Monday, August 6, 2007

Welch trial postponed

The ink is barely dry on last week’s Court of Appeals opinion regarding missing DNA evidence, but it’s already been put to use by a Baltimore police officer accused of having sex with a 16-year-old detainee.

This morning, lawyers for William Welch used the five-day-old opinion in Arey v. State to obtain a postponement of Welch’s trial — which was scheduled to begin today — until Oct. 29.

“The defense request related to a new directive outlined last week by the Court of Appeals regarding missing DNA evidence and the requirement that a comprehensive search be conducted for any DNA evidence that cannot be located in the evidence control unit,” Baltimore City State’s Attorney spokeswoman Margaret T. Burns said in an e-mail to the media.

Welch, 41, allegedly had sex with the girl at the Southeastern District Station House last year, after she was picked up on an outstanding prostitution warrant from Baltimore County. The girl accused Welch after being transported to the county, and was taken to a hospital.

According to reports last month in the [Baltimore] Sun, the accuser’s clothing, the rape kit from the hospital and other items tested for DNA evidence have been missing from the police department's Evidence Control Unit since at least May. Defense lawyer Warren A. Brown says that should make the test results inadmissible at Welch’s trial for second-degree rape and misconduct in office.

In Arey, the Court of Appeals faulted the state for not trying hard enough to find missing evidence from a 1974 murder case. Douglass Scott Arey wanted to have the material retested, but a search of the Evidence Control Unit failed to turn up his bloody shirt and other items.

Beyond the Evidence Control Unit, the state’s top court said in the Aug. 1 opinion, the search should include (subscriber-only link) the prosecutor’s office, state and local crime laboratories, hospitals, clinics or doctors’ offices, defense investigators, courthouse property and evidence rooms, independent crime laboratories, clerks of court and court reporters.

-BARBARA GRZINCIC, Managing Editor, Law

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