Monday Wrap Up: Misskelley and Baldwin Hearings

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Day three wrapped with the first mentions of D.N.A. since the hearings began last Wednesday.  The first person on the stand was Kermit Channell, the Executive Director of the Arkansas State Crime Lab.  He talked heavily about the fact that the lab was not equipped to do D.N.A. testing at the time of the 1993 murders.  Therefore, all D.N.A. testing was conducted by a company called Genetic Design out of North Carolina.  At the time of the trials and murders, Channell was only a forensic serentologist.  In testimony he was asked specifically about two samples that were take from two separate pairs of blue jeans.  The reasoning for the sampling was to determine if there was any seminal fluid present on those items of clothing.  Channell noted that in testing done by the Arkansas State Crime Lab there was a false-positive result that came back because the items were covered in mud and were still damp at the time they were received by the lab.

After several tests from the State Crime Lab, he noted that several items were sent to the D.N.A. testing firm in North Carolina.  At this point, things got very technical, as the attorneys and the crime lab director talked about the levels of D.N.A. that must be present to identify it as that of a human or some lower species such as bacteria.  This is the first time that D.N.A. has been brought up in the court at all, but in testimony by Channell the level of D.N.A. that was found was very low, which would signify that it was not that of a human.  It was also noted that because the bodies were found in a ditch full of water and mud, there was likely a high chance of the samples being contaminated by bacterium.

To make this lesson in forensics make sense, basically it was said that no sperm was found on the samples, which should have been present if any type of sexual act had occurred.  Secondly, the mud and other bacteria, while being a contaminant, would not keep scientists from being able to see sperm or from reading a D.N.A. sample from the evidential items that were presented.

Outside the courthouse, Mark Byers, father of murdered Christopher Byers, said he's happy that this was brought up, because now he can rest knowing that the boys were not sexually assaulted.  He said he has learned a lot from today's proceedings.

Jason Baldwin's younger brother Larry also said that he believes the attorneys have made some very strong and valid points today, and said "if we had had these attorneys in 1994, my brother would be free."

Upon their arrival at the courthouse this morning I asked Jessie Misskelley about the confession, and what really happened.  He replied,"Nothing.  It never happened."

Later in the afternoon after a lunch recess, attorney Greg Crow took to the stand.  Crow was the co-counselor alongside Dan Stidham to Misskelley's defense team back in 1994.  When asked about why their counsel didn't obtain expert witnesses, he replied "there was no money to get an expert."  Crow went on to talk about Jessie Misskelley's confession, and how he didn't think Misskelley should take the stand due to his mental capacity. He said repeatedly that Jessie "wasn't consistent with any of his statements."

In cross-examination of Crow by prosecuting attorney Brent Davis, a meeting was talked about, where Crow met with Davis and his co-counselors on a Saturday to work out a plea bargain, but by the following Monday, after a news story aired where Misskelley Sr. said his son was innocent, the Misskelley defense changed their plea to not guilty.  While it was only touched on in this testimony, Crow did say that he felt "compared to a confession, D.N.A. would have been a minor point."

Even today, it was obvious that a lot has been learned in the way of D.N.A. and how even the slightest misinterpretation of lab notes could have swayed a jury to a different side.  We are still awaiting testimony at this point from Dan Stidham.  Due to several scheduling conflicts, it is also expected that the hearings will be recessed until further notice after they wrap on Tuesday evening.   However, I will be at the courthouse and will have complete coverage of their last day both online and on the air.

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