Evidence can play a role in a habeas corpus petition. Below, you can learn more about types of evidence and different case law. For more information, read on.
The following is an example of a motion for forensic testing and evidence in State v. W********, Conn. at ____,____. The hairs allegedly found in the trunk of Petitioner’s car were arguably the most significant piece of evidence at trial and were not cumulative to other evidence presented by the State. Dr. Lee testified that the hairs seized from the car trunk were “microscopically similar” to the head hairs pulled from the victim at the autopsy. (TT. 2/115; 3/13; 10/43-61; State v. W********, Conn. at , ) Dr. Lee also testified that he observed reddish brown crust on the surface of the hairs and that subsequent presumptive testing reacted positive for the presence of blood. (TT. 10/62-72; 11/7- 8). While the State’s case against Petitioner was circumstantial, the hairs recovered from the trunk of the car were the only piece of evidence arguably belonging to and/or originating from the victim that was found in Petitioner’s constructive possession.
The hairs provided a direct physical link between Petitioner and the victim otherwise absent from the case. Consequently, the importance of the hairs cannot get downplayed by emphasizing the many other items of circumstantial evidence that comprised the State’s case. The hairs allegedly recovered from the car trunk did not go unnoticed by the jury. During the trial, the jury sent a note inquiring where State’s Exhibit 74 had come from. (TT. 10/75; 18/39-40)
Later, the State focused on the hairs in its closing argument by reminding the jury that hairs similar to the known head hairs of the victim got found in the trunk of Petitioner’s car and that the hairs had blood on them. (TT. 18/40 (State’s Attorney Connelly: “Hair similar to [the victim’s] was found in [the defendant’s] car with blood on it.”); see also 18/39-41, 18/169-70) The State also reminded the jury that next to the hairs in the trunk were the blue fiber or fibers that connected Petitioner and his car to the important fire site. (TT. 18/35-41, 18/169-70)
Mitochondrial DNA Testing
Mitochondrial DNA testing that demonstrates that the hairs allegedly recovered from the trunk of Petitioner’s car did not belong to the victim would obviously contradict the trial testimony and the reasonable inferences available to the jury to draw, and would thus support Petitioner’s claim of actual innocence. See State v. Hammond, 221 Conn. at 268 (“One cogent reason for overturning the verdict of a jury is that the verdict is based on conclusions that are physically impossible.”).
The hairs were not cumulative to other evidence presented by the State, but rather represented the only piece of physical evidence linking Petitioner and the victim. There existed no other evidence recovered from Petitioner’s person, dwelling or car that belonged to or originated from the victim. In a universe of circumstantial evidence, the hairs represented the only item of the victim found in Petitioner’s constructive possession. There was no other evidence that physically connected Petitioner and the victim. Because of their significance, the hairs were a key feature of the States closing argument. (TT. 18/39-41, 18/169-70) Consequently, exculpatory mtDNA results, coupled with a proper ruling on the admissibility of presumptive blood test results, see State v. Moody, 214 Conn. 616, 627-30 (1990), would cast the State’s case in a fundamentally different light.
Further, such exculpatory evidence, joined with Dr. Wecht’s opinion that the evidence knife (State’s Ex. 69) was not the knife or the type of knife used to cause the victim’s death, would support Petitioner’s claim of actual innocence. Still further, such evidence, joined with Dr. Wecht’s testimony, would, notwithstanding the balance of the State’s case, produce a different result on retrial. See Miller v. Commissioner, 242 Conn. 745, 747, 791-803 (1997)(delineating the standard that a habeas petitioner who claims actual innocence must meet in order to gain a new trial).