David Hicks was a 34 year old black male. He was on death row in Texas from December of 1987 to April of 1988, sentenced to die by lethal injection for rape and murder, on April 25th 1988, of his 87-year-old grandmother, Ms. Ocolor Heggar. David was only a suspect because he was near her house at the time of the crime. There was no indication that he had been insideXexcept, for DNA evidence. The DNA test determined that similarities between sections of DNA removed from Davids blood and DNA recovered from semen in Ms. Heggars house would occur only one time in a total of 96 million people.
On the evening of Ms. Heggars death she was alone in her house. Eddie Ray Branch, her grandson, testified that he visited his grandmother on the day that she was killed. He was there till at least 6:30 p. m. Lester Busby, her grandnephew, and David Hicks arrived while her grandson was still there and they saw him leave. They then went in to visit with Ms. Heggar. While they were there, Lester repaid Ms. Heggar 80 dollars, which he owed her.
They left around 7:15 p. m. d went next door to a neighboring friends house. David Hicks went home alone from there to get something but returned within ten minutes of leaving. Because he was only gone for 5-10 minutes, prosecution theorized TWO attacks on Ms. Heggar because he could not have killed his grandmother during this 5-10 minute period alone. At 7:30 p. m. , 15 minutes after the two had left, an insurance salesman called to see Ms. Heggar. He knocked for about 2 or 3 minutes and got no reply. Her door was open but the screen door was closed. Her TV was on.
He claimed to have left after about 5 minutes and then he returned the next morning. The circumstances were exactly the same. With concern, he went to the neighbors house and called the police. His reasoning for being there was because the grandmothers family had taken out burial insurance three days before she had died. David had strong ties and a compact relationship with his immediate family. During the course of the trial, the evidence was presented which seems to clear him: ,h Several hairs were recovered from the victim; tests revealed that they were not from David Hicks.
One was found to be consistent with Asian hair, another consistent with Lester Busby, the grandnephew. ,h A hammer found near the scene of the crime by Lester Busby, was believed to be the murder weapon, was admitted at trial; no fingerprints were recovered from it. ,h No evidence was found against David: no fingerprints, hairs or fibers. No blood was found on any of his clothes or in the car he was driving that night. ,h No witnesses could be found who could say David looked anything but normal after he got back from his ten minute venture home. No motive could be shown as to why he would do this to his grandmother. Lester Busby and Eddie Ray Branch testified against David at trial. As I said before, Eddie Ray Branch and his immediate family had a burial insurance taken out on the victim three days before she was killed and the insurance salesman was supposed to have completed the policy. ,h David was not gone long enough at the time his grandmother was first noticed to be missing to have committed the crime.
So the prosecution had to construct the double attack version of the killing. Two months later, three pieces of evidence were found by the defense underneath Lester Busby’s house by the prosecution but were never presented at trial: a syringe containing traces of human bodily fluids; a hammer with traces of blood on it and a wine bottle. Vaginal swabs from the victim showed traces of semen so the six men known to have been in the area at the time of the crime provided blood samples. Lifecodes Corporation compared the DNA patterns of the men’s blood samples to that of the vaginal swab.
Their report indicated that DNA found on a vaginal swab matched the DNA pattern of one of the men, but not of the other five. That man was David Hicks. The reported frequency of David’s DNA print was one in 96 million in the North American Black population. According to press accounts, there was no other evidence against David Hicks Only six men were DNA tested. Eddie Ray Branch, who was also in the area at the time, left town shortly afterwards. His DNA NEVER WAS tested. David’s trial was fundamentally unfair because the jury was not adequately informed of the serious weaknesses in the DNA evidence.
The jury never heard any testimony about the inadequacy of Lifecodes’ statistical analysis. They were left with the impression that the DNA evidence provided a near-infallible identification. Although Dr. Ford testified, he was given inadequate time and opportunity to examine the evidence. Furthermore, he had hastily revised his opinion shortly before taking the stand, when he learned that some of the information about the DNA analysis, which had been provided by the prosecutor was false, incomplete and misleading.
These impediments made it impossible for him to express his conclusions about the weakness of DNA evidence with the degree of certainty that he now feels. This has come too late for the innocent defendant who has now completed the death row charge. He was put to death in December of 1988 solely on the basis of the DNA test that was later proven to be inclusive. And so I ask, was the death penalty fair? Was it a just decision?