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"Murderers should fear forensic science," says Van Hollen. "Our State Crime Laboratory analysts partner with police every day to bring criminal offenders to justice and to free the innocent. Today's decision reaffirms the importance of forensic science in the fight for justice."
MADISON - This morning, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals affirmed Christopher D. Jones' Milwaukee County convictions for first-degree reckless homicide while armed and attempted armed robbery with use of force, in connection with the 2006 shooting of Brandon Sprewer. In pertinent part, the court rejected challenges by Jones and representatives of The Innocence Network to the admissibility of expert firearm identification testimony.
Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen praised the decision and the work of the Wisconsin Department of Justice's State Crime Laboratory analysts. "Murderers should fear forensic science," said Van Hollen. "Our State Crime Laboratory analysts partner with police every day to bring criminal offenders to justice and to free the innocent. Today's decision reaffirms the importance of forensic science in the fight for justice."
Jones shot and killed Sprewer in a botched attempt at robbery. A State Crime Laboratory analyst testified at trial that a bullet recovered from Sprewer's body bore markings imprinted by Jones' gun. The analyst also testified that a spent cartridge found at the crime scene bore markings imprinted by Jones' gun. Both Jones and The Innocence Project attorneys asked the Wisconsin Court of Appeals to conclude that such ballistics evidence was not sufficiently reliable to be admissible under Wisconsin law. Jones also claimed that his trial attorney failed to adequately challenge the evidence.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals rejected those arguments, concluding that well-established Wisconsin law allows circuit courts to admit expert scientific evidence and testimony that aids the jury and is reliable enough to have probative value. The court "decline[d] the requests to impose blanket rules barring or limiting the admission of the type of evidence that linked the cartridge case and bullet to the gun in this case. We leave the admission and scope of such evidence to the reasonable discretion of the trial courts to exercise under [Wisconsin law,] and to cross-examination by adversary counsel."
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals also rejected additional claims raised by Jones, including his claim that he deserved a new trial in the interest of justice.
The Wisconsin Court of Appeals' decision in State of Wisconsin v. Christopher D. Jones, No. 2009AP2835-CR, appears on the court's website:
Additional information regarding the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Crime Laboratory System appears on the Department's website:
The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office prosecuted Jones in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Assistant Attorney General Thomas J. Balistreri represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.