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Opinion Date: 08/16/2012
e-Journal Date: 09/11/2012
Full Text Opinion

Practice Area(s):   Criminal Law

Issues: Whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying the defendant's request for a DNA expert; People v. Lueth; People v. Carnicom; Due process; People v. Leonard; People v. Tanner
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: People v. Webb
e-Journal Number: 52473
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Talbot, Wilder, and Riordan

The court held that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the defendant's request for a DNA expert. Thus, the court reversed and remanded. S returned home after an evening away. Upon entering his house, S immediately noticed that it had been ransacked, there were blood drops on the floor, a living room window broken, and the safe had been pried open. The safe's entire contents of a wedding ring set, 5 long guns, and $1,600 cash were missing. He called the police who arrived and collected a sample of the blood from the kitchen floor. The blood sample was then run through CODIS, the nationwide law enforcement DNA database, and resulted in a match to defendant's DNA profile that was in the system for an unrelated matter. Pursuant to a search warrant, the police collected another DNA sample from defendant, which corroborated the first DNA test. The DNA expert testified that there were astronomical odds that the blood from the kitchen floor would have come from anyone other than defendant. The DNA evidence was the only evidence linking defendant to the crime. Before trial, defendant requested the appointment of a DNA expert witness, which the trial court denied. The court held that the only evidence linking defendant to the crime was the DNA evidence. Thus, there was a nexus between the facts of the case and the need for a DNA expert, since the DNA evidence was the only evidence the prosecutor presented that defendant was guilty of the charged crime. Without the ability to have an independent DNA expert examine the blood samples, defendant was deprived of an opportunity to present a defense to the charged crimes. "[F]undamental fairness requires that the state not deny [indigents] an adequate opportunity to present their claims fairly within the adversary system." In spite of this concern for fundamental fairness, the trial court failed to articulate any reasons justifying the denial of defendant's request for an independent DNA expert.

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