Thursday, June 3, 2010

The "Search" for DNA Evidence

At the time of Michael's trial, forensic testing was - by comparison to today - prehistoric. There was, apparently, no testing of the knives that were seized. It doesn't even appear that they were given to the folks at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation for testing. There were apparently some small stains of something on the jeans that were seized from Michael's room; while they were able to identify them as blood, they were unable to determine if they were human or animal, let alone type the blood. And, I would add - small stains of blood on jeans allegedly worn by someone who stabbed someone 37 times? This time of year I get blood on my clothes just by slapping a mosquito...

The note regarding the fingernail scrapings of the victim is illegible, but no lab results tied them to either defendant. None of the other evidence (i.e., blood from the scene and items from the scene) was used to tie either defendant to the scene. The technology was just too limited.

When DNA evidence started to be tested with new - and incredibly advanced - techniques and state law permitted such requests, Michael immediately pursued this option. He was confident that the knives would reveal no trace of blood. Yes, even when "cleaned," the new technology can show amazing things. He was confident that the knives and fingernails scrapings would exonerate him.

In response to his application for DNA testing, in 2005 the state went "looking" for DNA evidence so that it could be tested. If you click on the below images, they will enlarge. You will see that a police officer in the Property Room stated that the property room journal noted, "On January 24, 1979, per the prosecutor's office, all evidence was destroyed." What I can't figure out is why the evidence was ordered destroyed so quickly. When did the Court of Appeals affirm the Lucas County Common Pleas Court decision? February 9, 1979.

It is true that the actual appeal might have taken place earlier, even before January 24th. I don't have that information (yet). But, it still seems a bit hasty to have destroyed the evidence thirteen months after a conviction for aggravated murder that resulted in a life sentence. Hasty even for the 70s.

Perhaps most intriguing - it's one thing to have the prosecutor go looking for evidence that might exonerate someone they convicted. It's another thing to have the person who was the lead detective on the case go looking. Thomas Ross, "serving as a Secret Service Investigator by and/or on behalf of the Criminal Division, Lucas County Prosecutor's Office" was sent to do the looking. He was the person who interrogated Michael back in 1977. Below is his two page affidavit of 17 Feb 2005, stating that no evidence was to be found. Call me crazy, but...

After an appeal, regarding the search for evidence, in which the Court told the state, essentially, "No, you actually have to try to find the evidence," the prosecutor's office again sent Thomas Ross on the hunt.

Below is the two page affidavit, again, stating that no evidence could be found. The affidavit makes reference to the serologist leaving the evidence in court on "12-12-77." This was during the co-defendant's trial, not Michael's. His trial began a week later, on December 19th. Note the care with which the document is prepared. Michael's last name is misspelled, as are several other things. Yes, it's a difficult Polish name, but c'mon. Note: I was shocked at the number of errors in both the investigative file and the trial transcripts.

Finally, this is the affidavit of Charles Broshious, a "Special Deputy" with the Lucas County Sheriff's Department. He states that he searched the courthouse and came up empty.

No evidence = No DNA. No DNA = no DNA testing of evidence. No DNA testing of evidence = a much more difficult situation.

Was the evidence really destroyed? Maybe. Only recently did Ohio pass a law addressing the preservation of evidence. Or, with the fox guarding the hen house, did they just not happen to"find" it? Chances are we'll never know.

But, it seems an egregious error to send the man who was the lead detective on the case looking for evidence that might well have shown that when he got his man, he got the wrong guy.


  1. Sorting through all of my pictures I decided to put together a obituary book together. In the coarse of that I came upon the article of Henry Cordle's murder.When I was 17 years old I lived on the Eastside of Toledo. I had my first child and lived alone trying to make it. I used to push the stroller up town and stop by McDonalds on Front Street. One day I was doing my usual walk and I met 74 year old Henry. He was sitting on a bus bench (just sitting there). He told me my baby was beautiful. I could tell he was lonely and I know I was too for conversation. So, we talked and made friends. I invited him to go with me to McDonalds for coffee. We met there by the bench a lot and soon I discovered he wasn’t a homeless man but a man terribly abused by his family. Apparently a couple family members drove him out of his own home and were illegally cashing his social security checks and spending the money. I wanted to help Henry anyway I could. I knew I needed to get him legal help. He didn’t want my help because he was proud. But, I convinced him he couldn’t do it alone. It was easy to put a stop to them cashing his social security checks but getting them out of the house was going to be a little more work. I convinced Henry to stay at the YMCA rather than sleeping on a park bench until we could get him back into his home and then worst imaginable thing happen, he was robbed and murdered I would guess for drugs and they thought Henry had some. They robbed this poor defensive man and stab him multiple times with an ice pick. Henry died. I cried and cried. I missed my friend but I also felt I was to blame because I convinced Henry he would be saver at the YMCA. I should have left him alone. The night before the funeral I had a dream about Henry. He told me that one of the guys staying at the Y was responsible for his death and told me even which room he was in. At the funeral there was a detective there asking questions of anyone who may have known anything. I told him that this may seem a bit strange but I had a dream and Henry told me that a young man staying at the Y did it along with his friend. Soon after I heard the news that the two kids who did it was caught. Their names were Michael Ustaszewsi 18 years old and Michael Morris 19 years old. A stupid senseless act that left a HUGH imprint in my life. Time and time again I think about it and it makes me really sad.If Michael really did not do it I want that proven. You can't tell me there is no evidence kept in their property room. Not when they still had evidence of the 14 year girl killed in 1967. I want to know the truth. It really impacted my life in a hugh way. I loved Henry and he was important to me.

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