Several years ago a rural Nebraska couple were brutally killed by shotgun blasts to the head. The investigation quickly focused on relatives, specifically cousins Matt Livers and Nick Sampson. Officials quickly theorized that the Sampson car was the getaway vehicle, but an initial search found no DNA evidence. That's when CSI commander David Kofoed was called in for one more search. He "found" a speck of blood matching one the murder victim's DNA on the vehicle's steering column.
Case closed, right? How is the defense lawyer going to demonstrate that the DNA isn't the smoking gun, in other words?
The only problem for Commander Kofoed was that shortly thereafter, two Wisconsin teens were arrested for the murder and a large amount of DNA evidence was once again found in their vehicle.
Yesterday the Omaha World-Herald described an FBI investigation into the matter. It reported that "the speck of blood was the only physical evidence linking cousins Matthew Livers and Nick Sampson to the killings of Livers' uncle and Aunt" and that "Livers- who had been characterized as borderline mentally retarded- implicated himself and Sampson in the murders during 11 hours of questioning." The cousins spent "months in jail" according to the article. It also describes the FBI "looking into why law enforcement continued to detain the cousins even after overwhelming DNA and physical evidence pointed to other suspects."
Kofoed described his reaction to the FBI investigation:
"It would be absolutely ridiculous to plant one little speck, and then be the one who finds it... if you were going to plant evidence, you're going to put it on the steering wheel, or on the car seat or on a door ahandle, a place where it makes logical sense to find it."
Doesn't sound like a guy who's ever considered planting evidence, does it? Remember also that Kofoed's search, which was conducted on his own initiative after an earlier search, by his own lab, yielded no evidence. So, finding more than a "little speck" on a "door handle" would have looked pretty suspicious, don't you think? As the World-Herald reported and I described in my previous post:
"An initial search of the car by a member of Kofoed's staff found no evidence linking it to the killings.
Sometime later, Kofoed re-examined the car, the suit says, and found a tiny spot of blood on the steering column.
A laboratory examination later determined that the blood was consistent with Wayne Stock's DNA.
The Stocks were killed by shotgun blasts to the head and were found in their farmhouse.
Almost immediately, Cass County Sheriff's investigators and the Nebraska State Patrol theorized that a disgruntled family member killed the wealthy couple and that the Sampson car was the getaway vehicle.
Keystone CSI Chief cop or was "the intelligence being fixed around the policy," created by the Sheriff's office?
Either alternative is very troubling. Just ask those people sitting on death row largely as a result of DNA evidence processed through Kofoed's lab.
Kofoed appears to have learned a lesson, however, through this investigation. After the "speck" of blood he found led to the jailing of two innocent men, one borderline mentally retarded, who "confessed" after 11 hours of questioning, who spent months in jail accused of killing their relatives for money, Kofoed has suffered gravely. Although he remains in his job, the investigation has been rough on him:
"I felt the full power of the federal government coming down on me," [Kofoed] said.
Have you ever heard a more ironic statement?