Chronicle Telegram

Convict's attorneys argue for rape kit slides

October 1, 2008

ELYRIA — Prosecutors don’t seem to be interested in whether convicted killer Clarence Weaver has been wrongly imprisoned for the 1991 murder of his wife, Weaver’s attorneys wrote in court documents filed Monday.

“The state is more interested in maintaining a questionable conviction than it is in considering the idea that perhaps an injustice occurred in this case,” wrote Jennifer Bergeron, one of Weaver’s attorneys from the Ohio Innocence Project.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will called the accusation “nonsense.”

Bergeron said prosecutors seem determined to derail Weaver’s efforts to have DNA testing conducted on evidence from his case that the Innocence Project says may cast doubt on whether Weaver strangled his wife in the couple’s Elyria apartment. Weaver has always maintained his innocence.

Bergeron has asked Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge to order the state to allow slides from a rape kit taken during Helen Weaver’s autopsy and an electrical cord she may have been strangled with to be tested for DNA evidence.

Prosecutors have said that the evidence wouldn’t prove anything because Weaver, now 73, was never charged with sexually assaulting his wife, and that the evidence may have been contaminated since it was collected.

The original rape kit was destroyed by Elyria police in 1995, even though the department’s policy is to keep evidence in murder cases until the suspect dies. Weaver was still appealing his 1994 conviction when the rape kit was destroyed.

Prosecutors also have said that tests performed in 1991 showed no evidence of semen or other trace evidence in the rape kit, and new tests aren’t likely to come up with a different result.

Weaver’s attorneys, however, argue that advances in DNA testing since 1991 could show semen or biological material that was missed and possibly identify another suspect.

One possible suspect raised by Weaver’s attorneys, the Weaver’s former neighbor, Gilbert Glass Jr., is in prison after being convicted in a sexual assault with similarities to the attack on Helen Weaver.

In Monday’s court filing, Bergeron wrote that the presence of another person’s DNA at the scene could be enough to cast doubt on Weaver’s conviction.

Bergeron also had hoped to test other evidence from the case, including a water bottle and a blood-stained piece of carpet, but those pieces of evidence can’t be found.

Will said he was open to working out an arrangement to allow some of the evidence in the case to be tested, but the Innocence Project didn’t seem willing to make any concessions.

Will said he doesn’t believe testing the evidence will change anything.

“There’s nothing they’ve show to me that would be outcome-determinative,” Will said.

Bergeron said she had been open to discussing the case with Will, but a planned conference call to discuss the case never materialized.

She said prosecutors don’t seem inclined to go through with the testing, even though a private company would perform the testing for free, and if nothing came of the testing Weaver would remain in prison.

“The fact that they opposed it in the first place says a lot,” Bergeron said.

Weaver’s first parole hearing is set for November 2009.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

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