Prosecutors claim their experts say those fingerprints could have only have been left by the driver of the vehicle. If accurate, that would put Mr. Solis in the driver’s seat and lend credence to prosecution’s claims that he fired the shots that killed the victim in this case. However, the case is tricky to begin with and the other suspects have fled to Mexico.
However, Public Defender Dean Johansson is not convinced that is accurate and wants his own expert to examine the evidence. On Wednesday he expressed unhappiness that the first he learned that there were outstanding fingerprints was on July 19, 2010, the eve of the beginning of the trial.
Moreover, it was not simply fingerprints, but also DNA evidence that came in, which he believes are exculpatory. He argued that while he does not believe this will hurt his client’s case, he does believe it completely changes the case that had been based entirely on circumstantial evidence.
The DNA evidence, according to Mr. Johansson, that came in showed DNA from a woman and two other unidentified men, neither of which are Mr. Solis. There is a palm print found on the steering wheel which is not a match with Mr. Solis. And finally there is a ballistics report that would also appear to exonerate the defendant.
Mr. Johansson requested that the case should either be dismissed or this new evidence excluded.
James Walker responded that no one had hidden the ball on this case. He notified Mr. Johansson on July 19 as soon as he discovered the fingerprint match and made the report accessible.
He questioned Mr. Johansson’s interpretation that the weapon fired would have been a 9 mm weapon, and he read from the DOJ ballistics report that it was most likely a 357 magnum.
He said he was concerned about getting facts late but this was a case where there was no time waiver by the defendant. (Defendants have the right to a trial within 60 days, but typically waive that right due to the necessity of investigating the case for their defense. In this case, Mr. Solis was adamant about not waiving his time).
Judge Mock ruled that there is nothing to suggest that this late discovery was tactical or that it was an attempt by the government to blindside the defense. He said that the DOJ was understaffed and under-budgeted and that lead to a slower evaluation of evidence than they might like, especially in a case with no time waiver. The delay therefore was not purposeful or willful and therefore Judge Mock saw no cause for to dismiss the case or exclude evidence.
Judge Mock continued that the people did comply with the laws regarding the discovery of evidence when they did become aware of that evidence and therefore he saw no legal basis for limiting the evidence.
As a result, Mr. Johansson asked for a limited time waiver and the case has been continued until September 13, seven weeks from now, so that they can evaluate the new evidence.
While it seemed highly unlikely that Judge Mock would rule to dismiss the case or limit the evidence, it should be pointed out that his description of what happened is not completely accurate. The prosecution did to some extent blindside the defense here.
Mr. Walker found out on July 8 that there were fingerprints that had yet to be identified. He immediately had them analyzed. However, Mr. Johansson did not find out about it until the DOJ came back with a match, on Monday afternoon as he was preparing his case to bring it to trial. Why did Mr. Walker not inform the defense of the untested fingerprints on July 8?
In that sense, he did blindside the defense as the defense did not even know that this new evidence was in the realm of possibility.
Even with the evidence, this is going to be a difficult to case to get a conviction on. There is nothing to tie Mr. Solis to the actual firing of the weapon. The evidence is mixed at best as to whether Mr. Solis was driving the car. While the prosecution may testify that only the driver could have made the fingerprints, it should be pointed out that they are on the outside of the vehicle, which makes that speculation at best. Other evidence, especially the DNA and the palm print, are exculpatory.
—David M. Greenwald reporting