WSU Criminal Justice Dept. Chief Eric Lambert: late search creates problems with admissibility of evidence
By Diane Bukowski
Aug. 15, 2011
DETROIT – Brandishing a search warrant signed by 36th District Court Judge Ronald Giles, a Detroit Police “Crime Scene Unit” including Kevin Simpson, one of the two officers who responded to 911 call to seize Maryanne Godboldo’s child Ariana, 13, on March 24, conducted a very belated search of their home on Blaine near Linwood Aug. 10.
“Detroit Police Department Crime Scene Unit to photograph and diagram residence and look for evidence of a bullet hole in the kitchen wall and ceiling and a bullet hole in the side door stairwell leading to the kitchen. Also to look for and photograph signs of recent repairs to the kitchen wall and/or ceiling and to the wall and ceiling in the side door/stairwell area leading to the kitchen,” the warrant reads.
Giles is presiding over Godboldo’s preliminary exam, which was partially held July 25. During that exam, Simpson admitted that Detroit police had no authority to serve a civil court order. Later in the exam, police officer William Blake testified that he observed a “bullet hole” in the ceiling leading to the inside kitchen door, but admitted that he included no mention of the alleged bullet hole in either his first CRISNET (formerly preliminary complaint or PCR) report or a May report to the prosecutor’s office.
Both officers testified that no one to their knowledge called evidence technicians to the scene immediately afterwards.
( http://voiceofdetroit.net/2011/07/27/shocking-new-details-in-godboldo-police-stand-off-case/ to read article on exam.)
Godboldo’s attorney Byron Pitts and Ron Scott, a member of the Justice 4 Maryanne Committee, met Godboldo at her home prior to the search. Pitts had obtained an agreement from the police department that they would not proceed with the search without his presence. State Sen. Fred Durhal arrived as the search proceeded. Reporters were allowed to observe and film the search.
At the time of the search, Godboldo was still in court for proceedings in the custody trial, but said she was determined to prevail in all matters.
Although the search warrant mentioned nothing about the kitchen door, the unit spent most of its time inserting a ball point pen in a hole in the door four separate times. An officer jiggled it around to point it in different directions. Officers also focused on a barely discernible indentation in the stairwell ceiling. At one point, an officer pointed his index finger in the direction of the alleged indentation. Officers did not appear to have found any bullet.
Officers also used measuring tapes to indicate various distances throughout the kitchen and in the stairwell.
Professor Eric Lambert, chair of Wayne State University’s Criminal Justice Department, said there may be problems admitting any results of the search into evidence, but that it will be up to Judge Giles to rule on the matter.
“It seems awfully late in the game to do the search,” he said. “It can certainly be challenged in court. There will be issues regarding when any bullet hole might have been made, and what experts they have that can identify it as a bullet hole. Unknown people could have contaminated an unsecured scene. The search opens up more problems than if it had been conducted in the beginning. They are now trying to piece it together way after the fact.”
Regarding the methods used by the Crime Scene Unit, Lambert said that from his experience, crime scene experts use trajectory lasers and/or strings to show where a person might have been standing when the bullet was fired and where it landed, the height of the person, and other matters.. He said oftentimes experts would have removed the door or part of it at the time, which was not done.
“It seems that the methods they used were very simplistic, rather than relying on a scientific approach. Additionally, if they were not being very careful with the pen, there is an issue of whether they contaminated or destroyed the evidence. Every time you don’t do things to a T, it becomes an issue whether or not the evidence meets the proper standard to be introduced,” Lambert said.
Lambert said that although the Detroit Police crime lab has been shut down, the department still has officers assigned to gather evidence and send it to the State Police for analysis.
The continuation of Maryanne Godboldo’s preliminary exam in set for Monday, Aug. 29 in front of Judge Giles in 36th District Court, at 8:30 a.m. promptly, courtroom to be determined. For updates on trial proceedings, fundraisers, petitions, and other matters in the Godboldo custody and criminal proceedings, go to http://justice4maryanne.com/ .