Colo. DA says new DNA testing 'unnecessary'
By P. Solomon Banda
DENVER — Months after a 1999 murder conviction was overturned by DNA evidence, a Colorado district attorney says a review of thousands of convictions yielded not one case in which new DNA technology would change the outcome.
Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson said Wednesday his review started with more than 3,200 cases and was narrowed to 36 in which the identity of the defendant was an issue.
The review concluded the 36 convictions were based on DNA evidence, non-DNA evidence such as carpet fibers and testimony by victims, witnesses or co-defendants.
"I am satisfied that there are no defendants convicted in the 8th Judicial District serving time in the Colorado State Penitentiary who would benefit from current advances in DNA technology," Abrahamson said. Larimer County is part of the 8th District.
The review was prompted by the case of Timothy Masters, who was freed in January after serving more than nine years in prison. He was convicted in the slaying of a Fort Collins woman, but cleared when new DNA technology revealed that the evidence failed to link him to the crime.
He is suing Abrahamson, prosecutors, police and the city of Fort Collins in federal court for unspecified damages.
David Wymore, Masters' attorney, panned Abrahamson's review, noting that one of the people who worked on it was prosecutor Loren Schall, who had argued against turning over evidence that eventually freed Masters.
"They still pretend that Tim Masters is a suspect after their case was thrown out," he said.
Abrahamson rejected Wymore's criticism and said that Schall, with 38 years experience, was more than qualified to participate in the review.
"Just because we had conducted this review, it doesn't preclude anybody from challenging their conviction," he added.
Wymore suggested that new DNA testing could help Santos Romero, whose conviction wasn't among the 36 in Abrahamson's review. Romero is serving two life sentences for the April 1978 slayings of two sisters.
Abrahamson's examination of Romero's case concluded that "defendant admits act."
Romero originally described the crime during two hypnosis sessions with investigators. Testimony under hypnosis is inadmissible in court, but Romero's statements were admitted after the judge concluded Romero was not in a hypnotic state when he made them.
The judge also rejected defense pleas to throw out testimony from two other witnesses whose recollections changed after hypnosis.
"It's just shameless," Wymore said.
Abrahamson said it was unclear whether evidence in the Romero case had been preserved. He said investigators in the late 1970s and early 1980s didn't use precautions to preserve DNA evidence that are now standard procedure.
Abrahamson said the review wasn't intended to reinvestigate cases but rather identify those that might have relied too heavily on circumstantial evidence. In the Romero case, he said, there were witnesses to the crime.
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