Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Death-row inmate pins hope on Texas lab

NEW PORT RICHEY — In December, death-row inmate Samuel Jason Derrick won the right to have evidence in his 1988 murder conviction tested for DNA.

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic that has used DNA testing to exonerate and free dozens from death row, hopes to do the same for Derrick.

But first the clinic had to find someone to actually do the tests.

This month, the Innocence Project finally lined up a lab and got the judge's blessing to ship the evidence from the 1987 stabbing of a Moon Lake store owner.

Circuit Judge Stanley Mills agreed last year to DNA testing of evidence — a partly eaten hot dog, blood found under a picnic table and scrapings from the victim's fingernails — with one caveat:

"Initially the judge wanted a Florida lab," said Innocence Project attorney Alba Morales.

That was five months ago. Morales told the St. Petersburg Times the Innocence Project couldn't find a lab in Florida that could meet the defense's most important criteria: be able to perform certain cutting-edge DNA tests and enter the test results into the FBI database known as the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.

But a lab in Dallas, Orchid Cellmark, can do all the things the judge and defense want done, Morales said. At a May 13 hearing, all sides agreed to ship the evidence to Texas.

The order is still being drafted, but once it's done, the evidence will be sent via Federal Express from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. The Innocence Project is footing the bill for the tests, which could cost thousands of dollars.

Then the real wait will begin. It will take months before the test results are known — assuming there's anything left that can still be tested.

Derrick was 20 when he was arrested for the 1987 murder of 55-year-old storekeeper Rama Sharma. The victim was found slashed and stabbed to death in his blood-soaked Moon Lake store. Missing was $360.

Detectives said that Derrick broke down during an interview and confessed: "All right, I did it."

But in 2007, Derrick recanted, saying a detective coerced him into a false confession by threatening to put his infant son in foster care.

Derrick said he had been abused in foster care. Now 41, he has spent more than half his life behind bars, on death row.

Jamal Thalji can be reached at thalji@sptimes.com or (727)

869-6236.

Death-row inmate pins hope on Texas lab 05/28/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 4, 2008 4:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Navy expected to relieve admiral in charge of 7th Fleet in response to deadly disasters at sea

    Nation

    The Navy will relieve the senior admiral in charge of the service's 7th Fleet based in Japan in response to four embarrassing accidents this year, two of which killed sailors at sea, two U.S. officials said.

    Tugboats assist the guided-missile destroyer John S. McCain on its way to Changi Naval Base in Singapore on Monday. [U.S. Navy]
  2. Trump chides media over Charlottesville

    National

    President Donald Trump is blaming the media for the widespread condemnation of his response to a Charlottesville, Va., protest organized by white supremacists that led to the killing of a counter-protester.

    Trump met service members before the rally.
  3. Jones: Koetter-Winston exchange highlights latest 'Hard Knocks'

    Bucs

    There are certain things that make HBO's Hard Knocks must-see television.

    Jameis Winston, left, has an exchange with Dirk Koetter that highlights Hard Knocks.
  4. Rays are full of ideas they'd like to share when commissioner visits

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Commissioner Rob Manfred is coming to the Trop today. Hmm. Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg will be there to greet him. Hmmmm. And they have a scheduled joint media session. Hmmmmmmmmm.

    Commissioner Rob Manfred isn’t expected to say anything definitive about the Rays’ stadium situation when he visits the team today.
  5. Mayor Rick Kriseman endorsed by another police union

    Blogs

    ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman is already backed by the city's largest police union, the Suncoast Police Benevolent Association.

    Mayor Rick Kriseman has secured another police union endorsement