Springfield v. State

Citation860 P.2d 435
Decision Date21 September 1993
Docket NumberNo. 92-162,92-162
PartiesRobert Reginald SPRINGFIELD, Appellant (Defendant), v. STATE of Wyoming, Appellee (Plaintiff).
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming

Leonard D. Munker, State Public Defender, Cheyenne, Gerald M. Gallivan, Director, R. Daniel Fleck, Student Intern, and Ryan R. Roden, Student Intern, Defender Aid Program, Laramie, for appellant.

Joseph B. Meyer, Atty. Gen., Sylvia L. Hackl, Deputy Atty. Gen., Barbara L. Boyer, Sr. Asst. Atty. Gen., Mary Beth Wolff, Asst. Atty. Gen., Cheyenne, for appellee.


GOLDEN, Justice.

Robert Reginald Springfield appeals a judgment and sentence imposed for the commission of first degree sexual assault in violation of WYO.STAT. § 6-2-302(a)(i) (1988). We affirm.

This appeal presents issues concerning the admissibility of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) evidence and statistics accompanying a declared match of DNA samples. We will begin by relaying the facts surrounding this crime and the course of procedure in this case. We will then discuss the scientific background of DNA profiling in brief as well as the specific techniques used to develop appellant's DNA profile and database comparison statistics. We will look next to the legal standards of admissibility and whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting this evidence. Finally, we will address the lesser issues raised by appellant.


Appellant presents the following issues on appeal:

I. Did the trial court err by admitting DNA profiling evidence without proper foundation as to the statistical significance of a DNA match?

II. Did the court err when it failed to determine if the laboratory protocols were complied with prior to allowing the jury to be exposed to unfairly prejudicial evidence?

III. Was the evidence insufficient to sustain a conviction when the DNA evidence was improperly admitted, was the only evidence linking appellant to the crime, and the victim could not identify the assailant?

IV. Under the plain error doctrine, was it reversible error for the trial court to admit any evidence regarding the camera, when the prosecutor did not prove that the appellant had any connection with the camera, and such evidence unfairly prejudiced appellant, denying appellant a fair trial?

V. Was appellant's right to a speedy trial as provided for by the Wyoming and United States Constitutions violated, when the criminal complaint was filed on May 9, 1991, but appellant did not go to trial until April 27, 1992?

VI. Did errors at trial amount to cumulative error, requiring reversal of appellant's conviction?

The state responds with the following issues:

I. Did a sufficient foundation exist for proper introduction of DNA evidence?

II. Was appellant's right to speedy trial violated?

III. Did appellant receive a fair trial?


On the evening of April 9, 1988, as Beverly Pilch opened her back door to retrieve her dog, a masked man, wearing a stocking cap and brandishing a knife, entered her Sheridan home. Seeking cash and finding none, the intruder sexually assaulted Mrs. Pilch while holding the knife to her throat, then tied her hands and feet together and fled. Mrs. Pilch was eventually able to summon police and was taken to the hospital where her clothing and fluid samples from her body were gathered as evidence of the rape and sent to the Wyoming Crime Lab in Cheyenne for analysis. On June 12, 1990, this evidence and a blood sample from the victim were sent to the FBI lab for DNA examination.

Later on the same night as the sexual assault, Sheridan police were notified of a break-in, one and a half blocks from Mrs. Pilch's residence, where a 35 millimeter camera, lenses and a carrying case were reported missing. The camera owner was able to report the serial numbers of the camera and a lens to the police.

In 1991, pursuant to a search warrant, blood, saliva and hair samples were collected from appellant and forwarded to the Wyoming Crime Lab and then to the FBI for DNA testing. Appellant's heritage is comprised of three-fourths Native American ancestry from the Crow tribe and one-fourth from the black race.

On May 9, 1991, a complaint and warrant for appellant's arrest were filed. Sometime between May 9 and appellant's initial appearance before the court on May 31, 1991, appellant was arrested, though the record is silent on the exact date. On June 7, 1991, appellant waived his preliminary hearing. On June 13, 1991, an information was filed charging appellant with first degree sexual assault in violation of WYO.STAT. § 6-2-302(a)(i); appellant was arraigned the same day and trial was set for August 5, 1991. Bail was set at $75,000 and appellant was incarcerated on June 11, 1991, for failure to make bail.

On July 25, 1991, the state filed a motion for a continuance because the FBI examiner who conducted the DNA testing would not be available on the trial date. On July 29, 1991, an order was issued resetting trial for October 15, 1991. On August 8, 1991, the court reduced appellant's bond to $50,000. Appellant filed a motion on September 19, 1991, to exclude introduction of DNA evidence as being more prejudicial than probative. A hearing was set to hear the motion on September 26, 1991, but appellant withdrew his motion on that date. Appellant made bail on October 7, 1991, and the state again moved for continuance to allow DNA testing of appellant's brothers, which would take an additional six to eight weeks. Trial was reset for January 13, 1992.

On January 3 and 30, 1992, appellant moved to exclude testimony of Dr. Patrick Conneally who was to be a DNA witness for the state, because he was not on the state's original witness list and because of serious doubts as to the reliability of the FBI's statistical method. A hearing on these motions was finally held April 14 and 16, 1992. Dr. William Shields, professor of biology at the State University of New York, College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, New York, testified for appellant; Dr. Conneally, distinguished professor of medical genetics and neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine, testified for the state.

On April 22, 1992, the district court issued an order denying appellant's motion to disallow use or reference to DNA testing, finding:

1) That the principles underlying the DNA-RFLP procedure utilized by the FBI are generally accepted in the scientific community.

2) That the technique utilized by the FBI in conducting DNA profiling is conducted pursuant to standard procedures, and those procedures and techniques are generally accepted and considered reliable in the scientific community.

3) That the FBI adhered to those procedures in conducting the DNA profiling in this case.

4) That the results of the DNA profiling and statistical analysis are probative.

5) That the probative value of the evidence outweighs the danger of any unfair prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading of the jury, or undue delay, waste of time, or needless presentation of cumulative evidence.

Appellant's trial was held on April 27, 1991. In opening statement to the jury, the prosecutor indicated that the state would offer evidence that linked appellant to possession of the stolen camera and lenses. However, a trial witness for the state testified that he bought the camera from an unknown hitchhiker near Great Falls, Montana, and the court refused to admit any additional testimony regarding the camera, ruling it hearsay.

Before the trial, Mrs. Pilch had not been able to identify her attacker from a photo lineup. However, at trial, she was able to recall the attacker's brown eyes, dark skin, that he was fairly young, kind of muscular and that he was a little bit taller than her while she was wearing high heels.

Audrey Lynch, special agent with the FBI, testified that she conducted DNA analysis of blood samples from appellant and victim. She also analyzed stains on the panties and anal swabs taken from the victim. From these samples, through a process known as restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP), autoradiographs (autorads) were generated and then compared. Lynch found that the stain on the panties and anal swabs taken from the victim on which sperm had been identified matched appellant's blood sample on four different sets of two bands shown on the autorads. Lynch concluded a visual DNA match existed between appellant and forensic samples from the victim. A computerized check confirmed the match, using a match criteria of plus or minus 2.5 percent.

Autorads were prepared from samples of three of appellant's brothers and compared to the autorads generated from the forensic samples of the victim. The results determined an absolute exclusion of the brothers, though the probability of a match between siblings is one in 256.

Upon concluding that a DNA match existed between appellant and the forensic samples from the victim, Lynch then determined the statistical probabilities of such a match occurring when compared to an Indian population database. Approximately 200 Indians comprised the FBI database, including 100 Sioux, and members of the Navajo, Cherokee and Cheyenne tribes. No Crow tribal members were represented in the database. The probability of another Indian person having the same DNA as appellant was estimated to be one in 250,000 persons. Appellant's counsel objected to the introduction of statistical evidence because of the absence of Crow tribal members in the database. Lynch also developed probability statistics using other FBI databases and determined the following estimates: for the black database, one in 150,000,000; for the Caucasian database, one in 250,000,000; for the Hispanic database, one in 25,000,000.

The videotaped testimony of Dr. Conneally and Dr. Shields from the hearing on admissibility of DNA was entered into evidence at appellant's trial.

Appellant was found guilty, sentenced to serve not less than ten nor more...

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