Monday, October 19, 2009

UIS Downstate Innocence Project hosts seminar on new methods in post-conviction DNA testing

The University of Illinois Springfield’s Downstate Innocence Project will host a 5.5 hour forensic seminar on cutting edge methods of post-conviction sample recovery and DNA testing on Wednesday, October 28, 2009. Participants will hear from the lawyers and forensic scientists who were involved in the case of Timothy Masters, a Colorado man freed from prison by the technology of Touch DNA testing.

Touch DNA was pioneered over a decade ago by forensic scientists Richard and Selma Eikelenboom. The pairs’ sample recovery methods for isolating skin epithelial cells of a perpetrator from a crime victim’s clothing in the Masters case, a twenty year old murder, led to the recovery of three full DNA profiles. All three profiles matched an individual who was on a short list of suspects in the original investigation. Faced with this evidence in January of 2008, prosecutors agreed to vacate the conviction of Masters. His case was recently featured on CBS 48 Hours Mystery.

The Touch DNA testing results in the Masters case has drawn the interest of law enforcement and prosecutors, as well. They recognize Touch DNA’s potential for solving cold cases. Since the Masters case, Colorado law enforcement authorities decided to use Touch DNA in the unsolved case of Jon Benet Ramsey. Her parents, ten years ago, had been wrongly suspected of the murder by Boulder police. Re-testing of the victim’s clothing revealed full DNA profiles in the areas of the clothing where the crime perpetrator grabbed hold of the clothing of Jon Benet Ramsey. These test results may someday lead to the identification of her killer.

Illinois has been on the forefront of the movement to investigate post-conviction claims of actual innocence utilizing DNA. In 1997, Illinois became one of the first states in the country to adopt legislation giving convicted individuals access to DNA testing.

In 2007, the Illinois General Assembly amended the statute to allow for re-testing of biological evidence even if DNA testing had been available at the time of trial. This change in the law recognizes recent improvements in DNA testing methods that can now recover DNA profiles that previous testing failed to find. (See 725 ILCS 5/116-3 (a)(2).

Tuition for the seminar is $195. Attorneys can earn 5.5 hours Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) credits. The Illinois Supreme Court recently required mandatory legal training in order to maintain ones law license in good standing.

Featured Speakers:

Timothy Masters: On Feb. 11, 1987, the body of Peggy Hettrick was discovered by a bicyclist in a field south of Fort Collins, Colorado. She had been stabbed to death, and her genitalia had been surgically mutilated. Timothy Masters, 15-years old at the time, lived near the scene and had walked by the body on his way to school but failed to notify authorities. He was later interrogated and his school locker was searched. Police found graphically violent sketches that Masters penned in a spiral notebook. However, police were not able to link him to the murder. Eleven years later, in 1998, Masters was arrested for the murder. A year later, he was convicted of the murder and was sentenced to life in prison. The prosecution pointed to the drawings as the key evidence of guilt. He served over 10 years in prison before he was finally set free in Jan. of 2008. His case was the first touch DNA exoneration in the US. Last fall, his story Drawn to Murder was featured on CBS 48 Mystery.

Linda Wheeler-Holloway: Linda currently works as an investigator for the Office of District Attorney in Fort Morgan Colorado. In June of 1991, Linda was assigned as the lead detective for the Ft. Collins police department’s homicide investigation of the 1987 murder of Peggy Hettrick. A cold case investigation, the prime suspect four years later was Timothy Masters, who was by now a young man was serving in the U.S. Navy. A year later, in 1992, Ft. Collins police issued an arrest warrant for Masters. After interviewing Masters, Holloway had doubts that he was involved. She decided not to arrest him. After she retired from the police department, another detective took over the case and continued to pursue Masters as the prime suspect. The case continued to haunt Holloway after Masters was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1999. While traveling in Holland on vacation in 2005, Linda Wheeler-Holloway discovered the pioneering work of forensic scientists Selma and Richard Eikelenboom and their ability to recover skin epithelial cells of a perpetrator from the clothing of a crime victim. When she returned to Colorado, Linda contacted Timothy Masters’ attorneys and told them about using touch DNA testing. The results of this testing exonerated an innocent man.

Selma Eikelenboom: Selma is a forensic medical expert. In 1999, she became the Forensic Medical Examiner for Amsterdam’s Municipal Medical and Health Authority. She later worked in the crime scene investigation unit for the Netherlands Forensic Institute Department of Biology. She worked closely with European law enforcement authorities and the judicial system. In 2003, she formed her own company, Independent Forensic Services, a private laboratory in the Netherlands that specializes in recovery of trace evidence and Touch DNA testing that she operates with her husband Richard.

Richard Eikelenboom: Richard is a forensic scientist specializing in trace evidence recovery and bloodstain pattern analysis. He also worked for the Netherlands Forensic Institute Department of Biology. In 2005, he joined Selma as a partner at Independent Forensic Services. Richard and Selma’s work on the Timothy Master’s case pioneered the use of Touch DNA sample recovery methods in the U.S. The Master’s case was the first exoneration case in the U.S. to utilize touch DNA.

Barie Goetz: Barie is a forensic scientist specializing in crime scene reconstruction and bloodstain pattern analysis. He worked for the Indiana State Police and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation Laboratory Systems. In 2004, he retired as Director of the CBI Regional Laboratory in Pueblo, Colorado. Barie then started Sangre de Cristo Forensic Services, where he utilizes his 30 years of experience assisting the judicial system in areas of crime scene reconstruction and post-conviction review. He worked as the Forensic Investigator on the Timothy Master’s case.

Maria Liu: Maria Liu is a founding partner in the law firm of Collins, Liu and Lyons LLP located in Greeley, Colorado. She specializes in criminal defense and post conviction relief. She received her law degree from Southern Illinois University. During law school Ms. Liu worked at the Illinois Migrant Legal Assistance Project and Land of Lincoln Rural Legal Aid. She began her career as a Deputy Public Defender at the Colorado Public Defenders Office. She enjoyed working with indigent clients because they are often the people that need lawyers the most. She served as president of the Weld County Bar Association from 2004-2005. Ms. Liu received the Colorado Criminal Defense Bar’s 2008 Gideon Award and the ACLU’s 2008 Sherman Award for her representation of Tim Masters.

David D. Wymore: David maintains a solo practice in Boulder, Colorado. He graduated from The Ohio State University and The University of Colorado School of Law. He became a Colorado Deputy Public Defender in 1976 and the Colorado Chief Trial Deputy from 1982 to 2004 when he retired. As the Chief Trial Deputy for the statewide defender system, he represented death eligible clients across the State of Colorado. Mr. Wymore also teaches trial tactics and death litigation across the United States as well as in foreign countries. Wymore was also involved in the 2008 exoneration of Timothy Masters.

Bill Clutter: Bill Clutter began his career as a criminal defense investigator in 1985 working for Springfield attorney Michael Metnick. In 1988, he was assigned to investigate his first case of actual innocence in the Naperville murder case of Jeannine Nicarico. That case was one of the first cases in Illinois in which DNA testing was undertaken. The early DNA test that was conducted by Dr. Edward Blake was a full profile match to serial killer Brian Dugan, corroborating his 1986 confession to the Nicarico murder. This early test conducted in 1988 exonerated Alejandro Hernandez, but was unable to exclude Rolando Cruz. Subsequent improvements in DNA testing technology later exonerated Cruz, as well. Bill Clutter’s post-conviction in the case of Randy Steidl and Herbert Whitlock that began in 1991 eventually led to their release from prison. Steidl had been sentenced to death and was released in May 2004. Whitlock received a life sentence and was set free four years later. Following Barry Scheck’s call to create a network of Innocence Projects, Bill met with his former legal studies professor Nancy Ford and Larry Golden at the University of Illinois at Springfield and founded the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project. He currently serves as Director of Investigations for the Project, in addition to maintaining a private detective agency.

John Hanlon: John Hanlon began his legal career as a staff attorney with the Illinois Appellate Defender’s Office assigned to the Supreme Court Unit. His first job out of law school landed him the assignment of defending Rolando Cruz, following Cruz’s 1985 conviction and death sentence for the murder of Jeanine Nicarico. In 1988, John persuaded the Illinois Supreme Court to reverse Cruz’s conviction. When Cruz was convicted a second time and sent back to death row in 1990, John recruited a young lawyer by the name of Larry Marshall, a new professor at Northwestern Law School, to assist him in Cruz’s appeal. That was the beginning of the Innocence Project movement in Illinois. The two succeeded in getting Cruz’s conviction vacated a second time. The third trial resulted in the dramatic acquittal of Rolando Cruz after it was revealed that two detectives had fabricated a Dream Vision Confession. William Kunkel was appointed as special prosecutor, leading to the indictment of police and prosecutors who were known as the DuPage 7. John’s work on the case of Joe Burrows and Randy Steidl contributed to their release from death row, and the Burrows case was cited by Gov. Ryan when he announced a moratorium on capital punishment. John currently serves as an adjunct professor at UIS teaching a class called Wrongful Convictions.

For more information on the seminar contact Bill Clutter at 217/528-5997 or 217/899-4353.

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