DNA vs. alibi at core of murder trial


POSTED: Thursday, April 16, 2009

The guilt or innocence of a man standing trial for a 1999 rape and murder could come down to whether the jurors believe DNA evidence or the man's claim that he was somewhere else when the crimes occurred.

Trial for Darnell Griffin is scheduled to begin today in Circuit Court. Griffin, 50, faces second-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault charges in connection with the death of Evelyn Luka.

A motorist found Luka, 20, unconscious near the Ka Uka Boulevard onramp to the H-2 freeway on Sept. 6, 1999. She died a month later, never having regained consciousness.

The Honolulu medical examiner said Luka was strangled. She also had bruises and scratches on her face and body.

Police had no suspect and the case remained unsolved until 2007, when they said they matched DNA recovered from Luka's body with Griffin's.

Griffin will rely on an alibi defense, and his alibi witness is listed as his wife, according to court records.

Police said Luka's husband dropped his wife off at Venus Nightclub Sept. 5 and was supposed to pick her up later. But Luka called her husband about midnight and told him she was catching a ride with a friend after the show. Nightclub employees said they saw Luka leave in a sport utility vehicle with a black male.

Griffin asked for a lawyer when police tried to question him after his arrest in 2007. A detective said in a report that as she was escorting Griffin to the cellblock from the interview room, he told her he had been at Venus Nightclub the evening Luka disappeared.

Circuit Judge Dexter Del Rosario found the detective's claim not credible and ruled her statement inadmissible.

Police said they were able to match Griffin's DNA because a 2005 state law requires all felons to submit samples to a national database. A state judge sentenced Griffin to life in prison in 1983 for the strangulation murder of another woman in 1980.

He won release on parole in 1996.