Home Nonviolent defense Key DNA question as jury begins deliberations

Key DNA question as jury begins deliberations



QUESTION: Have prosecutors proven that 71-year-old Michael M. Sharpe attacked four women in their Hartford-area homes in June and July 1984?


DISPUTE: Does other evidence, including an inconsistent DNA result, raise a reasonable doubt?

“There is no reason to doubt the science of DNA that has been peer reviewed and tested,” prosecutor Robin Krawczyk said Tuesday during his closing argument before the jury in the Michael M. Sharpe, 71, charged with kidnapping in attacks on four women. in their homes in the Hartford area in 1984.

But in her closing argument before the Hartford Superior Court jury, public defender Dana Sanetti cited the title of a seminar from the professional resume of Elaine Pagliaro, a forensic expert who testified for the prosecution. “I have a DNA match. Why isn’t that enough?”

Sanetti said DNA was the only evidence prosecutors had about the identity of the attacker. And she argued that was not enough.

The jury was supposed to start deliberating today.

Patricia Loso, a retired DNA analyst, testified last week that there is less than a 1 in 7 billion chance that anyone other than Sharpe produced male DNA found at three of the scenes of crime – and less than 1 chance in 7.3 million in the fourth case.

Sanetti’s response: “A low probability is not an absence of probability.”

The defense attorney also called DNA statistics like those presented by Loso “a prediction. They cannot be tested.”

After the arguments, Senior Judge Frank M. D’Addabbo Jr.’s legal instructions to the jury took up most of the day in court.

Sharpe, who lived on Stage Harbor Road in Marlborough when he was arrested in 2020, was once principal of charter schools in Hartford and Bridgeport. Bridgeport fired him and his company after discovering that he had falsified his credentials and criminal record, as well as the criminal records of school aides.

Sharpe’s convictions relate to non-violent crimes, forgery in Connecticut in the mid-1980s and embezzlement in Oakland, Calif., for which he served time in prison.

The crimes Sharpe is now charged with occurred in June and July 1984 in Bloomfield, Middletown, Windsor and Rocky Hill. The four victims, who were then between the ages of 24 and 30, described multiple crimes committed by their attackers, including sexual assault, robbery and burglary.

But Sharpe only faces kidnapping charges because the legal deadlines for prosecuting the other crimes have expired.

Sanetti highlighted discrepancies in the identification evidence.

Michael Bourke, a DNA analyst at the State Forensic Science Laboratory in Windsor, testified Tuesday before closing arguments that the DNA on a mask found at the Windsor victim’s home could not have come from Sharpe.

The assailant blindfolded each victim. But there were reports that the victims felt what they thought were scars on his body, a possible appendectomy scar and scars on his back or upper shoulders.

Sanetti showed the jury photos of Sharpe’s upper body taken since his arrest showing no signs of scarring on his shoulders or back.

Sharpe has a scar on his chest. But Ann Marie Corneau, the mother of his child, testified that it came from a burn he suffered in 1986 or 1987, long after the crimes.

In his rebuttal, prosecutor John Fahey pointed to the intense emotions felt by the women, both during the attacks, when the attacker threatened their lives with a gun, and when they were repeatedly questioned by the following.

Fahey also said that Sharpe had scars on his abdomen in addition to the fire injury and that he had “stretch marks on both shoulders”.

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