Hennis update

I expect we’ll see several commentary’s about the Hennis trial.  Here is one from Myron Pitts, FayObserver.com, which he calls, “Evidence adds up in support of Hennis verdict.”  (Along with the article is a great list of links to prior reporting on the case.)

I saw a military jury convict Hennis on April 8 and sentence him to die Thursday[.]

Hennis’ lawyer, Frank Spinner, said at the bottom of the courthouse steps that the jury never got to know his client, who did not testify. The jurors instead were treated to gruesome photos of the murder scene, he said.

That was Hennis’s choice.  He was not required to testify.  The members would have been instructed that they could not consider the declination to testify as evidence of guilt or hold it against him.

[T]he facts don’t help Hennis.

First, he adopted a dog from a woman who was found murdered two days later. His bad luck.

Second, a man who had never seen him before says he saw a man fitting Hennis’ description get into a white Chevrolet Chevette near the crime scene that night. The police sketch and Hennis’ mug shot are shockingly similar.

Then, Hennis has no solid alibi for his whereabouts both times someone used Katie Eastburn’s stolen ATM card. A witness at the ATM described a tall man climbing out of a small, white car, like the kind of Chevette owned by the 6-foot-4 Hennis.

A day after the murders, Hennis happened to take a single garment to be laundered, a Members Only jacket, like the kind a witness said the suspect near the scene had worn. Then, neighbors reported, he just happened to be burning items for hours in a barrel later that day.

Beyond all that, there’s the DNA. There was maybe one place in the world where Hennis’ DNA could have been found that would have fatally undermined his version of events, and that’s where it was found – inside Katie Eastburn.

CAAFLog links to an interesting report of Mr. Eastburn’s reaction.

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2 responses to “Hennis update”

  1. Tweets that mention Hennis update | Court-Martial Trial Practice -- Topsy.com says:

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  2. jjb says:

    Dr. John Butts, NC Chief Medical Examiner, testified during the Court Martial that at Katy Eastburn’s autopsy on May 13, 1985, there were “abundant and intact spermatozoa”. To him, this indicated that that the spermatozoa were deposited “at, or near, the time of death”. Upon cross examination, Dr. Butts did indicate that sperm can survive inside a woman 1-2-3 days after being deposited. However, due to the woman bathing, using the toilet, and her body’s enzymes breaking down the sperm (head and tail separate), there would be far less intact spermatozoa, as well as fewer present.
    Brian Higgins from the US Army Criminal investigation Laboratory (USACIL) is a forensic DNA Examiner at Ft. Gillem, GA. Mr. Higgins testified that USACIL conducts testing to a 95% confidence interval, or 19/20. This is the same testing used to identify fallen Soldiers, in combat or from multi-victim incidents (such as a helicopter crash) to notify the next of kin.
    These are some of the brief highlights of his analysis and testimony:
    As for the skin under the fingernails of Katy and Erin Eastburn: Hennis could not be excluded or included (basically inconclusive, but he did not testify that is was NOT from Hennis).
    As to the vaginal smear: Hennis could not be excluded.
    In another test (Mini STR) Mr. Higgins analyzed 17 areas. Hennis was a match in all 17 areas. Had there been a match in even 16 of 17 areas, Hennis would have been EXCLUDED.
    On April 4, 2007 at 11:19 AM, Special Agent Barnes, US Army Criminal Investigation Division, took a court ordered cheek swab from MSG Hennis. The sample was placed in an evidence bag, and turned over to the evidence custodian.
    Ms. Jennifer Hopper, Duke Univ Med Center testimony:
    DNA can break down into smaller pieces; in layman’s term, it does not really fade away, like a photograph, just less pieces to analyze. Anything with a nucleus can be analyzed. Only identical twins have the same DNA. Even if one profile from a DNA sample does not match, it is 100% EXCLUSIONARY.
    From the Katy Eastburn sperm fraction from the vaginal swab, there was a complete major profile that belonged to Hennis. The minor profile of Katy Eastburn could not be excluded.
    She compared the known blood standard from Katy Eastburn, and the known DNA standard from the cheek swab from Hennis to the vaginal swab. Comparing the results to the NC database of Caucasian, African-American, Hispanic and Lumbee Indian, the chance that the DNA belonged to somebody other than Hennis was 12,100,000,000,000,000,000 to 1. That means that the 6.84 billion people on earth are unrelated to the sperm fraction DNA profile. The numbers are even greater for the other 3 groups.
    The DNA analysis, coupled with Dr. Butt’s testimony, corroborates the eyewitness accounts of those that saw Hennis that night and during the use of the ATM card, his use of the burn barrel on Saturday, his time gaps during CQ, and his 1981 White Chevette being sighted at various times by several eyewitnesses. Hennis is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

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