The Great State of Seacrest Connecticut might be close to its second DNA exoneration ever. (You know, it’s strange how these things play out. A few weeks ago I remarked to someone that I hadn’t heard anything about the Innocence Project lately and I wondered if they were working on anything.)
Nearly 30 years ago, three women either disappeared or were found murdered. One person linked all three investigations: Pedro Miranda. The police could never get enough to charge him and eventually another man – Miguel Roman – was convicted of the murder of one of them and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
A few days ago, armed with new DNA evidence, police arrested Miranda for the three killings.
State investigators reopened the Lopez case at the request of the Connecticut Innocence Project, which wanted to retest DNA samples found on Lopez’s body and at the crime scene. Roman was convicted even though an FBI analyst testified at his trial that the DNA was not his.
In the months since Miranda’s DNA was tied to the crime, the CT Innocence Project (which, you will remember, was instrumental in securing the release of James Tillman) has been working on Roman’s case. To coincide with Miranda’s arrest, they filed a petition for new trial in Hartford Superior Court.
So how was Roman convicted? The usual: jailhouse snitch testimony and a wily argument from the prosecutor:
Police eventually charged Roman with murder in Lopez’s death. During his trial, however, an FBI analyst testified that DNA taken from Lopez’s body did not match Roman’s. Prosecutor John Massameno argued to the jury that the DNA could have been left by another person who had no connection to the killing.
Massameno presented evidence from a jailhouse snitch that Roman had confessed to killing Lopez after he encountered another man leaving her apartment.
Massameno is currently defending the State in the “racial and geographical disparity in the death penalty” litigation.
Jailhouse snitch testimony really is not very credible and this is a prime example of why not. Snitches in jail (as opposed to regular snitches) have a great incentive to lie and to make up stories, thereby providing police with that “confession”. People should know this. The police should know this. After years and years of discredited jailhouse snitch testimony, you’d think they’d have learned to shy away from it. The only way jailhouse snitch testimony should be believed is if there is corroborating evidence.
Miranda’s DNA, apparently, cannot be excluded from any of the physical evidence at the crime scene, while Roman’s can be:
DNA results also show that Miranda cannot be eliminated as the source of the DNA found in Lopez’s body, on cloth strips and an extension cord used to choke her, and on several cigarette butts left in an ashtray near Lopez’s body.
Investigators also retested Roman’s DNA and it does not match any of the samples found at the Lopez crime scene, a key part of his new claim to be released from prison.
[Sidetrack: A petition for new trial is generally barred after 3 years, except, due to a 2000 amendment, in cases involving DNA.]
Now, as some suggest, it is curious that Roman is still sitting in jail, despite the arrest of Miranda. Nothing in the arrest warrant suggests that Roman was an accomplice of Miranda in this killing or that he was in any any way involved. Naturally, both men cannot be in prison for independently and separately committing the same crime. However, I’m more willing to wait until Monday, when Miranda is arraigned, before raising a stink. Sure, he has to spend an extra weekend in jail, but the criminal justice system isn’t perfect. If the State doesn’t agree to release Roman on bail on Monday, pending the resolution of his petition for new trial, you know how I’ll get.