson was arrested the same day after the victim's mother suggested the suspect might be the husband of a woman who babysat the girl three years earlier. Moran said the mother told police she found Vinson "creepy."

The victim, who is now 32, and her family could not be reached for comment.

Moran said Prosecutor Kym Worthy was told of the new test results in June. He said the motion to set aside Vinson's conviction was filed Monday in Wayne Circuit Court because Worthy had failed to take action on her own. No date has been set for a hearing on the motion before the original trial judge, Vera Massey Jones, who still serves on the circuit bench.

Worthy said Tuesday she has worked with various innocence projects in the past to set aside convictions, but only after exhaustive research to confirm the work of the projects.

"However, in this case the evidence is not clear cut," Worthy said. "I have personally met with Mr. Moran and assigned several staff members to this case for the last two months."
Worthy said the judge will have to decide.

The police lab originally concluded Vinson is a "non-secretor," a term that describes a minority of people whose blood type isn't present when testing saliva and other bodily fluids. The new tests conclude Vinson's blood type can be detected in such a test, Moran said.

Evidence from the crime scene contained traces only of type O blood, a match for the victim. Vinson has type AB blood, which should have been detected in the evidence tested from the girl's bedroom, according to the clinic's motion.

Moran said the new tests confirm the wrong man is in jail.
"There is no way," Moran said. "His AB blood wasn't there."

The motion also accuses Wayne County Assistant Prosecutor Lawrence Talon of improperly and unscientifically linking the faulty finding about Vinson to the failure by police to find any of Vinson's fingerprints at the crime scene.

A police lab technician testified during the trial that a person who is a non-secretor of skin oils is less likely to leave fingerprints. Talon is accused of deliberately confusing the jury in his closing arguments by linking the two different kinds of non-secretors. During the trial, Talon argued that the lack of fingerprints supported the victim's shaky identification of Vinson, the clinic's motion contends.

Vinson was sentenced on May 29, 1986, to serve 10 to 50 years. He became eligible for parole in 1994, but remains in the G. Robert Cotton Correctional Facility in Jackson.

Witnesses testified that Vinson was at his mother's house at the time of the rape. He has maintained his innocence but numerous appeals through the years have been rejected.
In 2001, another innocence project run by Cooley Law School tried to help Vinson, but was unable to locate evidence samples that should have been maintained by the Detroit lab for modern DNA testing. The Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan Law School started work on Vinson's case in February.

"It's really been hard on my mother, but we never gave up. We always kept the faith," Robert Vinson said. "He's been locked up for over two decades for a crime he did not commit."

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