Monday Oct 06 2008
Inconclusive DNA tests questioned at trial
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
Defense, prosecution debate over condition of car involved in fatal wreck
The lack of testable DNA samples was called into question as the trial for an Auburn man accused or murder continued Monday. Defense attorney Clyde Blackmon called forward his rebuttal witnesses including two criminalists who tested blood and DNA samples from the 2004 Infiniti G35 that was wrecked in a June 3, 2006 solo-vehicle accident. The accident resulted in the death of Auburn’s Stewart Shapton, 20. Shapton’s close friend, William “Billy” Moon, 23, is accused of driving the car at the time of the accident. He is charged with second-degree murder and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Moon has pleaded not guilty. Kenton Wong, a senior forensic scientist for Forensic Analytical Services in Hayward, testified about his one-time examination of the vehicle in June 2007. Wong’s company conducts forensic lab tests for prosecutors, defense attorneys and insurance companies. Wong said he took several cotton swab samples of portions of the vehicle, including a blood drop stain found on the steering wheel column. The sample tentatively tested positive for blood and was taken back to the company’s laboratory. There, Eleanor Salmon, a forensic scientist for Forensic Analytical Services, said she conducted a DNA analysis of the sample. Salmon said the test did not produce any DNA from the sample “The quantity of DNA was too low to detect or too degraded over time so it was unusable,” Salmon said. When asked by Blackmon what could’ve led to that result, Salmon said chemicals, heat, humidity or ultraviolet radiation as reasons for DNA damage. Blackmon’s questioning implied that potential evidence was damaged because the vehicle was left outdoors. During cross examination prosecutor Stephanie Macumber asked whether Salmon had been asked to test other items given to the company by the defense attorneys including airbags from the driver’s and passenger’s sides, seatbelts and swabs from the brake pedal, accelerator pedal, metal pillars on the driver’s side of the car and a piece of metal protruding into the driver’s side foot well. Those areas, however, did not have visible signs of blood, Wong had testified earlier. Salmon said she had only received the swabs from the steering column. One issue raised by both the prosecution and defense was the condition of the car while it remained in the district attorney’s impound lot since Sept. 5, 2006. The car sat outside, but covered the prosecution contended. Still, questions continually arose about how witnesses and defense experts found the car upon arrival. Macumber asked Wong how he found the car when he was allowed to inspect it June 27, 2007, and he said it was covered. Blackmon asked about the condition of the cover and Wong said it appeared to be damaged from exposure from being in an outdoor impound lot. Earlier, Macumber also asked Wong if he had collected samples from the passenger’s side of the vehicle. “There was nothing to see,” Wong said. When Macumber asked if Wong took samples from the driver’s side even though he couldn’t see anything except for the bloodstain on the steering column, he said yes. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at email@example.com or post a comment.