Vegas police sorry after wrong man goes to prison

AP News
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Posted: Jul 07, 2011 7:18 PM
Vegas police sorry after wrong man goes to prison

Las Vegas police officials apologized Thursday for a DNA error that sent the wrong man to prison for four years.

Authorities said a financial settlement is being worked out with Dwayne Jackson after determining that a laboratory technician mishandled evidence following Jackson's 2001 arrest on kidnapping and robbery charges.

"We acknowledged that we made a mistake," Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said.

The error was exposed in November by officials at a national database known as the Combined DNA Index System. Authorities found that evidence taken from a California inmate matched genetic material already on file as belonging to Jackson. A resulting investigation turned up the mistake by Terry Cook, a veteran forensics scientist who handled the DNA samples.

Lab chief Linda Krueger said authorities are reviewing as many as 250 cases that Cook handled during his time at the lab.

Authorities said no other mistakes had been discovered. But Gillespie said Cook had been placed on paid leave pending an internal police investigation and a review by the lab accrediting agency.

Attempts to contact Cook for comment were not immediately successful.

Authorities, in announcing the details of the case at a news conference on Thursday, also said they released an Internet video in an effort to explain further how such a mistake could have occurred.

The officials said the mishandled evidence led Jackson to plead guilty in 2003 to kidnapping and robbery in a plea deal that his current lawyer said avoided the possibility of life in prison on a kidnapping conviction. Jackson served four years before his release in 2006.

Gillespie said California inmate Howard Grissom was linked to the break-in pending the new information but there were no plans to prosecute him in Nevada for the decade-old case. The 25-year-old Grissom is serving 41 years for manslaughter and won't be released from prison for decades.

Police said the 2001 case involved a mother and her children confronted by an intruder in their southeast Las Vegas home. Authorities said the suspect wielded a baseball bat, stole $23 and forced the woman to go to a bank and withdraw more money.

The DNA mistake was uncovered when Grissom was matched to the sweat shirt, cap and cheek swabs already on file. Las Vegas police identified Grissom and Jackson as cousins.

Jackson's criminal case was sealed July 1, and Las Vegas police and Jackson's lawyers, David Chesnoff and Richard Schonfeld, declined to detail the confidential financial settlement now pending before the Las Vegas police fiscal affairs panel.

Chesnoff told The Associated Press that Jackson wouldn't make any public comment about the case. The lawyer said his client was handling the developments gracefully and gratefully.

"He's thankful now that people can believe him when he kept telling people he was innocent," Chesnoff said. "Hopefully, the clearing of his name will help him find work."