Press Release
January 24, 2000

Is this Justice?
by Rose Thomas

Two years later, Frederick Luckett awaits his release from behind prison walls, after being excluded conclusively in March 1998 as the depositor of sperm fraction taken during the rape kit examination from one of the victims in 1979.  From March 1998 to March 1999, Fred Luckett waited with no response from prosecutors, or anyone for that matter, explaining why he hasn't been released.

Finally, on December 8, 1999, an Evidentiary Hearing was held in Judge Griffith's courtroom.  Three expert witnesses testified (Charlotte Word, DNA Specialist at Cellmark Diagnostics Laboratory in Germantown, Maryland, and two additional experts from Meridia Huron Hospital) on the method to determine whether the sperm of the accused matches the sperm taken during the rape kit examination; as well, the chain of custody of the examination.  All three witnesses agreed conclusively that Fred Luckett couldn't possibly be the perpetrator of this crime.

Prosecutor Mason challenged, to no avail, the expert's authority to testify.  In a March 9, 1999 Plain Dealer article, prosecutor Chris Frey said, "victims were not asked during testimony whether the rapist ejaculated."  However, Judge Griffin was quick to point out, during arguments in the December 17th hearing, that the rape kit slide presented by the prosecutor during the 1979 trial was what convicted Fred Luckett.

Even the police reportedly housed evidence taken from the first victim (stained undergarments) during the examination.  All evidence was submitted to the Cleveland Police Department by Huron Road Hospital in 1979.  The Police Department housed the evidence until the mid 1980's then discarded it.

On December 17, 1999, lawyers argued for Judge Griffith to grant a motion for a new trial on the first two rape cases, and withdraw the "No Contest" plea on the third charge.  Judge Griffith, convinced by the arguments, granted the motion for a new trial on the first two rape convictions.  However, he chose to hold his decision on the No Contest plea, until the outcome of the trial.  Prosecutor Mason vowed to appeal the judge's decision, and did just that on Friday, January 14th.  So now, Fred Luckett must continue to sit and wait.  He's not entitled to an appellate bond because the first motion is now in the Appeals Court.  Therefore, an appellate bond is worthless because Judge Griffin won't make a decision on the No Contest plea.

If defense lawyers made compelling arguments during the December 17th hearing on why Judge Griffith should grant a motion to withdraw the No Contest plea, then how ethical is it for this same judge to call a conference on January 14, 2000, offering Mr. Luckett a deal stating: "Throw out the 2 rapes, break down the third charge to gross sexual imposition, and break counts down to 4th and 5th degree felony, which is a misdemeanor.  Plus, four years strict probation to him."

It sounds to me as though he wants this man to admit guilt to a crime he didn't commit, in order to obtain his freedom.  Is this our system of justice?  Respectfully, Luckett declined Judge Griffith's offer.  But now he has to wait on a decision to be rendered by the Appellate Court, and we know how long that can take.

During the Final Posing Arguments hearing on December 17th, I sat and listened to the judge's reasoning as to why he's reluctant to accept DNA as scientific evidence.  I couldn't help but think to myself, "Is it his intent to make us believe he's never considered fingerprints as conclusive evidence when convicting perpetrators of violent crimes?"  Well, here's a message to Judge Griffith from Attorney General, Janet Reno:

Message from Attorney General, Janet Reno

"Our system of Criminal Justice is best described as a search for the truth.  Increasingly, the forensic use of DNA technology is an important ally in that search.  The development of DNA technology furthers the search for truth by helping police and prosecutors in the fight against violent crimes.  Through the use of DNA evidence, prosecutors are often able to conclusively establish the guilt of the defendant.  Moreover, as some of the commentaries suggest, DNA evidence - like fingerprint - offers prosecutors important new tools for the identification and apprehension of some of the most violent perpetrators, particularly in cases of sexual assault.  At the same time, DNA aids the search for truth by exonerating the innocent..."

Is this justice?  No!  This isn't about justice!  This is about a prosecutor who won't admit that an injustice has been committed.  A prosecutor who uses smoke screens to buy time - all at Mr. Luckett's expense.  Undo this wrong and free Fred Luckett!

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