09/12/07 — Officials look for someone to charge in 18-year-old crime

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Officials look for someone to charge in 18-year-old crime

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on September 12, 2007 1:46 PM

It was an unusual case: Dwayne Allen Dail's DNA exonerated him in August, letting him walk out of a Wayne County courtroom free.

All that is left to do now is to figure out who really did rape a 12-year-old Goldsboro girl in 1987.

Local authorities say that becomes just another police investigation.

"It's just a matter of going back and picking up on old leads, talking to people again who were witnesses when it happened," District Attorney Branny Vickory said.

But while the police work might be similar to other investigations, one factor will be far different this time -- the science behind the investigation.

The N.C. Center for Actual Innocence has posted information about the case, listing "unreliable/limited" science as one factor in Dail's wrongful conviction and 18-year imprisonment. The other reason listed is eyewitness misidentification.

The science is better now -- analysis of the nucleic acid, DNA, that carries the genetic instructions of all known life, reputedly has remarkable accuracy.

That segment of the investigation is being handled by the State Bureau of Investigation, Goldsboro police Sgt. Chad Calloway said.

Calloway said the case also has been assigned within the investigative unit he oversees, adding that he can release little information about the case at this time.

Vickory confirmed that SBI laboratories were being used to match a donor to the sperm on the 12-year-old's nightgown, which was recovered after extensive searching at the Goldsboro Police Department.

"We're obviously working with the SBI, just from the lab perspective," Vickory said. "It's very much an active case."

Chris Mumma, director of the N.C. Center for Actual Innocence, said if the lab does come up with a potential match, the next step is verification.

"They police and attorney are working together to confirm an ID," Ms. Mumma said. "They would probably do that through collection of a new sample for verification."

That sample would most likely be collected by cheek swab, after which the new suspect's DNA would be compared with the profile on the nightgown, Ms. Mumma said.

As things stand now, Vickory said, Dail's name is no longer associated with conviction. The prosecutor said he is completely exonerated of all wrongdoing.

Vickory's motion for appropriate relief was accepted by Wayne County Superior Court Judge Jack Hooks.

"From a criminal conviction standpoint, (Dail's conviction) has been set aside and dismissed. He's not convicted," Vickory said.

But Ms. Mumma said there is still paperwork to be done. She must obtain a pardon from Gov. Mike Easley.

Ms. Mumma said since she has never been involved in a pardon before, so she has asked two people who have been -- Rep. Rick Glazer, D-Fayetteville and Mark Rabil, the capital defender in Forsyth County -- to assist.

The pardon isn't purely ceremonial -- it's a requirement to apply for the $20,000 Dail might receive for each of his 18 years in prison, a provision set out by state law for wrongful incarcerations.

"You have to have the pardon to pursue the compensation," Ms. Mumma said.