Judge Denies Defense Motion on DNA Testing in Murder Case

A DC Superior Court judge denied a defense motion in a murder case to conduct DNA testing and stop the prosecution from consuming DNA evidence in light of the Department of Forensic Sciences’ (DFS) loss of its accreditation.

Daquan Gray, 19, is charged with first-degree murder while armed in connection with the shooting of 15-year-old Jaylyn Wheeler on May 16, 2018, on the 600 Block of Alabama Avenue, SE.

The motion came after the prosecution gave notice of their intent to retest DNA evidence. According to the prosecutor, only one more round of testing can be done on the DNA evidence. Judge Neal Kravitz called the defense’s motion “gamesmanship” since Gray waived his right to conduct DNA testing under the Innocence Protection Act back in February 2020.

In the motion, defense attorney Dana Page states that her client learned that the DFS lost its accreditation after he waived his right to DNA testing. Page goes on to argue that Gray has the right to test material previously tested by the prosecution. She also wanted Judge Kravitz to prevent the prosecution from possibly consuming the material by testing it themselves.

During the Nov. 12 hearing, the timing of the defense’s motion was questioned due to the lack of activity or requests regarding the DNA until the prosecution decided to retest the evidence. Page responded, saying COVID’s impact on the vacating of the trial scheduled for September 2020 led her to forget. She argued that private testing would allow them to conduct different types of testing, however, when asked what they would do differently by the judge, Page was not forthcoming due to it being key to the defense strategy. 

The prosecution argued that, although the firearms and crime scene DNA laboratories of DFS have come under scrutiny, there is no evidence of corruption or incompetence in this case. The prosecution also said the retesting was not a priority until recently due to his release from custody. Along with that, the private labs which conduct testing for the government are backlogged, so the testing will not be instantaneous, the prosecution said. 

Judge Kravitz said the defense may suggest additional trials to the prosecution for the testing and submit another motion if needed. Parties are scheduled to reconvene on Feb. 22. 

McKenzie Pochiro wrote this article.