Monday, August 23, 1999

Dana Ireland Trial

DNA crucial
to Pauline trial

No scientific evidence has
tied the suspect to the scene
of Dana Ireland's murder

By Dana Williams


HILO -- Jurors in the Frank Pauline Jr. murder case are getting a professional lesson in forensic science as national experts testify about blood samples, hair fragments and accident reconstruction.

Since late 1991, when Dana Ireland was kidnapped, raped and murdered, the field of DNA analysis has become increasingly sophisticated. In the last few weeks of the trial, jurors have heard how blood from a T-shirt, sperm from a hospital sheet and hair from articles of clothing had been broken down into the basic building blocks of life.

The blood came from Ireland. The hair came from unknown individuals. By analyzing the sperm, scientists were able to pinpoint the genetic profile of one of the men who might have been involved in the attack on Ireland.

None of the DNA evidence has been linked to suspects in the case. Neither the sperm nor the hair came from Pauline. Brothers Albert Ian and Shawn Schweitzer, who will be tried separately in the case, have also been ruled out as the source of the sperm and the hair.

The blood was found on a JimmyZ-brand T-shirt witnesses have linked to Pauline, but police never determined how common that shirt design was. Because the shirt was covered in blood, examiners were unable to extract perspiration from it. No scientific evidence linked the shirt to the defendant.


Gathering evidence

On Christmas Eve 1991, Ireland was found near a remote fishing trail in the Waawaa area of Puna. Nearby, investigators found several items of clothing: a child's black running shoe, a black sock, a pair of men's underpants and the JimmyZ shirt.

Ireland lay wounded at the scene for more than two hours. With no phones in the area, the woman who found her couldn't call for help. Bad directions and hesitation by rescue workers caused more delays. When an ambulance finally arrived, Ireland was loaded onto a gurney and taken to Hilo Hospital.

At the hospital, doctors took swabs from her body. After she died, the swabs, the items from the scene and her clothing were sent to the FBI for analysis.

Special Agent Audrey Lynch conducted DNA tests on the evidence and found Ireland's blood on several articles of clothing, including the T-shirt.

When the Ireland evidence arrived at the lab in January 1992, DNA analysis was fairly new to the FBI. After years of research, the agency used DNA in a case for the first time in December 1988, said Paul Bresson, a spokesman at agency headquarters in Washington, D.C.

When Lynch conducted the tests in the Ireland case, she used a method known as restricted fragment length polymerase, or RFLP. Lynch said strands of DNA found in the cell nucleus are about 6 feet long and can be compared to ladders. By looking at material in specific locations on the strands, like looking at specific rungs of a ladder, scientists can determine if a DNA sample matches with a sample from an individual.

With the exception of identical twins, the DNA that exists in the cell nucleus is unique to individuals.

Examiners need a fairly large sample of material to conduct an RFLP analysis, so while Lynch said she was able to detect sperm on the vaginal swabs from Ireland, the sample was too small to analyze.

Better tests

In the mid-1980s, scientists in California developed another method of DNA analysis known as polymerase chain reaction. Using this method, examiners can make millions of copies of a tiny piece of DNA until they have a sample large enough to work with. Edward T. Blake, who testified in Pauline's trial last week, said he was the first person to use the method in a court case.

At the FBI the polymerase chain reaction analysis technique was not used until late 1991, spokesman Bresson said. During the Pauline trial, Lynch testified that the method was initially used only for cases from the FBI field offices, because few examiners were qualified in the technique. An exception was made in the Ireland case, and examiners conducted limited polymerase chain reaction testing on material from a vaginal swab. But the DNA sample was still too small to yield results.

Examiners had little evidence to start with, and much of it was destroyed in the testing process.

In 1998, attorneys in the Ireland case asked Blake's lab, Forensic Science Associates in Richmond, Calif., to review the remaining evidence. Blake found sperm on the ambulance gurney sheet, an item that had been overlooked by FBI examiners. Prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed to turn the evidence over to another independent lab for further examination. That's when forensic scientist Lisa Calandro determined the sperm didn't match any of the suspects, and it didn't match Ireland's boyfriend.

The DNA in the nucleus of a cell is unique to individuals, but another type of DNA exists in the area that surrounds the cell. Mitochondrial DNA is passed from mother to child, so maternal relatives have the same mitochondrial DNA.

Mitochondrial DNA can often be found in hair and bone fragments after nuclear DNA has broken down. In the Ireland case, several hairs were found at the scene and sent to the FBI for analysis.

Joseph Dizinno works in the FBI lab's mitochondrial DNA unit, which didn't exist until 1996. He analyzed hairs found on the T-shirt, the underwear and the socks and found they were all different from one another, and none of them matched the suspects or Ireland. Other hairs on the bloody T-shirt were not analyzed because they were consistent with Ireland's hair, Dizinno said.

Other evidence

When Pauline confessed to being involved with the killing in 1994, he gave police two details of the crime that experts are still debating. He said a Volkswagen Beetle was used to run over Ireland, and he said he hit Ireland with a tire iron.

Kenneth Baker, an accident reconstruction specialist from Illinois, said in a report that a Volkswagen Beetle confiscated by police "could be the vehicle involved in the collision with Dana Ireland."

His testimony was rebuted by a defense witness, engineer James Campbell of Pahoa. Campbell said the crash with Ireland's bicycle was "possibly caused by a rear impact with a small pickup truck made between 1965 and 1975."

As for the tire iron, Honolulu forensic pathologist Kanthi von Guenthner testified that Ireland's injuries could have been caused by a grazing blow from the tip of a tire iron.

Ireland had a large gash on her head that revealed her skull. While prosecutors have argued the gash was caused by a blow from a tire iron, the defense has said the injury was caused by Ireland's head slamming against the vehicle that hit her.

Last weekend, attorneys traveled to Detroit to take a videotaped deposition from Dr. Werner Spitz.

Spitz, a former Detroit coroner, took part in inquiries into the deaths of president John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

In one of his reports, he said the cut on Ireland's head "could have been caused by a glancing blow with a tire iron, but I do not believe that it was."

In an earlier report, he said Ireland's injuries were caused by "the traffic collision, where she was struck and run over."

He added, "The delay in taking her to the hospital eliminated any chances she may have had for recovery and undoubtedly hastened her demise."

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