The Boston Globe today reported that Massachusetts Superior Court Judge Robert Kane has ordered a new trial for a man who was convicted of rape based largely on a type of forensic hair analysis that has since been discredited. Yvonne Abraham wrote the article.
George Perrot was 17 years old when he was arrested and charged with raping his elderly neighbor. The rape occurred in Springfield in 1985. The defendant denied his guilt and there was compelling evidence that he had not committed the crime. The victim said the defendant was not the man who had raped her. Her assailant was clean-shaven and the defendant had a beard. However, the District Attorney was convinced the defendant was guilty (and also guilty of several other rapes, notwithstanding concrete evidence establishing the defendant was innocent). The most important evidence admitted against the defendant was a strand of hair found at the crime scene. At trial, an expert FBI witness testified that the hair was a match for the defendant and the jury returned a guilty verdict. The defendant was sentenced to prison, where he remains today. During the ensuing decades, it became clear that the microscopic hair evidence used by the Commonwealth amounted to junk science. The FBI has conceded that connecting a strand of hair to a particular individual is not possible by using the type of analysis that was utilized in this case. Judge Kane wrote it was “not a close call” to award a new trial to the defendant, pointing out that without the hair analysis evidence, the Commonwealth’s case was subject to several lines of attack.
The judge also slammed the assistant district attorney who prosecuted the case – Francis Bloom. Bloom apparently hated the defendant and called him “inherently evil.” The judge pointed out that “such feelings enable a person possessing public authority to shed the restraints and scruples that limit the exercise of power….” The judge concluded that Bloom’s feelings toward the defendant influenced the FBI expert to become a “partisan for the government.”
The Globe reported that Bloom had a history of misconduct while working as an assistant district attorney, which contributed to the reversal of two murder convictions. In this case, Bloom had forged the signatures of the defendant and a detective in fabricating a written confession in order to trick the defendant’s friends into admitting to crimes. A judge said Bloom’s conduct was “outrageous” and “reprehensible” and Bloom was publicly censured. Bloom now works as a personal injury attorney in Springfield, where, in his new practice, he received another public reprimand from the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers for a series of infractions.
It is unclear whether the district attorney’s office will appeal the judge’s decision to grant a new trial to the defendant. If not, the prosecution can either retry the defendant or drop the case. Without the bogus evidence related to the strand of hair found at the crime scene, it appears there will be insufficient evidence to convict the defendant (particularly in light of the victim’s assertion that the defendant wasn’t the rapist).