Thursday, September 20, 2012

Convicted rapist on the verge of release tied to crime by DNA

D.A. had agreed to release rapist without DNA testing

Convicted rapist Booker Diggins is serving a life sentence for a 1987 rape in a storage room a the New Orleans Riverwalk promenade.  Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro had agreed in early May to let Diggans plead guilty to lesser charges and go free for time served.

A 76-page report filed on this week by attorneys for Diggins leaves virtually no doubt of a positive match of his DNA with body fluid taken from the victim. The report concludes that the chances of Diggins not being the source of the sperm found in a rape exam kit are one in 26 quadrillion, according to Cannizzaro's office.

The link to Diggins is "unique in the human population," according to the report by Forensic Analytical Sciences, Inc.. It was even more conclusive than the results of recent DNA testing done by the state.

The rape kit, long thought to be destroyed, was discovered in May, two weeks after Diggins was set to go free under a deal between Cannizzaro's office and Diggins' attorneys with the New York-based Innocence Project.

The deal was based on blood test results that did not provide a match to Diggins. DNA testing was unavailable at the time of the rape.

But Criminal District Judge Frank Marullo refused to endorse the deal for Diggins' release and ordered a new trial instead, a ruling that Cannizzaro's office appealed. Cannizzaro's office filed a motion on Tuesday for Marullo to reconsider his call for a new trial.

Cannizzaro issued a statement on Tuesday touting the DNA results and noting how persuasive convicts can be in their claims of innocence.

"In court, I will fight hard to ensure that the guilty do not abuse the criminal justice system by falsely sowing seeds of mistrust under the guise of righteousness," Cannizzaro said in the statement.

Diggins had been fighting his conviction for nearly a decade.

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