innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

This article appeared in Cleveland's The Plain Dealer on September 29, 2006:

Test links inmate to murder
Defense attorney disputes DNA analysis in 1984 case

Jim Nichols, Plain Dealer Reporter

Death-row inmate Anthony Apanovitch has proclaimed for more than two decades that he's innocent of the 1984 rape and murder of Mary Ann Flynn.

Now, prosecutors say, there's even more proof of his guilt - enough to remove any doubt that Apanovitch killed Flynn at her West Side home.

An independent California laboratory's new analysis of DNA from long-stored biological evidence removed from the 33-year-old victim's body shows conclusively that the sample came from Apanovitch's body, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason said Thursday.

How conclusively? The analysis, Mason's office says, shows that only one person out of every 140 million could be matched to the crime-scene semen specimen.

"He has the right to say he's innocent," Mason said. "But we have the right to prove he's not. And we feel that what we've done here proves he's a liar as well as a murderer."

One of Apanovitch's lawyers said the test proves nothing reliably because the tested evidence and the state's handling of it over the years are both tainted.

The testing lab could only analyze a fragment of DNA, rather than a full genetic blueprint, said federal Public Defender Dale Baich.

Moreover, what was tested had been mixed with DNA from at least three other people - possibly another killer, or perhaps investigators who mishandled the sample that even prosecutors have acknowledged had been lost for years.

"Their statement about conclusively proving is a gross overstatement," said Baich, a former Clevelander now in Phoenix.

Even if the test did prove what Mason says it does, Baich added, it should have no bearing on Apanovitch's ongoing legal appeals.

The current case before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati contends prosecutors unconstitutionally withheld evidence favorable to the defense at Apanovitch's 1984 trial. There's no legally justifiable place in the process for those appeals judges to look at new DNA evidence favorable to the state, Baich argued Thursday.

If Apanovitch wins a new trial, Baich said, prosecutors could present the new DNA results to a jury.

The last jury found Apanovitch, then 29, raped, beat and strangled Flynn at her Archwood Avenue home, which she had hired him to paint. Witnesses testified he intimidated and lusted after her, coaxed friends to fabricate alibis, and he gave police conflicting statements.

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