Since we released the DNA results in the case of Derrick Williams earlier this week, there has been an outpouring of public support for Derrick, his family and for IPF. People recognize that the DNA test results are powerful new evidence that prove Derrick’s innocence and, at minimum, entitle him to a new trial. What doesn’t seem to make sense is the insistence by the prosecutor that we are relying on the absence of DNA to prove innocence in this case. After calling IPF names, which is a bit unnecessary, a commenter in a previous post illustrates this confusion:
Wow I cannot believe how gullible the people at The Innocence Project of Florida have become. All a convict has to say is “I’m innocent” and that MUST be the truth so they will spend $$$$ trying to free the criminal. This man is 100% guilty and your DNA tests are a joke! How does this DNA evidence demonstrate innocence ? Absence of evidence is NOT evidence of absence! Do you understand that? Just because you DID NOT FIND DNA on a shirt does not mean the man WAS NOT THERE!!! Stop wasting your time and money! In fact I have an idea. the IPF should hire me as a consultant.
I am willing to work very cheap, I can save the IFP a BOAT LOAD OF $$$
Let’s dismantle this illogical argument. We recognize better than most that most people in the prison system assert their innocence even if it is not true. Indeed, we receive approximately 1,200 requests for new assistance each year and only accept about 12 new cases, meaning we deny roughly 99% of the people who contact us for help. When we take a case, we take it because we believe we can meet the legal standards both to get DNA testing and to vacate the conviction should the results be favorable. The Derrick Williams case is no different.
We all agree that it is a single perpetrator, black on white, rape case where the perpetrator left his shirt in the victim’s car and it was later collected by law enforcement. This shirt was a key piece of evidence and the case really only hinges on the victim’s inconsistent and tainted ID and the strong effort by the prosecution to attribute the shirt to Derrick. Let’s not forget that when we petitioned for DNA testing, we argued that one possibility was to get the exact result we ended up getting, and with that knowledge, the prosecution recognized our entitlement to the testing.
We would not be where we are today if there was an “absence of DNA” on the inside of the collar of the perpetrator’s t-shirt. If that were the case, we would have had no DNA profile to compare to and Derrick would have to remain wrongfully incarcerated. No press conference, no news coverage, nothing left to do.
Of course, our result is much different. We DID find DNA in the inside collar of the shirt, which is a wearer area of the shirt. It is a place where, when people sweat normally when wearing a t-shirt, they leave their sweat and skin cells which contain their DNA. This is especially so, as in this case, when the wearing is done on a hot August day and a violent struggle occurred causing greater shedding of skin cells than that which takes place during normal wear. When we compared this wearer DNA found on the inside collar of the perpetrator’s t-shirt to the DNA profile Derrick Williams, he was excluded as a donor of the wearer DNA. This means the DNA wearer DNA was not his, he did not wear the shirt and leave it in the victim’s car after the rape, and someone other than him committed the rape.
Every single DNA exoneration necessarily requires the perpetrator to leave his biological evidence at the crime scene, either in or on a victim, or on a piece of physical evidence that has a nexus to the crime and the perpetrator. Thus, this case is no different than a perpetrator leaving semen on the victim’s underwear and it excluding the defendant.
It is the absence of the Defendant’s DNA and the presence of someone else’s DNA that makes this case just like the other 255 DNA exonerations before it. This new DNA evidence proves Derrick did not rape the victim and that he is innocent. We look forward to proving what most already understand: that these fanciful arguments by this commenter and the prosecution are really just non-science-based excuses for following their gut instinct instead of the evidence that is clear as day.