DNA Testing Sought in Tyrone’s Case

For years, Tyrone has fought to have DNA testing performed on a cigarette butt found by police investigators at the crime scene. DNA testing of this evidence could help identify the true perpetrator in Tyrone’s case.

A primitive form of DNA testing known as DQ Alpha testing was conducted on the cigarette butt and compared against Tyrone, Butch Wolcott, Joey Dalesandro, and Gary St. Clair, at the time of trial. That testing excluded Tyrone and the other youths and proves that none of them smoked the cigarette. [link to test results of Tyrone and co-defendants]

However, unbeknownst to Tyrone and his trial attorneys, authorities also tested the cigarette butt against Daniel Wilson through secretor/non-secretor testing Wilson was an alternative suspect who lived in the area and was executed in June 2009 for the murder of an Ohio college student [link to alternative suspect page]. This test failed to exclude Wilson as the cigarette smoker. [link to Wilson test results] Tyrone’s attorneys learned of Wilson’s foster brother’s 1990 assertion that his brother killed the Hartigs, [link to Chesley notes] another piece of evidence that went undisclosed at trial to Tyrone’s defense team. Today, Chesley continues to assert it was Wilson who killed the Hartigs [link to R. Brett article].

Advances in DNA Testing and Known Offender Databases
Warrant Additional DNA Testing in Tyrone’s Case

In 1992, the year the original DNA testing was conducted on Tyrone and Butch, Joey, and Gary, only two types of DNA testing were available: one that detected fragments of DNA (RFLP) and a second method that identified a different, small and specific section of DNA known as DQ Alpha. DQ Alpha analysis required less DNA but still could not identify one person to the exclusion of all other people. In other words, these earlier and more primitive tests could rule someone out as the perpetrator [as the testing did for Tyrone], but could not definitively identify an individual perpetrator. The secretor/non-secretor testing conducted on Wilson had even more-limited capabilities.

In the years since Tyrone’s trial, there have been great strides in DNA testing technology. For example, STR DNA testing is now commonly used because of its ability to identify one individual or perpetrator to the exclusion of all others. It was the development of this STR DNA technology that led the FBI to develop what is known as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) database.

The CODIS database is a national database of DNA contributions that laboratories (federal, state, and local) have the ability to access in order upload and compare DNA samples. CODIS is made up of DNA profiles from convicted offenders and certain arrestees [each state has its own guidelines for whose DNA profiles get submitted to CODIS]. CODIS commonly aids in solving cold cases and crimes that cross state lines. Of the 289 cases where a wrongfully incarcerated individual has been exonerated by DNA testing, the real perpetrator has been found in 136 of these cases. CODIS plays an instrumental role in identifying the real perpetrator and bringing closure to victims in cases sometimes decades old. For more information on CODIS, please visit http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/codis.

Upon discovering the evidence relating to Daniel Wilson (whose DNA is in CODIS) and with full awareness of the advances in DNA technology, Tyrone asked the Ohio courts to utilize the more sophisticated DNA technology available to test the cigarette butt found at the Hartig scene and to obtain a CODIS run of those results.

Despite support by then-Ohio Governor Ted Strickland and then-Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray [link to letter], to date, Tyrone’s efforts to obtain DNA testing have been rejected by the Ohio courts. While the DNA testing is an important step in trying to resolve the troubling doubts in this case, the courts should grant a new trial in order to consider the totality of evidence pointing to Tyrone’s innocence. The details of Tyrone’s efforts to obtain DNA testing of this important evidence can be found here [link to case history page].

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