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Four-year review of old forensic blood typing cases ends after no serious problems identified

Four-year review of old forensic blood typing cases ends after no serious problems identified


A four-year review of old blood typing cases prompted by a 1984 wrongful conviction was wrapped up Wednesday by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science after no serious problems or wider issues were identified.

The review was initiated by the department in 2016, shortly after DNA testing exonerated Keith Allen Harward of the 1982 rape of a Newport News woman and the murder of her husband. Those convictions stemmed from erroneous bite mark evidence.

However, Harward’s lawyers said the case file showed that simple blood typing results obtained in 1982 — if reported by the forensic scientist at the time — would have shown Harward could not have been the perpetrator and he would not have been tried, much less convicted.

The forensic serologist in that case, David A. Pomposini, left the department in 2012. Pomposini also performed blood typing in the case of Troy Webb, convicted of a Virginia Beach rape, imprisoned in 1988 and cleared by DNA in 1996, according to Brandon Garrett, a former professor at the University of Virginia School of Law who has studied wrongful convictions.

Pomposini could not be reached for comment and has not responded to requests for comment in the past.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, Harward said he was disappointed but had not expected any major results. “I appreciate them at least attempting to do something,” he said.

As outlined for the department’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Tuesday and the Forensic Science Board on Wednesday, the review examined more than 200 old reports sampled from many others made by 18 examiners from the forensic laboratories in the eastern and northern parts of the state.

The aim was to learn if there were wider systemic problems and to identify any other cases where exculpatory test results were found in the examiner’s notes but not reported by the examiner.

Nine cases with minor issues were found by the reviewers but none where evidence that could have supported innocence were found, said Brad Jenkins, the department’s forensic biology program manager.

Jenkins said that in one case the blood type initially identified by the examiner was changed twice in a case that led to an exoneration.

However, he said that person has already been exonerated by DNA testing and that the blood typing issue was brought out during the trial. The case was not identified by the department, but was apparently that of Winston Scott, cleared by DNA testing last year of a 1975 rape in Fairfax County.

Out of an abundance of caution, Jenkins said the staff will notify any convicted person in five of the nine cases, although it was not known Wednesday if any of those cases had resulted in convictions.

After Jenkins’ briefing Wednesday, the board of forensic science approved ending the review.

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