04/25/10 — State gives DNA evidence in Neal trial

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State gives DNA evidence in Neal trial

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on April 25, 2010 1:50 AM

Prosecutors made their strongest argument Friday that suspect William J. Neal is the real guilty party in the 1987 rape of a 12-year-old girl, presenting their DNA evidence.

Continuing Neal's trial, which began on Monday in Wayne County Superior Court, District Attorney Branny Vickory questioned a State Bureau of Investigation agent who analyzed the DNA strands after a request by Goldsboro police.

Neal is accused of the rape of a 12-year-old girl in 1987, a crime that already sent the wrong man, Dwayne Dail, to prison for more than 18 years.

Vickory and Agent Kristen Hughes bantered about the procedures the agent used before Vickory directly addressed a key point in the evidence against Neal.

"All the 13 areas used by law enforcement match Mr. Neal, is that correct?" Vickory asked the SBI agent.

"That's correct. The 13 areas match Mr. Neal," the agent responded.

The DNA evidence being used was collected from the victim's nightgown. The gown was located in 2008, when the N.C. Center on Actual Innocence made a request for a search on the behalf of Dail, the exonerated man.

Other evidence in Dail's original trial, including the rape kit conducted by a Wayne Memorial hospital registered nurse, and hair sample, have been destroyed.

Under state law, all of the evidence in the case was scheduled for destruction, but a Goldsboro police officer saved some of the evidence, including the gown, for unknown reasons.

After Vickory's examination of the DNA analyzer, Kinston attorney Christopher Rogerson, Neal's attorney, was then given the opportunity for cross-examination.

"Is it possible that (the DNA evidence) could be someone else?" Rogerson asked Hughes.

"Possible, but not probable," the agent responded.

Not long after Mrs. Hughes left the stand, the state rested its case in presenting evidence against Neal.

The beginning of defense evidence began with the recalling of witness R.T. Smith, the Goldsboro Police Department's evidence custodian.

He questioned Smith about pictures he took of the evidence room, known as the "bicycle" or "bike" room at the Goldsboro Police Department downtown.

Next, Rogerson called SBI agent Troy Hamlin, who conducted the analysis on hairs collected from the scene.

Hamlin said that in 1987, an analysis of the hairs found them to be "microscopically similar" to Dail's, but that such tests are no longer even conducted, and would not be considered as evidence in a modern courtroom.

Rogerson is expected to continue presenting defense witnesses when the trial begins again on Monday morning.