Innocence Project client Stephen Brooks was convicted of rape in 1987 and has maintained his innocence ever since. After 22 years in New Jersey prisons, he will soon be eligible for parole and continues to appeal his conviction on the grounds that DNA evidence was never tested and would prove his innocence.
The victim testified at his trial, but physical evidence was never presented, and he was ultimately sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Brooks asked for testing on the DNA evidence samples one year after his conviction. Police said the rape kit and physical evidence had been lost, but Brooks and the Innocence Project continue to search.
A feature story Sunday in the Newark Star-Ledger traced the evidence search:
The State Police, which had returned evidence to East Orange after the trial, kept partial specimens until 1998 before sending those back.
That evidence is also gone, East Orange police said. After the court-ordered search of the department's station house and storage areas, Sgt. Frank Michetti wrote he had "not been able to locate any evidence relating to this matter." The evidence, police believe, was destroyed when headquarters flooded in 2004.
Potkin [Brooks’ attorney at the Innocence Project] wants the prosecutor's office to conduct a similar search because "there's no proof" it has done so. A court date to hear that request has not been scheduled.
The chief assistant prosecutor has said the office may have a receipt showing that the evidence was received by the police department, but it has yet to be found.
And although Brooks concedes the unlikelihood that evidence will be produced, he still wants a chance to prove his innocence.
Read the full story here
. (Newark Star-Ledger, 01/03/10)