By Juan Montoya
It came from the mouth of a Texas Ranger.
Ranger Lt. Rolando Castañeda – under cross examination by U.S. prosecutors in the Armando Villalobos trial – was asked point blank why he questioned the DNA evidence submitted against Amit Livingston, the fugitive murderer who absconded after he was given a 60-day grace period by convicted 404th District Judge Abel Limas.
Castañeda, who played a key role in the Livingston investigation, said from the witness stand that Livingston's defense attorneys received a letter from Asst. DA Karina Bazarra informing them that their office failed to find any semen on the jeans of the victim.
However, during the Livingston trial, the DA's office submitted DNA evidence they say was found on the jeans of the murdered woman showing Livingston had been the culprit. How?
Under cross examination by Asst. U.S. Attorney Michael J. Wynne, Castañeda said the evidence was "made up."
In fact, the DNA evidence on the victim's pants was never tested. Villalobos did not know if she was wearing the jeans the day of murder. The report indicated there was semen on the pants, but that there was no testing.And they were never turned over to the defense until one week before the trial. By that time, the DNA could have degraded and, theoretically, if handed over to them in time, it could have provided the defense with exculpatory evidence if the DNA proved to be that of a third party.
To Lopez supporters, this amounts to prosecutorial misconduct they said may have occurred in the case of the singer.
They point out in their relative's defense that the shorts of the victim where the alleged DNA samples were collected were mixed in a trash bag of dirty laundry and that not one, but three samples of male DNA were found on them along with DNA evidence coming from the victim.
In fact, the sample that was attributed to Lopez was collected from the rear waistband of the garment.
"If the DA's office could use 'made up' DNA evidence in the Livingston case, what was to stop them from using it in other cases like Joe's?" they ask. "The fact that there were another ntwo male samples apart from Joe's point to contamination in the trash bag. The samples were microscopic and could have been collected there by the simple contact of the dirty laundry of the rest of the family with the garment."
Is the current DA fighting the release of the DNA in the Lopez case because it could open the floodgates in other cases where attorneys for other defendants might charge that suspect evidence might have been used or "made up" to convict their clients?
And if – as the current DA prosecutors assert – the DNA
evidence used to convict Lopez was overwhelming, why not put an end to the tug-of-war and be done with it once and fort all?
On October 28, visiting Judge Fred Hinojosa will decide whether this will happen during a hearing in the issue to be held in the 445th District Count.