On July 14, 1990, the thirty-seven year old victim was walking home from a convenience store when she was approached from behind. The assailant put one hand on her throat, one on her waist, and forced her to walk with him. The assailant stabbed her in the side as they were walking and she became unconscious.
When she woke up, they were walking to bushes near an apartment complex, where he sexually assaulted her repeatedly. Dale Brison was convicted of this rape, kidnapping, aggravated assault, carrying a prohibited offensive weapon, and three counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse. Brison was sentenced to eighteen to forty-two years of imprisonment. During the trial, Brison’s request for DNA testing was denied.
The victim had provided police and prosecutors with separate identifications of Brison near her apartment building. A hair sample from the scene of the crime was deemed consistent with Brison’s. Because there is not adequate empirical data on the frequency of various class characteristics in human hair, however, an analyst’s assertion that hairs are consistent is inherently prejudicial and lacks probative value. Brison presented an alibi defense, which was corroborated at trial by his mother.
In 1992, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that DNA testing must be performed if evidence had been maintained and the semen stain from the victim’s underwear was not too degraded. The cost of the test was placed upon the Commonwealth.
The laboratory reported that no result could be found from the vaginal swab, but testing on the spermatozoa found in the semen stain on the victim’s underwear provided results that exculpated Brison. The district attorney’s office performed the same tests and came up with the same results.
Brison was released after serving three and a half years of his sentence.
Charge: Rape, Kidnapping, Aggravated Assault, Carrying Weapon, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse
Conviction: Rape, Kidnapping, Aggravated Assault, Carrying Weapon, Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse (3 cts.)
Sentence: 18 to 42 years
Incident Date: 07/14/1990
Conviction Date: 06/05/1991
Exoneration Date: 01/14/1994
Accused Pleaded Guilty: No
Contributing Causes of Conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification, Government Misconduct, Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
Death Penalty Case: No
Race of Defendant: African American
Race of Victim: Caucasian
Status: Exonerated by DNA
Forensic Science at Issue: Hair Analysis