Yesterday, Innocence Project client Alfred Swinton was walked out of court in Hartford, Connecticut after 19 years in prison for a murder he did not commit. Swinton is the 86th person to be exonerated in New England. Those 86 people served, cumulatively, nearly 1,000 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
The murder that Swinton was convicted of took place in 1991, though the case went cold until 1998. The only "evidence" linking Swinton to the crime was the testimony of the victim’s sister, and the testimony of Dr. Karazulas, then the Chief Forensic Odontologist of Connecticut. Dr. Karazulas testified against Swinton at trial, and Swinton was convicted of the murder based primarily on bite-mark evidence, a now thoroughly discredited forensic practice.
Due to the advancements in the scientific consensus surrounding bite-mark analysis, Dr. Karazulas recently filed an affidavit in which he acknowledged the scientific community’s repudiation of bite mark analysis, and stated that he no longer believed Swinton to be the perpetrator.
Swinton was originally represented by the Connecticut Innocence Project, who were able to conduct DNA testing in 2014 and 2015; swabs of the bite mark indicated the presence of male DNA which excluded Swinton. The case was taken over by the Innocence Project due to a conflict, and further DNA testing of fingernail scrapings taken from the victim also excluded Swinton as the perpetrator. According to the Innocence Project, Swinton is the 29th person to have their conviction vacated or indictment dismissed based, at least in part, on bite mark evidence, in the last 17 years.
Welcome home, Mr. Swinton!
In addition to Vanessa Potkin and Chris Fabricant of the Innocence Project, Swinton is represented by Innocence Project Attorney Adnan Sultan; Maura Barry Grinalds, Ed Tulin and Thania Charmani of Skadden Arps; and Ken Rosenthal of Green & Sklarz.