On Jan. 31, 2008, Boland appeared before a San Francisco grand jury. She had worked for three years at the crime lab, and it was only her third appearance as an expert witness. Swearing to tell the whole truth, she presented the results of her testing: DNA matching that of Brown and Wilson was present on the two bicycles. As an afterthought, she cautioned that a mix of DNA (some of it present in such small quantities as to be useless for identification purposes) had been found on the grips — not an unexpected finding, since bikes sometimes have several users. The grand jury delivered indictments against both suspects, setting them on the path to a protracted murder trial.

What Boland did not tell the grand jury, and what she had not disclosed in the written and signed report on her analysis, might have led to a different outcome. Scrutiny of her methods and test samples would later reveal that the much of the DNA present on the bike grips came from neither Brown nor Wilson, but from a third, unidentified man. The predominance of this "major" profile could have had an impact on the murder investigation. Assuming it did not come from an incidental source (such as a police officer or storage clerk handling the evidence), the DNA sample could have implicated another murder suspect.

Boland, for reasons that have never been made entirely clear, was uninterested in this lead. Instead, she stopped short once she had partial genetic matches to the two men police believed had committed the crime. When she testified in December 2009 at the trial of Brown and Wilson (who were charged with the murder of Smith and another man, Brandon Perkins, in August 2007), she came under withering questioning. Brown's defense lawyer, Tony Tamburello, pressed her on why she had not sought a match for the major DNA source in the computerized libraries of violent felons' genetic profiles to which she had access.

“The full story — the full, true story — is still not out there,” veteran prosecutor Rockne Harmon says.
AFP/Getty Images
“The full story — the full, true story — is still not out there,” veteran prosecutor Rockne Harmon says.
According to a whistleblower, former SFPD Interim Chief Jeff Godown did not share an internal report critical of the crime lab with DOJ auditors.
© Michael Macor/San Francisco Chronicle/Corbis
According to a whistleblower, former SFPD Interim Chief Jeff Godown did not share an internal report critical of the crime lab with DOJ auditors.

It is worth noting that criticisms of Boland's methods don't hinge on a particular opinion as to the guilt of Brown and Wilson. Had Boland attempted to identify the major DNA profile, and been forthright about its presence in her report and grand jury testimony, the case against the two men might still have been strong. So long as the genetic material did not match that of another convicted criminal who could plausibly have committed the murder, it arguably would have had little impact on prosecutors' case. As it was, her failure to perform due diligence in seeking out the contributor of the major DNA profile opened her to accusations of sloppy or even deceitful work.

"It flies in the face of what would be good scientific practice," says George Sensabaugh, a forensic sciences professor at UC Berkeley. "If it were a minor DNA profile and it were background noise, you might make an argument why it should be disregarded. But if it's part of a major profile, it's very hard to see how you would not disclose that. You're supposed to account for all the data you see."

Boland did not return calls seeking comment.

In April 2010, two months after Brown and Wilson were acquitted, Tamburello wrote a letter impugning Boland's methods. He sent it to Gascón, who at the time was SFPD chief. (Gascón was appointed interim DA in January, after Harris' election as state attorney general.) Tamburello wrote:

"The failure to include the information about the unknown major male DNA contributor violates the generally accepted standards of competency regarding report writing required by the scientific community. The failure to provide a full and accurate report in compliance with objective scientific standards certainly warrants an investigation regarding the crime labs [sic] protocols. But more importantly, a person who willfully misrepresents or conceals a material fact or makes a misleading statement in violation of his or her oath to testify truthfully before a Grand Jury may additionally constitute criminal conduct warranting futher [sic] investigation."

In response to this complaint, the SFPD opened an internal affairs investigation into Boland. Last month, SFPD spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said the status of that investigation could not be disclosed because it was a personnel matter.

Following the acquittal of Brown and Wilson, Boland wrote an e-mail to Edward Blake, a Richmond-based forensic scientist who dissected her work on behalf of Brown's defense team. In the messages, she justified her conduct by saying that she had identified the major unknown DNA profile in her report and testimony as present on one of the bicycle grips. (She did not address the thrust of Blake's criticism, which was that she had not disclosed that the profile was present on all of the grips on both bicycles.) Boland also said she had decided not to search for a match for the unknown DNA contributor in the FBI's database because the testing sample did not meet standards intended to protect false matches with innocent individuals who might have deposited DNA at a crime scene.

Blake, a respected DNA expert who has done extensive work for prosecutors and defense attorneys, was unconvinced. He decided to share Boland's e-mail apologia with a veteran prosecutor in San Francisco with whom he had worked in the past: Rockne Harmon.


« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
11 comments
Alferdonito4
Alferdonito4

I ČĂŃŤ βĔĹĨĔVĔ ŤĤĨŚ!! МĔ ĂŃĎ МŶ ŚĨŚŤĔŔ ĴÚŚŤ ĞŐŤ ŤŴŐ Ĩ-РĂĎŚ ŦŐŔ $42.77 ĔĂČĤ ĂŃĎ Ă $50 ĂМĂŹŐŃ ČĂŔĎ ŦŐŔ $9. ŤĤĔ ŚŤŐŔĔŚ ŴĂŃŤ ŤŐ ĶĔĔР ŤĤĨŚ Ă ŚĔČŔĔŤ ĂŃĎ ŤĤĔŶ ĎŐŃŤ ŤĔĹĹ ŶŐÚ.ĞŐ ĤĔŔĔ, www.pluscent.com

Barbra Barr
Barbra Barr

I ČĂŃŤ βĔĹĨĔVĔ ŤĤĨŚ!! МĔ ĂŃĎ МŶ ŚĨŚŤĔŔ ĴÚŚŤ ĞŐŤ ŤŴŐ Ĩ-РĂĎŚ ŦŐŔ $42.77 ĔĂČĤ ĂŃĎ Ă $50 ĂМĂŹŐŃ ČĂŔĎ ŦŐŔ $9. ŤĤĔ ŚŤŐŔĔŚ ŴĂŃŤ ŤŐ ĶĔĔР ŤĤĨŚ Ă ŚĔČŔĔŤ ĂŃĎ ŤĤĔŶ ĎŐŃŤ ŤĔĹĹ ŶŐÚ.ĞŐ ĤĔŔĔ, www.tinyurl.com/3qa436v

Ramona Fuller
Ramona Fuller

Ĩ ČĂŃŤ βĔĹĨĔVĔ ŤĤĨŚ!! МĔ ĂŃĎ МŶ ŚĨŚŤĔŔ ĴÚŚŤ ĞŐŤ ŤŴŐ Ĩ-РĂĎŚ ŦŐŔ $42.77 ĔĂČĤ ĂŃĎ Ă $50 ĂМĂŹŐŃ ČĂŔĎ ŦŐŔ $9. ŤĤĔ ŚŤŐŔĔŚ ŴĂŃŤ ŤŐ ĶĔĔР ŤĤĨŚ Ă ŚĔČŔĔŤ ĂŃĎ ŤĤĔŶ ĎŐŃŤ ŤĔĹĹ ŶŐÚ.Go here www.tinyurl.com/3qa436v

Emma Pope
Emma Pope

Ĩ ČĂŃŤ βĔĹĨĔVĔ ŤĤĨŚ!! МĔ ĂŃĎ МŶ ŚĨŚŤĔŔ ĴÚŚŤ ĞŐŤ ŤŴŐ Ĩ-РĂĎŚ ŦŐŔ $42.77 ĔĂČĤ ĂŃĎ Ă $50 ĂМĂŹŐŃ ČĂŔĎ ŦŐŔ $9. ŤĤĔ ŚŤŐŔĔŚ ŴĂŃŤ ŤŐ ĶĔĔР ŤĤĨŚ Ă ŚĔČŔĔŤ ĂŃĎ ŤĤĔŶ ĎŐŃŤ ŤĔĹĹ ŶŐÚ.ĞŐ ĤĔŔĔ, pluscent.com

Emma Pope
Emma Pope

I CaNt bElIeVe tHiS!! Me aNd mY SiStEr jUsT GoT TwO I-PaDs fOr $42.77 EaCh aNd a $50 aMaZoN CaRd fOr $9. tHe sToReS WaNt tO KeEp tHiS A SeCrEt aNd tHeY DoNt tElL YoU.gO HeRe, pluscent.com

JanetteT
JanetteT

Not a surprise when SF city workers are involved: overpaid, lazy, and incompetent.There are about 27,000 SF city workers for 800,000 population. 40 years ago population was same and SF had 5,000 city workers. Morons hiring morons. In this dept. the employees just can't hide their incompetence.

Bev
Bev

Brilliant, article!!!! This is one of the best pieces of reporting I've seen in years, and it's a shock the major media outlets don't pick up on this. It's a great example of continued failures within the various departments of San Francisco. Often, these breakdowns occur because none other than our ongoing politicians who move from dept to dept or Board to dept. There are skeletons in everyone dept's closet. Being in the courts, and knowing all the players in this, I commend Mr. Harmon for standing up and calling it what it is: deception, unethical, you name it. In the article Mr. Harmon loudly proclaims, in case no one caught it, he'll turn over everything if Subpoenaed. Jeff Adachi, are you hearing his underlying "hint hint?" Unfortunately, this cannot be investigated by the Atty General's Office as Kamela is Attorney General; and I continue to hear she is non-responsive to Law Enforcement conference invites around the state regarding vital practices and policies. Expected, consider the track record here in SF. If I was the accrediting board from back east, I'd move to have this investigated by the FBI. There are some I suspect are going to have sleepless nights as this is just the tip of the ice berg.

Scientific Fire
Scientific Fire

The "accrediting board back east" could care less. They are part of the problem.

Clyde
Clyde

no surprise one more reason not to vote for Gascon as DA

SkV
SkV

Actually, this was under Kamela's watch.

Cheryl Meril
Cheryl Meril

It's a corrupt legal system, what do you expect? They're nothing more than a business enterprise out to protect their own interests.

 
©2014 SF Weekly, LP, All rights reserved.
Loading...