The D.C. Court of Appeals has overturned the convictions of a man who had been found guilty of raping a woman in her Northeast apartment building.
Robert C. Young was linked to the violent 2006 attack by DNA evidence. But the appeals court ordered a new trial because one of Young's constitutional rights was violated by an expert's testimony about the evidence.
On Oct. 11, 2006, a 19-year-old woman was followed into her apartment building and grabbed from behind as she was about to enter her unit. Her attacker dragged her to the basement of the building, where he sexually assaulted her, prosecutors said.
After the attack, the woman was then taken to a hospital, where a nurse examined her and took swabs from her body. A team of scientists at an FBI lab in Quantico developed a DNA profile of the woman's attacker based on the swabs and entered the information into a database.
In November 2007, a search of databases found that Young -- who had been required to provide a DNA sample when he was convicted of burglary in 1985 -- matched the DNA profile of the attacker. In 2009, D.C. police obtained another tissue sample from Young, and scientists determined that the DNA profile from that sample matched the DNA of the attacker.
During Young's trial, FBI examiner Rhonda Craig testified that she had compared the DNA profiles of Young's 2009 sample and the attacker and found them to be a match.
Craig supervised scientists at the lab, but she did not personally perform the testing and computer analysis that generated the DNA profiles that she was comparing. She also did not claim to have witnessed the testing. None of the scientists who were involved in preparing the DNA profiles testified.
The Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of a criminal defendant to confront the witnesses against him. The appeals court ruled that this right of Young's was violated when D.C Superior Court Judge Herbert Dixon allowed prosecutors to have Craig testify about the DNA match without also having testimony from scientists whose work formed the basis for Craig's testimony.
Craig's testimony was considered hearsay that should have been barred because "she admittedly relied throughout her testimony ... on the documentation, testing and analysis written or produced by other employees of the FBI laboratory in connection with this particular case."