DNA Clears Father of Murder of His Child

How many times do you hear Nancy Grace, Jeanine Pirro, Wendy Murphy, Mark Fuhrman and other prosecution oriented tv analysts proclaim a parent guilty of murdering his or her child because, they claim, statistics show that this is almost always the case? DNA may prove a better indicator than their precious statistics. The Chicago Tribune reports on the case of Kevin Fox, released Friday after 8 months in jail:

Charges were dropped today against Kevin Fox, accused of the sexual assault and murder of his 3-year-old daughter Riley, after prosecutors said DNA tests excluded him as a suspect in her death. This is an absolute exclusion of Kevin Fox," Will County State's Atty. James Glasgow said during an emergency court hearing this afternoon requested by prosecutors in the Joliet courthouse.

Prosecutors already are falling over themselves to justify their erroneous rush to judgment:

"We were shocked at the result" of the DNA tests, Glasgow acknowledged in a news conference that followed the court hearing."There was a statement made by Kevin Fox," the prosecutor said, defending law enforcement's decision until today to pursue first-degree murder and predatory criminal sexual assault charges against the 28-year-old Wilmington man.

Fox had given investigators an incriminating statement, Glasgow said, and, "There was other evidence that we had in our possession to corroborate the statement. Based on that, we had probable cause, and we had clearly a legal basis to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt.

How scary is that, to have a prosecutor say he has proof beyond a reasonable doubt when a simple DNA test proves factual innocence?

Update: The Chicago Tribune today has this editorial on the case:

Next month, a landmark law goes into effect across Illinois, requiring police departments to begin electronically taping custodial police interrogations and confessions. Illinois was the first state to pass the sweeping legislation in 2003 and has since been followed by others.

Taping, however, will not resolve the problem of false confessions unless police officials re-evaluate the techniques they use to elicit those statements. Why did Kevin Fox spend eight months behind bars, haunted by the thought that prosecutors sought his execution? That demands a careful study by police interrogators.

A myth still persists among some in law enforcement that no one would confess to a gruesome crime he did not commit. A stronger conviction holds that no person of normal intellect and development would ever do so.

Kevin Fox proved them wrong. He wasn't a teenager. He wasn't mentally retarded. He had no particular deficiencies that would make him especially vulnerable to suggestion or the kinds of pressure tactics used perfectly legally by police interrogators.

Fox's attorneys suggest he was a normal guy who simply got worn down after a 14-hour interrogation and the trauma of losing his daughter. Contributing to his erosion of confidence about what really happened were promises of an involuntary manslaughter charge and quick release if he admitted his daughter's death was the result of an accident.

It wasn't obvious right away that Fox was innocent. But there were a few warning flags that should have muted the zeal of prosecutors to file charges. Among them: The length of the interrogation, the fact that his confession was taped but not shown to a grand jury, his immediate recantation of his confession.

And more reasons: There wasn't physical evidence tying him to the scene of the crime, and he had strong support from friends and family. And then there was the rush by then-Will County State's Atty. Jeff Tomczak to file charges and call for the death penalty--just days before he faced voters (in an election he lost).

The damage to Fox and his family is incalculable. And his daughter's killer remains at large.

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    Re: DNA Clears Father of Murder of His Child (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:11 PM EST
    Is proof beyond a reasonable doubt any scarier than the incriminating statement? How, exactly, are such statements obtained?

    Re: DNA Clears Father of Murder of His Child (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:11 PM EST
    It's sad the way that being a prosecutor is a stepping stone to being a politician. Politicians can never, ever admit that they're wrong; but a prosecutor ought to have the humility to do so. For a reporting class in college many years ago, I interviewed Tom Heffelfinger about his role, at that time, of a public defender. The conversation drifted over to prosecutors. He said that you could tell a prosecutor was burned out when they couldn't understand why everyone they were going after wasn't just rolling over and playing dead. I asked him when a public defender was burned out. He said, when they stop caring.

    Re: DNA Clears Father of Murder of His Child (none / 0) (#3)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:11 PM EST
    There needs to be some serious house cleaning done in this country's law enforcement and criminal justice systems. SERIOUS house cleaning. Then, we need to go to work on getting Nancy disGrace and the rest of her lunatic-fringe, washed-up, brain-dead gang of thieves off the PUBLIC airwaves, before they're given any more cases to "solve"!!!

    Re: DNA Clears Father of Murder of His Child (none / 0) (#4)
    by veloer on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:11 PM EST
    The best way to do "serious house cleaning" is to stop ELECTING prosecutors and judges.

    Re: DNA Clears Father of Murder of His Child (none / 0) (#5)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:00:13 PM EST
    The followup story in the Trib of the 18 reveals that police had told the lab not to bother testing the DNA since the father had confessed. It was his defense attorney, the champion of the innocent Kathryn Zellner, who insisted on the testing.