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DNA debated in airmen rape case

Attorneys differ on meaning of evidence

 

May 31, 2018



CLOVIS — For three airmen accused of raping a colleague early this year in Clovis, DNA analysis from the defendants and their alleged victim will play a significant role in the developing case. The results of that analysis came in this month, but they will bear more expert review first, and attorneys disagree so far as to what they mean.

“You can try to read through these reports and be a little flummoxed by what they appear to say,” said Craig Acorn, representing 19-year old Isaiah Edley. “I know how to read those things, but I’ve been fooled before, so I always like to have an expert that has a PhD in forensic analysis of some sort, to look at it and either verify what I think it says or to educate me about what it means.”

That said, based on his assessment Acorn said he is optimistic about what the results entail.

“Bottom line is, we didn’t think that the DNA report hurt us at all. We thought it confirmed our client’s statement and contradicted (the woman’s) statement,” he said. “The specifics of what she says happened are not borne out by the DNA. She says that all of the three defendants involved were having sex with her, kind of took turns, but there’s not DNA evidence of that.”

The three codefendants — Thomas Newton, 25, Rahman Buchanan, 18, and Edley — were each charged with second-degree criminal sexual penetration after being arrested in late January following a house party in Clovis. They were in custody at the Curry County jail for about two months before being released on an appearance bond. All three, as well as the woman, are airmen at Cannon Air Force Base.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Brian Stover said the state is also optimistic about the forensic analysis results.

“I disagree that the DNA evidence indicates inconsistencies,” he wrote in a message to The News. “I find the results to be very favorable to the State, however, that will be for the Jury to decide.”

District Attorney Andrea Reeb declined to go into specifics about the DNA results, but agreed with Stover’s assessment.

“(Defense counsel) felt really good about the DNA results and we did too, and ultimately they’ll have their expert and we’ll have our expert,” Reeb said. “I think jurors love to hear about DNA evidence, and for sure that will definitely be a significant factor. But I always tend to believe the credibility of the victim and the other people who testify (as also being significant at trial)."

The trio are scheduled for a pre-trial conference in late August and a three-day trial in October.

Reeb confirmed the woman retained an attorney from the base, but said she could only speculate as to why.

“A victim in a case will get one, maybe it makes them feel better, I don’t know,” she said. “Sometimes they don’t realize that we’re actually advocating for them.”

In the meantime, both prosecutors and defense counsel continue preparing for trial with witness interviews.

“We’re starting to interview those witnesses, so that should be ensuing in the coming weeks. We haven’t had a chance to interview (the woman) at all; we’re looking forward to being able to do that and find out what she has to say when talking to us,” Acorn said. “I’m not interesting in condemning anybody, I’m just interested in defending my client.”

Newton's attorney Ben Herrmann declined comment on the matter Tuesday. Meanwhile, the court approved Wednesday the withdrawal of Henderson & Grohman law firm representing Buchanan, at his request. He will “seek alternative representation, specifically a public defender,” according to court records. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for June 18, Stover said.

 
 

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