Posted: August 19, 2013 12:25 PM
A New Jersey man who was convicted of a 1994 murder largely based on invalid bite mark evidence is hopeful that new DNA testing will overturn his conviction.
Gerard Richardson has been in prison since his 1995 conviction, but results from recent testing of a swab taken from the bite mark found the DNA profile of unknown male, reported The Star-Ledger.
"Now we know through DNA testing that Mr. Richardson absolutely did not leave that bite mark and that he is innocent of this crime," said his attorney, Vanessa Potkin, of the New York-based Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing.
Somerset County Assistant Prosecutor Tim Van Hise argued that since DNA wasn’t used to convict Richardson, the new evidence doesn’t point to his innocence. His office has requested that the State Police review the DNA results.
After the body of 19-year-old Monica Reyes was found in a ditch in Bernards Township, investigators determined she died from multiple blunt force traumas to the head. Authorities looked at Richardson for the murder because they said the victim owed him money for drugs. At the trial, a forensic odontologist said a bite mark found on the victim’s back matched Richardson’s teeth. A defense expert testified that a match didn’t exist. And Potkin echoed that sentiment last week when she said that bite mark comparison evidence has proven to be "extremely unreliable" in the years since Richardson’s conviction.
The Innocence Project obtained a court order in January to conduct testing at Forensic Analytical Sciences after two earlier rounds of testing conducted by National Medical Services analysts excluded Richardson and contained only female DNA.
That lab has uncovered the first complete male DNA profile associated with the bite mark, Potkin said. Those test results, outlined in a July 23 report, show that "for the first time, we have a DNA profile that we know came from the assailant of this crime and have excluded Gerard Richardson," she said.
Richardson’s DNA also was not found on any other evidence tested by the lab, Potkin said.
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