Judge blasts prosecutors and SBI

March 10, 2011 5:12:05 PM PST
Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson blasted Durham prosecutors and the State Bureau of Investigation Thursday in a written order dismissing a murder charge against a Durham man.

Click here to read Hudson's order (.pdf)

According to ABC11 archived stories, Derrick M. Allen was 19 when Durham police charged him with sexual assault and murder in the 1998 death of 2-year-old Adesha Sikia Artis.

He spent more than 12 years in prison after pleading guilty under pressure from family and lawyers to avoid the death penalty. Allen has always maintained he was innocent, and family members said in interviews with ABC11 in 1998 that they believed someone else in the home hurt the child.

Last year, an audit of SBI crime lab cases revealed that a key piece of evidence in the case against Allen - bloody undergarments - actually tested negative for blood.

Hudson ordered Allen released last year.

In his written order Thursday, Hudson said prosecutors intentionally kept information from Allen that would have helped his defense.

"The lab reports concerning the testing for blood on the panties and sleepwear were intentionally prepared in an inaccurate, incomplete and intentionally misleading manner," wrote Hudson.

SBI Director Greg McLeod released the following statement in response to Hudson's written order,"As noted in the Judge's order the SBI Crime Laboratory provided the bench notes as part of discovery in 1999 in addition to providing the lab report. The testing and reporting methods at issue in this case were phased out nearly 10 years ago and replaced with modern DNA technology. Because the decision to appeal is up to the District Attorney, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further."

Freda Black was then the Assistant District Attorney who worked on the case along with Durham District Attorney Tracy Cline. Agent Jennifer Elwell of the State Bureau of Investigation did the testing on the girl's underwear.

Hudson said Black and Elwell decided to stop testing when they should have done more.

"ADA Black and Investigator Gilliam, at least, knew that Mr. Allen had asserted that the testing would exonerate him, and they were aware that there was a viable third party guilt suspect who should be included or excluded in a fair and competent investigation," wrote Hudson.

"ADA’s Black and Cline knew that some information they intentionally failed to disclose was exculpatory information and that their suppression of favorable material information was a violation of Mr. Allen’s Constitutional Rights," Hudson continued.

ABC11 is reaching out to Black, Cline, and Elwell for their reaction to the ruling.

Cline responded with the following statement via e-mail:

"To balance the constitutional rights of Derrick Allen with the murder and sexual assault of Adesha, a 2 year old child, had to be a hard task for Judge Hudson, our Senior Resident Judge. To render his decision dismissing the charges is one that he, I am sure did not make without careful consideration of the law and the evidence presented to him.

Notice of appeal has been given by the State for this simple reason. We must be satisfied at the end of the day that we have done all we could do to seek justice for Adesha, who was murdered and left with her vagina torn and bleeding. These injuries were confirmed when she was examined by two different medical doctors. Nothing disputes those medical findings. Derrick Allen admitted that he was alone with her when she died.

When there is a violation of someone constitutional rights, there are generally consequences, cases may be dismissed, confessions thrown out, evidence suppressed and even the guilty may go free. And that is the way it should be. The constitution is important. It protects not just the innocent but also the guilty. After the appeals have been heard and decided, then I can say I have done all I could do to seek justice for that baby. Life is valuable. A child?s life is worth the fight."

The SBI said Thursday that Elwell remains under a suspension from case work that began last year.

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