How To Save Face And Save A Wrongful Conviction
by Fred Grimm
Miami Herald Columnist
Edward Blake, a pioneer in DNA forensic analysis, was seething on Friday. His renowned California lab, Forensic Science Associates, had obtained a genetic profile from the biological evidence of a brutal 1982 rape and murder in Miramar. The DNA did not match the man sent off to prison on a life sentence.
Prosecutor, Carolyn McCann, was making public statements that the Broward State Attorney was interested in righting the terrible injustice that sent Anthony Caravella to prison. She announced that she would have no objection to a supervised release of Caravella, while he waited the outcome of an appeal.
But her less public statements were not so high minded. On Thursday, McCann had fired off an e-mail to Blake with a long list of demands that made it clear that she was planning to attempt to undermine Blake’s credibility. He was outraged. He called her e-mail an “onerous, ridiculous concocted discovery demand.”
Blake fired off an e-mail to Broward Assistant Public Defender Diane Cuddihy. “It is unfortunate that MS. McCann views her prosecutorial duties to "seek the truth" by employing her laboratory bureaucrats to concoct preposterous demands rather than seeking legitimate scientific peer review of our work. I hope that this style of prosecutorial corruption is not typical of your jurisdiction.”
Blake’s extraction of a DNA profile from the biological evidence not only undermined yet another shoddy conviction by the Broward State Attorney’s Office, but the lab work raised questions about the Broward Sheriff’s own forensic lab. In 2001, the sheriff’s lab looked at the DNA and, mysteriously, found nothing. And Anthony Caravella stayed in prison another eight years.
Going after Blake’s credibility probably has more to do with salvaging the reputation of the Broward State Attorney and the Broward Sheriff’s lab than finding justice for that 1983 murder.
It’s not likely to work. A few weeks ago, in a similar case in Ohio, in which the prosecution attempted to undermine his credibility, U.S. District Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled that Blake’s credentials "appear to be unimpeachable.”
Blake considerable fame has to do with the high profile DNA cases in which wrongfully convicted men were freed from prison, many after serving long prison sentences. Including work with the Innocence Project. But he has performed more than twice as much work over the years for prosecutors, confirming the forensic evidence that points to guilt. And his objectivity does not hinge who which sides pays him. Consider this case that bubbled up again in an appeals court in May. Kevin Cooper, a California killer who escaped from prison back in 1982, broke into a house and killed a man and wife and two children, had hired Blake to clear his name. Blake found, instead, damning DNA evidence. Cooper’s appeal on his murder conviction was denied.
But Blake has long been the bane of incompetent police labs. Attacking his credentials to protect shoddy and unethical work has been a common tactic. But it didn’t work in Illinois or Virginia or other jurisdictions that tolerated bad science. And it won’t work in Broward.