New evidence from a DNA test may get a man a second chance at freedom, after already spending around ten years in prison for a rape charge.
RonJon Cameron was found guilty of rape in April 2003 and was sentenced to 12-16 years in a state prison. In 2009, Cameron filed a motion for a new trial but it was denied. In January of 2013 he again filed a motion, this time to amend and reconsider his motion for a new trial based on DNA testing, which showed that it could not be determined if Cameron had raped the victim.
DNA testing had revealed that the victim had had two different male’s DNA in her underwear, and it was determined that the first source of DNA was not that of the defendant’s and the second source could not include or exclude him as a suspect.
Based on this, the defendant believed that he was entitled to a second trial, along with the fact that his counsel was ineffective at his first trial.
In order to get his second trial on the basis of new evidence, the defendant is required to prove that this evidence was newly available, along with showing that the evidence casts legitimate doubt on the justice of his conviction.
The Supreme Judicial Court determined that initially, the Commonwealth did not put enough emphasis on the DNA testing results. This is likely why it was unclear to the jury that although Cameron was not able to be excluded as a suspect, he was not able to be identified as a suspect either.
The jury in the defendant’s trial was asked to conclude that the presence of multiple unknown men’s DNA on the alleged victim’s underwear meant that the defendant was guilty of rape, without pondering the fact that because he could not be determined the suspect, he may not have committed the crime.
Ultimately, the SJC comes to the conclusion that the newly available DNA testing “impeaches the complainant’s credibility”. The Court mentions the fact that if this evidence had been presented at the initial trial, a jury likely would have come to a very different conclusion. The defendant was granted a new trial.
PBS.org has an interesting article about DNA testing used in court, which sheds some more light on issues like this. This article discusses how new DNA testing technology, when properly applied, is reliable enough to either exclude or identify a person as a suspect. However, when mistakes are made within the testing, lawyers are successful in trying to argue against a charge. Feel free to read more about it here.
If you are interested in reading about defense strategies, visit Attorney DelSignore’s website, where he goes into detail about a variety of strategies he uses in court.