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DNA in '88 killing doesn't match that of convicted man

Old 03-08-06, 07:51 AM
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DNA in '88 killing doesn't match that of convicted man

This is a great argument against the death penbalty.

It looks like the prosecutors deliberatly and knowingly sent an innocent person to jail. If they did, then I think the prosecutors should get life in jail with no possibility of parole.

http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06066/666321.stm

DNA in '88 killing doesn't match that of convicted man

After serving 18 years for murder at McDonald's, inmate could be exonerated by new tests on hairs

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

By Bill Moushey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

DNA testing has raised doubts about the conviction of Drew Whitley, who has served nearly 18 years of a life sentence for the 1988 murder of restaurant manager Noreen Malloy at the McDonald's near Kennywood Park.

Six hairs found in a stocking mask believed worn by the killer contain DNA that do not match Mr. Whitley's
, according to a report received last week by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. The report was provided over the weekend to Mr. Whitley's attorney, Scott Coffey.

Mr. Whitley has professed his innocence but was convicted on the word of two witnesses and expert testimony that his hair was similar to strands found in the killer's clothing and mask.

Mr. Zappala, who was not in office when Mr. Whitley was tried, agreed in September to have the hairs re-examined after a DNA test in an unrelated case exonerated an Allegheny County man who had spent nearly 20 years in prison for rape.

It is up to the courts to decide whether to order a new trial for Mr. Whitley, set him free or make him serve out his life sentence.

Mr. Zappala said yesterday said that he has asked his staff to review all aspects of the Whitley case, and he cautioned that it is more complicated than the rape case against Thomas Doswell, who was freed last August after DNA tests showed that he could not have committed the crime.

"These were the key pieces of evidence against him; that's the reason he was convicted," Mr. Coffey said. "To me, it clearly means he didn't commit this homicide. I believe this does prove him innocent. ... At the trial, the hair was the most important evidence against him. The prosecution hammered that home."

Mr. Doswell was the first person in Allegheny County to be released because of post-conviction DNA testing. More than 160 have been released nationwide.

Mr. Zappala has directed his staff to review the transcript of Mr. Whitley's trial in light of the new DNA evidence to see whether he probably would have been convicted anyway.

"The fair thing to do is evaluate all of these things in the context of how they were presented in court and after," he said. The review should take about a week.

Mr. Coffey said yesterday that if Mr. Zappala supports Mr. Whitley's release, he will file an appeal with Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Walter Little, requesting that all charges be dropped or that his client get a new trial.

Mr. Whitley has tried repeatedly to prove his innocence since he was sentenced to life in prison by Judge Little in 1989.

"I know you know in your heart that I did not commit this crime. I am being railroaded," Mr. Whitley said at the time, as his loved ones and Ms. Malloy's family watched.

When Mr. Whitley learned about DNA testing in the early 1990s, he began to petition to have tests done on 41 hair samples from what were believed to be the killer's nylon stocking mask, trench coat, gloves and hat, which had been left at the crime scene.

Judge Little approved the tests in 1996, but Allegheny County police said all but two of the samples had been lost in a Downtown flood. Those two, they said, had been destroyed during failed efforts to extract DNA from them.

It was not until 2004 that police came across the old evidence, which prompted Mr. Coffey to request DNA tests again.

Mr. Zappala's office initially opposed the tests, arguing that even if Mr. Whitley's DNA did not match the hair samples, the testimony of two witnesses was enough to convict him. But last year, after Judge Little approved the tests for a second time, and after Mr. Doswell had been exonerated in the rape case, Mr. Zappala chose not to appeal and let the tests go forward.

Mr. Zappala said yesterday that only six of the 39 remaining hairs from the crime scene could be tested because the specimens, now 18 years old, were in bad condition.

One reason Mr. Zappala ordered a review of the entire case is that if the hair evidence no longer points to Mr. Whitley and no new witnesses emerge, a retrial would hinge on the testimony of Jerome Wilson and Gary Starr.

Mr. Wilson was beginning his second night on the job unloading trucks at McDonald's when Ms. Malloy was killed as she and other employees were leaving the restaurant. According to a police report, an hour after the killing he said he had looked directly at the assailant from a distance of three feet but could not identify him.

Twenty-six hours later, after repeated police interrogations, Mr. Wilson fingered Mr. Whitley but could not keep straight whether the killer wielded the gun in his right or left hand, whether his coat was long or short, whether his hat was straw or felt, or whether he was wearing gloves or not.

Mr. Wilson's identification prompted police to charge Mr. Whitley, who claimed he was home alone the night of the murder.

Six months later, Mr. Starr, a double-murderer then on death row, told police Mr. Whitley confessed to the murder at the State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh, which is now closed.

Mr. Whitley has produced prison records showing that he was never confined near Mr. Starr.

Mr. Starr testified that prosecutors offered him nothing in exchange for his testimony, but within a year of Mr. Whitley's trial, his death sentence was reduced to life in prison.


Mr. Whitley has said he never met Mr. Wilson or Mr. Starr.

Mr. Coffey said yesterday that he had mailed the latest DNA findings to Mr. Whitley, who is confined at the State Correctional Institution Greensburg, and was trying to contact him by telephone to tell him about the results.
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Old 03-08-06, 07:59 AM
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In before the first "you can't make an omelete without breaking a few eggs" post.
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Old 03-08-06, 08:01 AM
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In before this thread is moved to the proper forum.
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Old 03-08-06, 08:43 AM
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In before the "If we had just killed him 17 years ago we wouldn't have to be spending time on this crap" post.
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Old 03-08-06, 12:38 PM
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Originally Posted by classicman2
In before this thread is moved to the proper forum.
There are other forums here?
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Old 03-08-06, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by grundle
This is a great argument against the death penbalty.
Since the guy didn't even get the death penalty, not sure why this would make a great argument against it. Maybe this would make a great argument against life in prison?
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Old 03-08-06, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by cpgator
Since the guy didn't even get the death penalty, not sure why this would make a great argument against it.
Because many people want "criminals" like Mr. Whitley executed.
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Old 03-08-06, 01:13 PM
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Suppose a guy dies in prison while serving a life sentence, only for his family to find out 5 years later he was innocent.

D'oh. Guess we better stop convicting people at all.

It's the only way to be sure.
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Old 03-08-06, 01:20 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Suppose a guy dies in prison while serving a life sentence, only for his family to find out 5 years later he was innocent.

D'oh. Guess we better stop convicting people at all.

It's the only way to be sure.
And since some patients die on the operating table we might as well cease all medical procedures.
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Old 03-08-06, 01:22 PM
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No, silly. Just stop operating on tables. Do it on the floors.
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Old 03-08-06, 01:31 PM
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After serving 18 years for murder at McDonald's, inmate could be exonerated by new tests on hairs
In most states, they make you serve in a prison. I guess this is capital punishment by cornoary disease.
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Old 03-08-06, 01:59 PM
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Don't blame teh Prison. Blame teh cafeteria food.
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Old 03-08-06, 02:01 PM
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Originally Posted by grundle
It looks like the prosecutors deliberatly and knowingly sent an innocent person to jail.
I think that's a bit of a stretch.
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Old 03-08-06, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
I think that's a bit of a stretch.
Are you saying it was an accident?
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Old 03-08-06, 02:13 PM
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Considering how retarded our criminal justice system is...yes, I'd be more inclined to think it was gross negligence or plain stupidity.
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Old 03-08-06, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by DVD Polizei
Considering how retarded our criminal justice system is...yes, I'd be more inclined to think it was gross negligence or plain stupidity.
The article also states he was convicted by the word of two witnesses. I don't think there's gross negligence or stupidity going on at all. It's two witnesses that think they saw him, and "expert testimony that his hair was similar to strands found in the killer's clothing and mask" which it very well may have been. Perhaps the jury screwed up (and of course we've NEVER seen that happen) but with what they were presented with I can't fault them either.

In fact, reguardless of this latest finding, it doesn't mean he is not the killer. He quite likely probably is.
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Old 03-08-06, 03:54 PM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
In fact, reguardless of this latest finding, it doesn't mean he is not the killer. He quite likely probably is.
That is a bizarre conclusion. There's only three things tying him to the crime -- an eyewitness that could not identify Whitley until after the police spent 26 hours persuading him that he could; a convicted killer who was never near Whitley, didn't know Whitley, and had everything to gain by making up a jailhouse "confession" -- and the hair samples which, it turns out, did not belong to Mr. Whitley at all.

So on what do you base your claim that he "probably is" the killer? Our infallible system of justice?
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Old 03-08-06, 04:02 PM
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Originally Posted by NCMojo
That is a bizarre conclusion. There's only three things tying him to the crime -- an eyewitness that could not identify Whitley until after the police spent 26 hours persuading him that he could; a convicted killer who was never near Whitley, didn't know Whitley, and had everything to gain by making up a jailhouse "confession" -- and the hair samples which, it turns out, did not belong to Mr. Whitley at all.

So on what do you base your claim that he "probably is" the killer? Our infallible system of justice?
Similar shaky evidence presented to General Zod for the Tookie Williams case was quickly dismissed and he concluded the case was "a slam dunk". I see a trend.
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Old 03-08-06, 04:11 PM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
The article also states he was convicted by the word of two witnesses. I don't think there's gross negligence or stupidity going on at all. It's two witnesses that think they saw him, and "expert testimony that his hair was similar to strands found in the killer's clothing and mask" which it very well may have been. Perhaps the jury screwed up (and of course we've NEVER seen that happen) but with what they were presented with I can't fault them either.

In fact, reguardless of this latest finding, it doesn't mean he is not the killer. He quite likely probably is.
Wow. Now, all I know of this case (and presumably all you know of this case) is this article. If this article displays correct facts (which admittedly neither of us know), you either have a remarkable inability to read or an extraordinarily distorted sense of what is right and wrong. Or you don't believe the article, which is fine, but you don't say that, you seem to accept the article's facts.
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Old 03-08-06, 04:24 PM
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Here's a story with some more details about the case.

How it went down:
The events that left a bright 22-year-old woman dead and Drew Whitley's life forever changed began on a summer night in 1988 when Noreen Malloy and her late-night staff at the McDonald's restaurant near Kennywood Park finished cleaning up at 2:45 a.m.

Ms. Malloy sent one employee to the parking lot to make sure it was safe for the others to leave. Jerome Wilson, who had worked at the restaurant for two days, was waiting outside the back door to start his 3 a.m. shift.

As the employees emerged from the building, a tall, black man wearing a beige trench coat, a dark nylon stocking mask and a felt hat darted from a stairwell holding a gun and shouting, "Don't move!"

He grabbed Ms. Malloy by the neck, demanding the "money bag."

"I don't have a bag," the frightened woman cried. The gunman fired into the air, causing the others to flee.

She pushed herself away and tried to get into her car. The gunman shot her in the back, grabbed her purse and fled through the vast Kennywood parking lot, leaving Ms. Malloy dead.

In the parking lot, police found the hat, the coat and the mask, all loaded with fragments of hair. They also found two .25-caliber shell casings, a tennis shoe footprint and two Newport cigarette butts.

None of the witnesses could identify the killer.
The hair evidence used at trial:
Dorothy Menges, then a criminalist with the Allegheny County Crime Lab, testified that hairs from the crime scene had "many, many overlapping characteristics" to those of Mr. Whitley, but under questioning from Judge Walter Little, she backed off:

"You can't say hair came from Whitley?" the judge asked.

"No," replied the crime lab manager. She also acknowledged that saliva from two Newport Light butts found at the scene did not match Mr. Whitley's, nor did saliva taken from the killer's stocking mask.

During closing arguments, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Radoycis pointed to the hairs in the mask and hat as strong evidence of Mr. Whitley's guilt. Mr. Whitley's attorney told the jury that the hair evidence was obviously inconclusive and that no physical evidence linked Mr. Whitley to the crime.
Other evidence
One piece of evidence which damaged Mr. Whitley's case was a speck of blood found on one of his tennis shoes which was of the same type as Ms. Malloy's. Mr. Whitley said the blood came from a cut his son had suffered the previous day, and it has never been tested further.
The article doesn't say whether Whitley's tennis shoe with the blood matched the print found at the scene. I assume they can't test the blood found on the shoe. If it matched the victim it would be slam dunk. Having the hairs not match the defendant doesn't really exonerate him like a rape case semen mismatch.

EDIT: I should add that the article linked and quoted was written by the director of the Innocence Institute, so the neutrality is in question. It has more details than the original article, but I doubt it provides the whole picture.

Last edited by wmansir; 03-08-06 at 04:28 PM.
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Old 03-08-06, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by LurkerDan
Wow. Now, all I know of this case (and presumably all you know of this case) is this article. If this article displays correct facts (which admittedly neither of us know), you either have a remarkable inability to read or an extraordinarily distorted sense of what is right and wrong. Or you don't believe the article, which is fine, but you don't say that, you seem to accept the article's facts.
Hey not so fast guys.. I don't arbritrarily browbeat articles without doing a little reasearch.

I think what I failed to mention is that the author, Bill Moushey, is the executive director for the Innocence Institute of Western Pennsylvania. I have little doubt that this article was written in a slanted manner to raise questions about the witnesses, facts, etc when there probably aren't questions at all. Perhaps the hair didn't match, but at as it stated in the article "Mr. Zappala's office initially opposed the tests, arguing that even if Mr. Whitley's DNA did not match the hair samples, the testimony of two witnesses was enough to convict him." - which is the point i'm trying to make. In lots of cases the word of two witnesses are enough, the hair evidence was just additional evidence.
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Old 03-08-06, 04:32 PM
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Originally Posted by eXcentris
Similar shaky evidence presented to General Zod for the Tookie Williams case was quickly dismissed and he concluded the case was "a slam dunk". I see a trend.
And I was right
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Old 03-08-06, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by Groucho
I think that's a bit of a stretch.
I bolded the part of the article that talks about the two "witnesses."
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Old 03-08-06, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
The article also states he was convicted by the word of two witnesses. I don't think there's gross negligence or stupidity going on at all. It's two witnesses that think they saw him,
The testimoney of the two "witnesses" was bogus. I bodled that part of the article.

Originally Posted by General Zod
and "expert testimony that his hair was similar to strands found in the killer's clothing and mask" which it very well may have been.
Without DNA evidence, there were millions of people with hair that could have been similar.
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Old 03-09-06, 03:37 AM
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Originally Posted by General Zod
In fact, reguardless of this latest finding, it doesn't mean he is not the killer. He quite likely probably is.
This is exactly why I oppose the death penalty 90% of the time.

"Quite likely probably" isn't good enough to execute someone. And unfortunately this is another good example of the reliability and accuracy of the justice system.
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