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Familiar DNA testimony returns in Bloomingdale library rape case

TAMPA — The odds that someone other than Kendrick Morris raped a young woman outside the Bloomingdale library:

One in 320 quadrillion.

That's the likelihood another African-American would have the same foreign DNA found inside the victim, testified Erika Smith of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Monday. The odds increase when compared with other races.

"What's the earth's population?" asked Assistant State Attorney Michael Sinacore.

"Approximately 6.5 billion," Smith ventured.

It was deja vu.

One month ago, the same DNA analyst sat on a witness stand in the same courtroom, quoting the same 18-digit odds that someone else raped a day care worker in 2007. That trial ended in Morris' conviction for that crime.

This trial is expected to end this week.

Last week, jurors learned about the 18-year-old East Bay High student attacked the night of April 24, 2008, as she dropped off books at the Bloomingdale Regional Public Library.

They saw photos of her before and after the attack and watched medical experts list things she can no longer do because of brain damage she suffered: speak, see, walk, hold her head upright.

They heard witnesses say they saw Morris, then 16, sitting alone on a bench at the library, minutes before the attack. Crime scene workers said he left fingerprints.

The prosecution called its last witness Monday.

Starting today, jurors will hear from defense witnesses who say they saw Morris late the night of the rape and noticed nothing unusual about him.

Before the trial, public defenders fought unsuccessfully to get a judge to toss DNA evidence against Morris, saying it was improperly obtained.

They also lost a motion this summer to move his trial out of Tampa, saying it would be impossible to find an impartial local jury because of pretrial publicity.

When it came time to pick a jury last week, they found one in a minority of the pool that had not been exposed to media, but used up all of their allotted peremptory strikes before choosing alternate jurors, forcing attorneys to dip into a pool that had been exposed to media.

They asked Circuit Judge Chet A. Tharpe again to move the trial, and again were denied.

On Monday, they successfully got a prosecutor to take off her bracelet. Assistant Public Defender Rocky Brancato quoted an article published Saturday by the St. Petersburg Times that noted prosecutor Rita Peters wore a pink Livestrong-style bracelet during trial Friday, in honor of the victim. Peters agreed not to wear it in court.

Brancato also noted the victim's sister was quietly crying in the front row during Friday's medical testimony, and asked if a victim's advocate could escort her out if that happens again. The judge agreed.

Jurors did not hear any of those defense requests.

They did hear the defense argue last week that Morris was at a Walmart just seven minutes after the attack began, more than a mile away, citing a surveillance tape time the state says is wrong.

And on Monday, they saw Assistant Public Defender Maria Pavlidis draw attention to some samples taken from the victim's intimate areas that did not lead to a perfect match to Morris.

Smith said semen taken from a vaginal swab matched Morris at all relevant points, but that swabs taken from other areas provided only partial profiles.

Jurors glanced at Morris as the DNA analyst testified she found the young woman's blood on a black hooded sweatshirt taken from Morris' home.

Morris showed no reaction.

He will tell a judge today whether he plans to testify.

Familiar DNA testimony returns in Bloomingdale library rape case 10/04/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 7:24am]
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