Thursday, December 13, 2018

Destruction of rape kits: Keith Harward: CNN investigation prompted the question why did police departments across the USA throw out rape kits - and focusses on both sides of the coin: injustice to the sexual assault victim - and harm to the innocent accused who cannot launch a defence after the rape kit has been destroyed..."And the issue doesn’t only affect survivors. CNN reported on the case of Keith Harward, who spent 33 years in a Virginia prison after being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. Because a rape kit was kept and later tested, Harward went free."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If it hadn’t been for the rape kit, I’d probably still be in prison,” said Harward, who was serving a life sentence. “So I say [to police], ‘What are you afraid of… by holding all the rape kits?’… Would you rather somebody [who’s innocent] get executed?”

Keith Harward;


STORY: "Why Did Police Departments Throw Out Rape Kits?" published by WAMU.

GIST:  "A recent investigation revealed that in nearly 400 cases, police departments across the country have thrown away rape kits. Rape kits are the pieces of evidence collected by a nurse after a rape is reported. They take nearly four hours to compile and include physical tests and questions. They often provide crucial evidence in rape cases, but many consider the tests highly invasive — making the destruction of the kits even more galling to some survivors. These were in even in the cases when the statute of limitations had not expired, or there was no time limit to prosecute. This practice happened as recently as 2016. CNN, who reported the investigation, spoke to Kym Worthy, a prosecutor in Wayne County, Michigan. “Each one of these kits represents a victim,” she told them. “What you are doing when you destroy a rape kit is destroying the chance that they are ever going to see justice.”
In addition to cold cases, preserving and testing rape kits has the potential to help solve future crimes. Detectives investigating a rape, for example, may be able to link a suspect’s DNA to an earlier sexual assault in which DNA was uploaded to CODIS and establish a pattern of criminal behavior — something not uncommon among rapists and child molesters.
And the issue doesn’t only affect survivors. CNN reported on the case of Keith Harward, who spent 33 years in a Virginia prison after being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. Because a rape kit was kept and later tested, Harward went free. We’re talking to the reporters behind the investigation to learn how the system broke down.


Read the CNN investigative report revealing the hitherto largely ignored destruction of rape kits at the link below: "For the past several years, public attention has focused on the hundreds of thousands of kits that have languished untested. The Justice Department has awarded more than $150 million to test that backlog. But destruction of rape kits is a lesser-known and more fundamental problem: The evidence is gone. It can never be used to lock up a rapist or set free the wrongfully convicted."..."The ability to test or re-test the items in a rape kit played a role in overturning at least 195 convictions for rape, murder and other crimes since 1992, according to CNN’s analysis of data supplied by The National Registry of Exonerations. Keith Harward spent 33 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. He walked out of a Virginia prison in 2016 because a rape kit and other evidence was maintained and could be tested. That analysis not only showed he was innocent but also identified the man who committed the crime. “If it hadn’t been for the rape kit, I’d probably still be in prison,” said Harward, who was serving a life sentence. “So I say [to police], ‘What are you afraid of… by holding all the rape kits?’… Would you rather somebody [who’s innocent] get executed?”"


Read the National Registry of Exonerations entry (by Maurice Possley)  at the link below:

In the early morning hours of September 14, 1982, a man broke into a home in Newport News, Virginia and beat 30-year-old Jesse Perron to death with a crowbar. Then, over several hours, the attacker repeatedly sexually assaulted Perron’s 22-year-old wife, Teresa, leaving bite marks during the assaults. Before the attacker fled, he took $14 from Teresa’s purse.

Teresa helped police develop a composite drawing of her attacker. She told investigators that earlier in the day, she had taken her children swimming and when she drove away from the pool, a hitchhiker in a Navy uniform cursed at her. That evening, around 6 p.m., she was hanging clothes in her backyard when she saw a man watching her through the back fence. Teresa could not say that either man was the attacker, but said the man who cursed at her had a voice that sounded like the man who assaulted her.

Teresa and Jess Perron’s home was located near an entry gate to the Newport News Shipyard where the U.S.S. Carl Vinson, a recently commissioned aircraft carrier, was harbored and where Perron worked as a welder. The day after the crime was reported in the media, Donald Wade, a security guard at that gate, told police that he saw a sailor with blood spatter on his uniform enter the shipyard through the gate at about 2:30 a.m.

After being hypnotized, Wade changed the time to around 5 a.m., which was consistent with Teresa’s account of when her attacker left. Teresa also was hypnotized and for the first time said the attacker had three upside down V’s on the sleeve of his uniform and that she “associated” the hitchhiking sailor with her attacker, not just that he sounded the same. In the criminal case that ultimately followed, the prosecution did not disclose to the defense that Teresa and Wade were hypnotized and changed their accounts after hypnosis.

A police tracking dog was brought in and led officers from the Perron home through the entry gate where Wade worked and up to the pier where the Carl Vinson was docked.

Police focused their investigation on the Carl Vinson and over several months bite mark impressions were taken from hundreds of sailors on the Carl Vinson before it finally left the harbor in December 1982 with its crew of more than 1,300 men. Police had no suspects at that time.

In March 1983, 26-year-old Keith Harward, a Naval enlistee who formerly had been stationed on the Carl Vinson, was discharged from the Navy. At about the same time, his girlfriend accused him of assaulting her, including biting her during a fight.

Harward had been among those whose teeth were examined in the immediate aftermath of the investigation, but he had been ruled out as the source of the bite marks on Teresa by a civilian dental consultant working with the Newport News City medical examiner. When Harward came to court, Teresa was there, but could not identify him as the attacker.

At that point, police asked Harward to submit to a second procedure to obtain a cast of his teeth. The cast was sent to Lowell Levine, then a budding superstar in the fledgling field of bite mark analysis who had gained fame for his testimony linking bite marks to serial killer Ted Bundy and to Nazi war criminal Josef Mengele. Levine concluded that Harward was responsible for the bite marks on Teresa’s body.Police showed a photographic lineup to Wade, who selected Harward’s picture as the man who came through the security gate with a blood-spattered uniform.

On May 16, 1983, police arrested Harward on charges of capital murder, rape, robbery and burglary.

Harward went to trial in Newport News City Circuit Court and in October 1983 he was convicted of capital murder, rape, robbery, and burglary, primarily based on Wade’s identification of him in court and Levine’s conclusion that Harward’s teeth left the bite marks. Harward was sentenced to life in prison.

On appeal, the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that under Virginia’ law at that time, a rape could only elevate a homicide to capital murder if the person murdered was also the victim of the rape.

Harward went to trial a second time in March 1986. Levine testified to a “very, very, very, very high degree of probability” that Harward’s teeth made the bite marks on Teresa’s body. He told the jury that it was a “practical impossibility that someone else would have all these characteristics” that Levine found in the bite marks.”

Harward testified in his own defense and denied involvement in the crime. He showed that at the time Teresa said she saw a man staring at her in her back yard, Harward was attending a mandatory Naval alcohol and drug abuse program because he had been caught with marijuana on the ship. Harward also testified that the rank insignia on his uniform at the time of the crime consisted of three slashes, not upside the down V’s that appeared on the uniforms of higher-ranking petty officers. Harward also testified that he had a mustache at the time of the crime—but Teresa and Wade said the man they saw was clean-shaven.

Harward was convicted of murder, robbery, burglary, and rape on March 6, 1986. He was again sentenced to life in prison.

In July 2015, the Innocence Project obtained a court order for DNA testing of the physical evidence in the case. The DNA tests excluded Harward as the source of the biological evidence.

The Innocence Project’s investigation also discovered that the crime lab analyst who conducted laboratory analysis of the blood and semen recovered in the case falsely testified that Harward could not be eliminated as the source of the evidence. The analyst’s bench notes of his testing actually excluded Harward. The notes were not disclosed to Harward’s defense attorney at the time of his trials.

The DNA profile that was recovered from the crime scene evidence was identified as that of Jerry L. Crotty, another sailor on the Carl Vinson at the time of these crimes. Crotty died in prison in Ohio in 2006 where he was imprisoned for numerous crimes, including abduction and attempted burglary.

In March 2016, the Innocence Project and the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom filed a petition for a writ of actual innocence. In April, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said he believed in Harward’s innocence and joined in the petition. On April 7, the Virginia Supreme Court issued the writ of actual innocence, the convictions were dismissed and Harward was released after spending 33 years in prison.
In 2017, the Virginia Legislature approved payment of $1.6 million to Harward with a lump sum of $309,000 and the remaining $1.2 million to be used to purchase an annuity. Gov. Terry McAuliffee signed the legislation in March 2017.

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to:  Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;