Vance Trial -- UPDATE | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vance Trial -- UPDATE

Posted By on Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 5:24 PM

In the classic story "The Cask of Amontillado" by Edgar Allan Poe, a prisoner is slowly bricked up alive inside a vault. Today, prosecutors kept laying on the bricks in the case of Curtis Lavelle Vance, accused of capital murder in the rape and beating death of KATV anchorwoman Anne Pressly. The wall they are building may be an insurmountable obstacle for the defense team trying to save their client from the death penalty.

The day began with testimony from members of the Little Rock Police Department's Crime Scene Search Unit, who testified about evidence collection in Pressly's home. Of particular interest to the defense was the way fingerprints are gathered at a crime scene. The root of that interest, said Deputy Prosecutor John Johnson in a short conversation during a break in proceedings, is that no prints from Vance were found in Pressly's house, and the defense plans to eventually make an issue of that.

Testimony next came from the Marianna biology teacher who was raped by a stranger in her home on April 21, 2008. Jurors and spectators sat riveted as she stoically described being grabbed from behind in her living room after emerging from the shower while wearing only a bathrobe. In one particularly poignant moment, the victim mouthed the words "It's okay" to her parents, who were sitting on the other side of the courtroom. She said that after raping her on the couch while telling her that he would kill her if she tried to look at him, her attacker stole $3 and a cell phone.

Later today, Krista Hall, a serologist, and Mary Simonson, a forensic DNA examiner, both with the Arkansas State Crime Lab, described how they tested fluids recovered during a rape examination of the Marianna victim -- tests which revealed her assailant's DNA profile. That profile, they said, eventually made a "high stringency hit" with the DNA profile of the assailant in the Pressly case.  Later, after he submitted oral swabs to police, the DNA of Curtis Vance was linked to both the Marianna rape and DNA found at the Pressly scene to a certainty of one in billions.

Defense attorney Katherine Streett countered by asking Simonson about possible cross-contamination of evidence while it is being reviewed at the Crime Lab.  Simonson said that in addition to having their results "peer reviewed" -- double-checked by other DNA investigators --  specialists are required to run control samples during testing to assure that there's no contamination.     

The day ended with jurors listening to an audio recording of an interview between Little Rock Police detectives and Vance taken in Marianna while detectives where there investigating leads in the Pressly murder. In the audio recording, Vance denies that he was in Little Rock on Oct. 20, 2008, and says that he has never had sex with anyone from Little Rock.

Still to come: the audio and video recordings seen and heard during pre-trial suppression hearings, in which Vance admits much more. 

Testimony resumes tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. 

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