Innocence Project Attorney Fights for Testing of Evidence from 1988 Rape


UPDATE: The court hearing scheduled Monday before Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Reisner has been postponed.

On Monday, Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin will ask a New Jersey Superior Court Judge to order testing of evidence in the 25-year-old case of her client, Dion Harrell. 


Harrell was convicted of rape in 1992, before DNA testing was available in the state.  He reached out to the Innocence Project in 2002, years after being released on parole. As a registered sex offender, Harrell struggled to find suitable employment and housing. He knew that testing of the evidence in his case would exclude him and possibly lead to the actual perpetrator of the crime.

Last October, the rape kit was located, along with slides containing sperm which could be tested to reveal the identity of the assailant. Unfortunately, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office will not allow the slides to be tested. According to a court filing, prosecutors say Harrell’s case does not meet the criteria for testing because he is no longer incarcerated.

“It’s incomprehensible that in 2014 in New Jersey, you have a prosecutor who refuses to have slides with sperm tested to determine if there is a wrongful conviction,’’ Potkin told the Asbury Park Press yesterday. “I’m dumbfounded.’’

Potkin hopes that at a forthcoming hearing on the case, Superior Court Judge Ronald L. Resiner will force the state to grant DNA testing to Harrell.

“Put simply, Mr. Harrell’s conviction rests entirely on a single eyewitness identification and rudimentary, outdated forensic testing which has been completely replaced by DNA analysis,” Potkin wrote in her court papers. “DNA testing is capable of excluding Mr. Harrell from the semen evidence and thereby providing unprecedented scientific proof of his innocence.”

Read the Asbury Park Press story 



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