Stupid Legal Tricks

There is a story in the Cleveland Free Times today about a man named Frederick Luckett, who has spent the last 20 years in jail for three rapes.

Back in 1979, two women were raped on the same day, at bus stops. The police investigated the two crimes together, and Victim 1 positively ID’d Luckett out of a lineup; Victim 2 apparently did so also, with less certainty.

He was tried and found guilty of the rapes. After the verdict, a THIRD victim came forth and said she was raped, too, and identified him as the rapist. He pleaded no contest to the third charge in exchange for no additional jail time. However, he continued to maintain his innocence, and the judge sentenced him to the maximum.

Now, here’s the clincher: His attorneys have discovered a slide at the forensics lab containing sperm, taken from Victim 1. Victim 1 was the only one to submit to a physical examination, and is now dead. Turns out, a DNA on the sperm excludes Luckett as a contributor. It isn’t his sperm.

He wants a new trial, and wants to withdraw his “no contest” plea for the third case. The state may grant him a new trial. But, take a look at these monumentally stupid statements:

  1. The prosecutor from the County office accuses the defense of “putting the cart before the horse,” saying that just because there is a slide from the victim with sperm doesn’t mean the sperm belongs to the rapist. Gee, funny–the prosecutor used the same slide, and the fact that sperm was found in the victim, to convict Luckett, but now wants to exclude it because it might not be his sperm. How convenient.

  2. The judge, who happens to be the same judge who presided over his trial 20 years ago, had this to say: “Saying that one particular set of what you call DNA is indisputably different from that of somebody else’s based upon a kind of a claim that they’ve looked at the DNA of everybody in the whole wide world, billions of people, and can conclusively say that it is impossible for somebody else to have the same DNA – how they can claim they can do that, I must say that I chase that with a great deal of skepticism. … [But] all of these credibility questions should go to the jury.”

Someone needs to explain the concepts of DNA and statistical probability to Judge Griffin.

Stop the ride, Daddy, I want to get off.


“It’s my considered opinion you’re all a bunch of sissies!”–Paul’s Grandfather

Deen-A? Deen-A? What do we need with deen-A? The scumbag’s in prison, so he must be quilty. If they’da just fried him years ago, like they oughta, we wouldn’t even be havin’ this debate, now would we? Deen-A my ass.


The overwhelming majority of people have more than the average (mean) number of legs. – E. Grebenik

I’m confused, Phil. How did the prosecution use the slide to convict him previously if it excludes him now? Was it the proper blood type but now DNA analysis shows it’s not his?

That judge has obviously been sitting on his brain for too long and needs to be removed from the bench.

The article didn’t specify, David. But I would imagine that either there was a blood-type match; or the prosecutor simply used the very presence of sperm as evidence that the women had been raped.

Either way, he would appear to be arguing the opposite now of what he argued then. If he’s going to say that it isn’t the rapist’s sperm now, then it wasn’t then, and the only evidence, apparently, would be the victims’ identification of the suspect. If he’s going to maintain that it was the rapist’s sperm now, and it was then, then if the DNA evidence excludes Luckett, he should go free.


“It’s my considered opinion you’re all a bunch of sissies!”–Paul’s Grandfather

The judge’s statement is just monumentally stupid. The sperm issue is a little trickier, though. I read the article and it’s unclear exactly how the evidence of sperm in the victim was used at trial. BUT, just because it isn’t the defendant’s sperm doesn’t necessarily mean he didn’t rape her, just that he didn’t ejaculate or leave any other DNA-containing substance inside her. If her claim is that she hadn’t had sexual relations with anyone for however long and that the rapist ejaculated, then he should be exonerated, at least with regard to that rape.

I don’t know the rule of law in Ohio regarding vacating no contest pleas, but this new evidence doesn’t relate to the third alleged rape so I don’t see how or why the judge (although he is obviously an idiot) should vacate that plea. At the risk of sounding incredibly callous (and I’m willing to consider opposing viewpoints), that’s the risk you run if you’re going to plead no contest to a crime you didn’t commit.

(ducking for cover)

And speaking of stupid legal tricks, you too can now read about why so-called “pure trust” scams are not worth buying into, right here: http://www.netcom.com/~rogermw/nts.html .

We now return you to our discussion of the criminal justice system, already in progress.

It just goes to show you how wonderful a tool DNA is in law enforcement. We can rest easier knowing we’ve gotten the right man (or the wrong man!)and that justice will ultimately be served.

It also goes to show how unreliable line-ups can be. I know how difficult it is to try and recall someone you’ve seen only for a brief, very traumatic time. And then the police are showing you pictures, and maybe even nudging you towards one guy. And, subconsciously you take the picture of that person and super-impose it with your own recollection. And then when you go over the crime in your mind, instead of seeing blurred images, you see him.

So yeah, I can see how it could happen that a woman could pick the wrong guy in a line-up. And, subsequently, how an innocent man could be convicted.

Clearly, the case mentioned in the OP needs to be reviewed more closely. If the strongest thing the prosecutor had going for them is the victims’ identification of him in a line-up, then that’s a pretty weak case.

Don’t forget that the State of Texas executed a man last year even though someone else subsequently confessed to the crime.

Keith