innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Judge Wants DNA Claims in Brown's Case Spelled Out

This article appeared in the Chicago Tribune on September 27, 2006:

Judge wants DNA claims in Brown's case spelled out
Lawyers on both sides given Oct. 4 deadline

By Carlos Sadovi, Tribune staff reporter

A judge on Tuesday ordered lawyers involved in the upcoming trial of two men charged in the 1993 Brown's Chicken slayings to document allegations about lost or damaged DNA evidence linked to the crime.Cook County Criminal Court Judge Vincent Gaughan made the ruling after lawyers representing the Illinois State Police said they have been unable to locate DNA evidence in the case.

"I want a chronological order of the DNA mishaps, things that have happened," Gaughan said during a pre-trial hearing for Juan Luna, 32, and James Degorski, 34, who are charged with killing seven people in the Palatine restaurant on Jan. 8, 1993. "I want you all to focus because this is starting to slip all over the place," he said.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers have until Oct. 4 to detail the problems.

Lawyers for the state attorney general's office, which represents the Illinois State Police, said in court Sept. 20 that DNA evidence missing for about two years had not been located.

The evidence in question includes seven swabs that may have contained evidence taken from partially eaten pieces of chicken found by Palatine police in a garbage can. Illinois State Police officials said they sent the evidence via United Parcel Service in 2004 to Palatine police, which said they never received it.

At Tuesday's hearing Assistant Atty. Gen. Mark Bina turned paperwork over to Gaughan and the other lawyers detailing the investigation of the missing items.

Neither side ever requested analysis of the DNA swabs to determine if they contained evidence. Prosecutors said they have evidence taken from the chicken that links Luna to the restaurant the night the seven people were massacred.

Separately, state police officials also have admitted they discarded a computer that held the results of a DNA analysis. The computer was retrieved after it was sold for scrap.

Also on Tuesday, Gaughan allowed Luna's lawyer, Clarence Burch, to depose Dr. Pam Fish, a controversial former scientist with the Illinois State Police Crime lab. Fish, whose DNA analysis helped put several people in jail who later were cleared, trained the scientist who analyzed DNA in the case.

Burch added Fish's name as a witness in the upcoming trial and wanted to question her under oath about what role she played in the analysis.

Cook County Assistant State's Atty. Tom Biesty objected to deposing Fish because she did not do the work.

"The only reason to put her on the [witness] list is to say, Dr. Fish, Dr. Fish, Dr. Fish," Biesty said. "She did nothing in this case."

Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune


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