Murder Conviction Overturned on Invalid DNA Evidence
On October 6, 2017, the San Diego Superior Court overturned Florencio Dominguez’ (my client’s) murder conviction on a petition for Habeas Corpus. The success rate on getting a conviction overturned on habeas is less than one percent. This illustrates how significant this outcome is for my client and the legal community. The court found that the DNA evidence presented at his trial was invalid. Specifically, such DNA evidence had been rejected by both the relevant scientific community and the San Diego Police Department Crime Laboratory.
The court further found that the prosecution failed to disclose that the SDPD Crime Lab had rejected this type of DNA evidence at the time of my client’s trial. Even further, a high ranking member of the crime lab, the person who actually changed the protocols, testified to the old protocols knowing full well that he had had recently changed such protocols only five days prior to his trial testimony. The court explained that had this information been disclosed to the defense, “it is virtually certain that no trial court would have allowed the testimony.” The prosecution’s failure to disclose this exculpatory information violated my client’s right to a fair trial under “Brady.”
What this means
This ruling is extremely important to the defense community. Prior to April 2011, the SDPD Crime Lab was using DNA interpretation procedures that have since been invalidated and repudiated by the relevant scientific community. Nationally, use of these out-dated and unreliable DNA techniques was rampant in forensic crime labs around the country for more than a decade. Over the past five years, crime labs in Washington DC, Florida and Texas have been disciplined by their respective accrediting agencies for using these unreliable techniques.
There are potentially thousands of people currently serving prison sentences (some serving life sentences) who were convicted based on invalid and unreliable DNA evidence techniques. Many of these people may be actually innocent. Under CA Penal Code § 1473, these people have a remedy to overturn their convictions.
CA Penal Code 1473 creates a habeas claim for anyone who was convicted using scientific techniques that have been repudiated by the expert who originally gave the opinion or have been undermined by later scientific advances. Locally, DNA techniques used for the interpretation of mixture samples conducted by the SDPD Crime Lab prior to April 1, 2011 fit squarely into this category.
I am currently seeking to review any convictions that may have been affected by the old/outdated DNA techniques. Additionally, I am seeking to alert the community at large of this discovery in the hopes that other defense attorneys join me in reviewing convictions that were based on junk science. Please contact me at The Law Office of Matthew J. Speredelozzi for more information or to request a case review.