Wednesday, January 2, 2008

NEWS REPORT: DNA Testing Granted in Pasco County Death Case

On December 19, 2007, a Pasco County judge granted Samuel Jason Derrick post-conviction DNA testing on evidence in this case. From the December 28, 2007, St. Petersburg Times story:

Derrick, his family and his lawyers hope the latest advances in forensic technology will exonerate the 40-year-old Moon Lake man in the 1987 murder of storekeeper Rama Sharma.

"I'm just thankful that the truth is going to come to light," said Derrick's former wife, Cherie.

A bloody remnant of a white T-shirt, a partially eaten hot dog, blood found under a picnic table and scrapings from the victim's fingernails will all be tested, the judge ordered Dec. 19. The defense's hope is that viable DNA can be recovered from the evidence that will implicate someone other than Derrick in the stabbing murder of Sharma.
Derrick has maintained his innocence since he was arrested for this 1987 murder and has spent half of his 40 years on this planet in prison, on death row. Previous DNA testing on fingernail scrapings was performed in 2002 but didn't yield a result. Derrick's attorneys hope that the more exacting Y-STR DNA testing now used will yield an excluding result this time around:

The fingernail scrapings were tested in 2002 but gleaned no DNA profiles, the defense motion said. But they could still yield something to a more sensitive DNA test called Y-STR now available, according to the defense motion, that "targets genetic markers found on the Y-chromosome, which only males possess."

"It's really vital that we use Y-STR or one of the really cutting- edge tests that have been developed," said Alba Morales, Derrick's Innocence Project attorney. "Because it really improves the chance of getting a result from what is by now a fairly degraded sample."

Mr. Derrick is represented pro bono by Alba Morales of the New York Innocence Project and appointed attorney Harry Brody.

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