DNA Cup In Play

Former Devereux School night supervisor Darren Boyer
Thomas—charged with raping and impregnating an autistic Devereux
resident—returned to Judge Brian Hill’s court last week to talk
about a Starbucks coffee cup. The defense’s motion to suppress DNA
evidence lifted from the coffee cup—matching Thomas’s DNA to that
of the victim’s terminated fetus—was denied by Judge Hill after
hearing conflicting testimony from Thomas and two Sheriff’s
Department investigators last Thursday morning.

According to detectives, Thomas knowingly met with them at a
Goleta Starbucks in June 2004 and, after about 30 minutes of
chatting, excused himself from the conversation to go to the
bathroom, throwing his coffee cup into a nearby trashcan as he
entered the building. Detective Chris Dallenbach testified that
“three seconds later” he legally retrieved the cup and took it into
evidence. While corroborating Dallenbach’s testimony, Detective
Karen Shepard alluded to a tape recording of the meeting; Thomas’s
attorney Steve Baylash protested, saying the defense had been
provided no such tape. Judge Hill agreed, ordering prosecutors to
hand over the recording.

Thomas, meanwhile, recalled a different sequence of events; he
claimed he went to the bathroom—leaving behind his coffee cup and
other possessions—only after the investigators departed. According
to Thomas, when he returned from the bathroom he saw the officers
had come back and were walking away from the table a second time,
then noticed his coffee cup was missing. Boiling the matter down to
an “issue of credibility” and citing the Fourth Amendment in
regards to an individual’s right to privacy, Hill ruled in favor of
the prosecution. After the hearing, Baylash acknowledged the uphill
nature of his DNA motion and expressed optimism that after
reviewing the investigators’ tape of the conversation he might have
cause to re-file his challenge. Thomas’s case goes to trial in
April, at which time Baylash intends to highlight evidence that
while the victim and fetus tested positive for syphilis, Thomas did
not. “The syphilis thing is a real mystery—obviously she’s had sex
with someone who isn’t Darren,” observed Baylash

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