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Hillsborough State Office rebuffs DNA testing request in executed man's case

The Hillsborough State Attorney's Office isn't willing to help facilitate further DNA testing of evidence in the case of a man already put to death.

The Innocence Project of Florida — citing doubts about the guilt of Wayne Tompkins, who was executed in February after 23 years on death row — had offered to pay for more testing at a private lab.

But in an eight-page letter dated April 9, Assistant State Attorney Jalal Harb said the requested testing "amounts to (an) unauthorized and speculative fishing expedition."

Harb wrote that there was no credible evidence that 15-year-old Lisa DeCarr was seen alive after she was reported missing, or that the remains found under her home belonged to anyone else, both claims made by Tompkins' defense on appeal.

Calling the response "incredibly disappointing," Innocence Project of Florida executive director Seth Miller said the organization will consider other legal avenues to get the testing done.

"We just want an answer," Miller said. "Unfortunately, the state is just not that interested in an answer. They're interested in their gut feelings."

• • •

The State Attorney's Office, previously tapped to handle the prosecution of eight employees at a Panama City boot camp, has picked up another high-profile case. At least this one won't require as long a commute.

Gov. Charlie Crist has asked Hillsborough prosecutors to decide whether criminal charges should be filed against the former Sarasota County sheriff and one of his top civilian employees.

Sarasota sheriff's officials recommended that former Sheriff Bill Balkwill and Jeff Feathers, his former information technology director, be charged with grand theft for their handling of a laptop that is considered key evidence in a lawsuit over a $9 million jail contract.

Balkwill left office in January and took his agency laptop with him. A forensic expert says 11,000 files were deleted on the same day Balkwill was asked to give the computer back, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

• • •

Times are a changing at Barry Cohen's law firm.

First, the name. It's now called Cohen, Foster & Romine. Former partner Christopher P. Jayson left the firm late last year. Stephen Romine, who recently convinced a judge to change a young man's sentence from 30 years in prison to 28 months of probation, has become a partner.

On Friday, the firm's longtime chief investigator, Kevin Kalwary, also announced his departure.

Kalwary, a former investigative TV and newspaper reporter, plans to start an "all-purpose" marketing, public relations and investigative firm that will do work for law firms, corporations and government offices.

His partners will be Dan Grossi of the NFL security division and R.J. Reynolds, a veteran homicide investigator. Both previously worked for the Tampa Police Department. The new, as yet unnamed, company will still do work for his employer of 13 years, Kalwary said.

Got a tip? For cops and courts news, contact Colleen Jenkins at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Hillsborough State Office rebuffs DNA testing request in executed man's case 04/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 12:14pm]
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