A New York judge threw out the 1995 murder conviction of Sammy Swift yesterday based on DNA results showing that blood from the crime scene did not come from Swift. At Swift’s trial, prosecutors pointed repeatedly to blood-type tests that included Swift – and a huge percentage of the population – among the people who could have potentially contributed blood found at the scene. Traditional ABO blood tests were a predecessor of DNA testing in courtrooms across the country, and this limited science played a part in dozens of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing. Blood found at the victim’s house in Swift’s case could have come from someone with type-A blood or type-O blood. More than 60 percent of Americans have one of these blood types, but prosecutors pointed to the test results as evidence confirming Swift’s guilt.
Now DNA testing on the same evidence has shown that the blood at the scene did not come from Swift. Cayuga County Judge Thomas Leone announced his ruling yesterday, saying there was “a reasonable probability the verdict would have been more favorable to the defendant” had jurors known the DNA results. Swift now faces the prospect of a new trial if prosecutors decide to pursue it.
This is the second Cayuga County conviction overturned by DNA testing in 18 months. Innocence Project client Roy Brown was exonerated in 2007 after DNA tests proved his innocence of the murder for which he was in prison.
Roy Brown said he and Swift knew each other – they were both at Elmira Correctional Facility at the same time – and he shared information with Swift about filing appeals. Brown said he was glad Swift will get a new trial and said someone should look at how the system works.
"If you look at it, it's the same sheriff, Peter Pinckney. It's the same judge, Peter Corning. It's the same cabal," Brown said. "They need to look at every single case they prosecuted."
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. (Syracuse Post-Standard, 06/20/08)