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Friday, November 15, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sirens & Gavels

Appellate court upholds murder conviction amid DNA concerns

A trio of appellate court judges have upheld the 2012 murder conviction of Julio J. Davila in the beating death of John G. “Jack” Allen Jr. during an apparent robbery in 2007, despite concerns about the incompetence of a DNA technician handling the case.

Jeramie R. Davis was convicted and spent nearly seven years in prison for his alleged role in the porn shop robbery. But investigators asked for a second look at DNA evidence found at the crime scene, a pornography shop on East Sprague Avenue. Traces of Davila's DNA on the murder weapon, a baseball bat, lead to his arrest, conviction and sentencing in a subsequent trial. Davis was set free shortly after the conviction, as prosecutors could not prove he ever swung the murder weapon.

Davila appealed his conviction, saying prosecutors did not turn over evidence of incompetence on the part of Washington State Patrol crime lab technician Denise Olson. The now-fired lab worker was described as a "loose cannon whose work cannot be trusted," according to an internal WSP review of her work released through a public records request. During a court hearing evaluating Olson's work and how it might have affected the case, a coworker detailed an incident in which Olson looked for semen stains on clothing when the suspect was a woman.

Attorneys for Davila argued his conviction should be overturned because prosecutors knew about Olson's shoddy work at the time of trial, but didn't reveal her record to the defense team, which could have used it to question the believability of the state's evidence. The U.S. Supreme Court's opinion in Brady v. Maryland (1963) requires prosecutors to turn over all evidence that might be used to impeach their witnesses to defense attorneys.

In the opinion delivered by the court, Third Division Appellate Judge Robert Lawrence-Berrey wrote prosecutors erred when they did not turn over the WSP reports, but such evidence likely wouldn't have led to a different trial outcome for Davila. He cited extensive testimony at trial that indicated how the DNA evidence was collected, and that there was no reason to suspect Olson contaminated evidence in this particular case, despite her history of incompetence.

"While evidence of Ms. Olson's incompetence could have been used for impeachment purposes, it was not material to the accuracy of Ms. Olson's work in this case," Lawrence-Berrey wrote.

Davila is serving what remains of his 16-and-a-half year sentence at Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. Davis pleaded guilty to a second-degree robbery charge, was given credit for time served and released.



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