Minnesota v. Melvin Holmes
Ramsey County Case No. 62-CR-16-2307
In this case, I was contacted by Mr. Luis Rangel Morales of the Neighborhood Justice Center, Inc. of St. Paul, MN. He was in need of a Firearms Expert and an Ammunition Expert.
The State of Minnesota, using the IBIS system, was alleging that fired cartridge cases from a series of shooting incidents (over an 18 month period of time) were fired from the same handgun and that this linkage implicated Mr. Holmes as a murderer.
The homicide in question was interesting. A young lady was “entertaining” an indeterminate, but substantial, number of “gentlemen” on a park bench at approximately 0200 one morning. A fight broke out in the waiting line and a man was shot once in the chest. This poor fellow ran some 100 yards and then collapsed. Someone then stood over him and delivered a finishing shot to the brain.
By the time the police arrived, the “gentlemen” had dispersed and the police had only the deceased, two fired cartridge cases, and the young lady. Under questioning, the young lady did not identify Mr. Holmes as being present at the “entertainment” venue.
DNA testing of the young lady, her clothing, and the park bench; identified Mr. Holmes plus at least 9 other specific males and some number of other non-specified males.
The state claimed that the markings on the primers of the two recovered fired cartridge cases proved that they came from the same handgun. And further, that this was the same handgun which had been fired in two other incidents, one of which had an eye witness who identified Mr. Holmes as being the shooter. The handgun was never recovered.
To the cynical, it would appear that Mr. Holmes’s primary transgressions were that he was black, he was a known unpleasant person, and that he had been disrespectful of police (including a pigs tattoo) in the past.
I examined some 300 pages of initial doscovery produced by the State. My first report discounted any actual link between the cartridge cases and the mystery handgun. The State countered with a new examination of the cartridge cases by a new “scientist” with a slightly better CV. My subsequent report conclusively stated that there was no actual link between the cartridge cases themselves and any alleged gun. Further, I argued that the science and method of the State was so flawed as to render their reports useless.
The defense had been demanding an evidentiary hearing on the firearms evidence. Using the new testing as an excuse, the State successfully postponed the evidentiary hearing 3 times. Finally, on the eve of the 4th hearing date, and after my subsequent report, the Judge verbally canceled the hearing and excluded all firearms and related evidence or testimony.
Faced with no eye witness, and only the laughable DNA “evidence”, the State dismissed all charges.
This case is also very instructive in that Mr. Luis Rangel Morales and Mr. Colin Smith of the Justice Center did a superb job. Not only from the legal standpoint but also in visiting Mr. Holmes during his long period of pre-trial confinement and keeping his morale up. Hats off to the Justice Center.