COURT WATCH: In Prelim, Man Charged with 1st-Degree Burglary Based on Evidence Collected by Police with Minimal Forensic Experience  

LOS ANGELES- CA, MARCH 2: Los Angeles Superior Court Stanley Mosk Courthouse March 2, 2004 in Los Angeles Hills, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images) *** Local Caption ***

By Estrella Torres and Xinhui Lin

LOS ANGELES, CA – In a Friday preliminary hearing here in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Deputy Public Defender Jennifer A. Berry motioned to dismiss the charges because of the insufficient forensic experience of the police officer who collected DNA swabs at the crime scene.

Despite this, Judge Cathryn Brougham still denied the motion. The accused will face trial for first-degree residential burglary, constituting a felony in the state of California.

The hearing began with the witness testimony of the police officer, who was called to report to the scene of the crime. The officer told Deputy District Attorney Eric Algorri the 911 call was made by a woman who was “house-sitting” the home that was allegedly robbed.

The officer stated the woman had “returned to multiple cabinets open, the back door open, blood on the bed sheets and shattered glass on the floor.” DDA Algorri asked the officer, “Would you say it was ransacked?” to which he responded, “Yes.”

The cross-examination proceeded, with DPD Berry asking, “How much training do you have in forensic evidence?” The office replied he went through the standard six-month training required for police officers.

“And of that six months, how much of the training was focused on forensics?” questioned the DPD. The officer responded, “I don’t know.” At the point of the cross-examination, the DPD concluded the officer mainly did field training.

The officer was additionally asked if he called forensics to the crime scene to which he replied “no,” and added, “I did it myself” when referring to the conducting of forensic evidence and taking swabs for DNA testing.

DPD Berry delved deeper into investigating forensic evidence and questioned whether the swabs collected were touched by the officer, to which the officer responded with ambiguous answers like “I cannot recall.”

DPD Berry told the court the lack of sufficient evidence to support the swabs were not contaminated left uncertainties in the case.

Despite the defense argument that there was a lack of strong evidence to justify an accurate forensic investigation, Judge Brougham still denied the motion. The court charged the accused with first-degree residential burglary, the most severe felony charge that could result in extensive prison time and large fines.

About The Author

Estrella Torres is a first-generation Latina student in her 3rd year at the University of California, Los Angeles. She is pursuing a major in Political Science and a minor in Public Affairs. Estrella has a strong passion and dedication to addressing social justice issues and political activism both in her high school and university. Her positionality as a student coming from a Mexican immigrant household has fueled her to pursue career goals involved with social justice and immigration law. She hopes to help undocumented immigrants as a lawyer and promote policies that would better their lives and provide them with fair and equal opportunities. Because of this, she is planning to go on the pre-law track and foster her skills of reading, writing, analyzing, and critical thinking. She hoped to gain more experience in journalism as regards law, local government, and public policy that would further prepare her for her goals.

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