November 24, 2006

Man convicted on DNA evidence


BARBADOS – HIGH-TECH DNA INVESTIGATIONS used for the first time here condemned a man yesterday in a murder that baffled police for more than a year.

Clyde Anderson Grazettes’ conviction in 40 minutes was sealed using the revolutionary crime-fighting DNA technology – often seen in the Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) TV series – which pointed to him after Roseanna Griffith’s badly bruised body was found in a track yards from her home on May 20, 2001.{{more}}

She was on her back with her underwear tied around the neck, her blouse raised above her breasts and her tights torn.

There were no witnesses and Griffith’s death was about to become a cold case. DNA revived it a year later when samples from several suspects, including Grazettes, a 42-year-old self-employed carpenter, came back from the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) in the United States. Results showed the anal and vaginal smears of blood and semen taken from Griffith were a match for the blood sample Grazettes volunteered.

The courtroom battle was a showdown between Jennifer Luttman, a DNA scientist with the much revered FBI, appearing for the prosecution, and the last-minute acquistion by the defence of Moses Scanfield, a professor of forensic science at George Washington University, Washington DC, paid for by Government.

Counsel Keith Simmons and Arthur Holder had tried to have the two-week-long case stopped in order to get Scanfield, but that was refused while the state consented to pay $2 000 plus accommodation for the expert. Scanfield questioned the labelling of the samples but conceded he could not refute Luttman’s conclusion that Grazettes’ sample matched the smears.

Tuesday at 12:45 p.m., Grazettes was given the only penalty for murder, death by hanging, ordered by Justice Jacqueline Cornelius presiding in Supreme Court No. 4 in her first criminal case.

Grazettes said “nothing” when asked if he had anything to say before sentence and was bundled into a waiting police vehicle by prison warders bound for Harrison Point.

Prosecutors, Deputy Director of Public Prosecutions Donna Babb-Agard and Senior Crown Counsel Alliston Seale, built their case on the highly respected DNA science that has worked both to convict and exonerate accused. DNA – the abbreviation for the genetic material deoxyribonucleic acid – is as unique to a person as a fingerprint. The nucleus of virtually every human cell contains 46 chromosomes made of DNA.

Babb-Agard admitted that without the use of the fact-based DNA, the case would have remained unsolved since there were no eyewitnesses.

Griffith, a former St Lucy Secondary School student, was running an errand for her mother at the nearby Carlton Supermarket along with her two younger sisters and a friend on the night of May 19, 2001. She left the supermarket ahead of the others and was found next day in a track in St Stephen’s Hill, Black Rock, St Michael.

Police originally picked up Grazettes soon after the crime but released him only to arrest him after May 8, 2002, when the results came back.

Throughout the trial Grazettes maintained that he did not come into contact with the teenager, neither did he murder her. (Nation Newspaper)