Defense Challenges Forensic Results During Murder Trial

A murder trial continued on Nov. 2 with testimony from five witnesses, including a forensic scientist and crime scene technician.

Steven Robin, 25, is charged with first-degree murder while armed and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence in the Jan. 18, 2018 shooting of 20-year-old Kenneth Poindexter on the 4700 block of Benning Road, SE.

Antonio McKenzie and Edward Brown are also charged with murder in Poindexter’s death, but they will they tried separately from Robin. Charles Young has also pleaded guilty to accessory after the fact voluntary manslaughter for his role as the getaway driver. He was recently sentenced to four years in prison, all of which were suspended, plus six months of probation, D.C. Witness previously reported.

The court first heard a detective who testified to the authenticity of the defendants’ DNA samples collected by cheek swabs. A forensic scientist from forensic laboratory Signature Science followed, offering genetic profiles based on evidence collected from two cigarette butts and a water bottle found in the vehicle allegedly used to drive to and from the shooting. The witness offered statistical evidence linking Charles Young to the cigarettes and Robin to the water bottle.

During cross-examination, the witness confirmed to Kristin McGough that the evidence was logged onto the wrong shelf it was placed on. McGough also questioned the expert on the validity of DNA evidence on the water bottle, saying sunshine or UV light could easily damage the DNA sample. The expert said she was confident in her results and interpretation.

McGough brought up the lack of peer review with the expert’s final report. The court took a break for the audit history document to be transferred over from Signature Science. The expert then denied that she changed the number of possible DNA contributors to one of the cigarette butt samples from three to two.

The expert also denied that her supervisor had made her change it to two because of “stutter”—slight errors in a given genetic profile created during the DNA replication process. Replication is one of the stages of the analysis, necessary to test against various controls. The expert said the mistake in logging the evidence’s storage space, as well as the evidence samples’ close spatial proximity to control samples in the laboratory, did not affect the integrity of her study in any way.

The prosecution also called a friend of Poindexter’s and a neighbor who lives in a balcony apartment overseeing the location of Poindexter’s home to the witness stand. 

The witness close to the victim, who knew about the dispute that allegedly led to his death, was questioned about two fights.

The first fight took place in a Home Depot and the second at Club Aqua in Washington, DC. Both fights were filmed and posted on Instagram, according to the witness. The witness also said it was clear a second witness close to the incident was in the second video at the time, even if the video is too dark now to identify anyone in it. This third witness is scheduled to testify in the trial. 

The witness said that, after the first video of an altercation inside Home Depot was published on social media, she direct messaged a friend to try and calm things down.

“I pulled her up on the incident that happened, to alleviate the situation because I know both parties,” she said. “It could have been a big misunderstanding so I pulled her up on that.”

The witness told the prosecutor she was at work when she saw the second video outside Club Aqua.

The witness also stated Pondexter routinely logged in to social media from other people’s phones as he frequently would forget his own. The prosecutor asked if she was talking to a friend through Poindexter’s Instagram account the day after his death. She replied she was using it to talk to another friend who was close to the dispute using his Instagram account.

The neighbor witness explained she was at the front door of her apartment looking out the glass sliding door of her balcony when she saw Poindexter on the night of the shooting.

“I saw a guy running down the parking lot, had his pants down. Knocking on the door across the parking lot. I saw he collapsed but I didn’t know he was hurt or anything,” she said. “I heard him screaming to open the front door. A lady came down and she opened the door and he collapsed on the stairs inside the complex.”

About forty photographs of the incident location and evidence markers were entered into the record as evidence. A crime scene tech testified to several records of bullet cartridge casings found on the ground of the incident location as well as stray bullet fragments in nearby buildings, which included a fence adjacent to the intersection and the wall inside of a neighbor’s basement a few blocks away from the crime scene. 

At least two cars were reviewed, a white Chevrolet suburban and a Nissan sedan. Crime scene techs pulled several bullet fragments out of both vehicles.

Judge Danya Dayson presided over the hearing. The trial scheduled to resume on Nov 3.