Ricky Hammond (Hartford, Connecticut)

Factual background: In the late afternoon of November 30, 1987, the victim was walking on a dark street when she was pushed off the sidewalk by an assailant. The man forced her into a car in a nearby parking lot. He drove for about 15 minutes, stopped on or near a dirt road, and sexually assaulted her. The assailant then drove the victim to an area with which the victim was unfamiliar and told her he would kill her if she told anyone about the incident. He then let her out of the car and drove away.

Ricky Hammond was convicted of kidnapping and sexual assault in March 1990 by a Hartford jury. Before sentencing, Hammond filed two motions: one for a new trial and another for further discovery using DNA and blood testing of the vaginal swabs and smears that were in evidence. The trial court denied both of these motions and sentenced Hammond to a prison term of 25 years, suspended after 23 years, and 3 years probation.

Prosecutor's evidence at trial: DNA and blood analyses were performed at the request of the State prior to trial. The results provided exculpatory results for Hammond. The prosecution argued to the jury that, in light of the remaining inculpatory evidence, the physical evidence must have been contaminated. The prosecution's case against Hammond relied on several points:

The victim identified Hammond in a photo array.

The victim made an in-court identification of Hammond.

The victim identified various details about Hammond's car, including the make and model, scratches on the body, a ripped child seat, and a wristwatch hanging on the gearbox.

Hammond's alibi was uncorroborated, and he also had altered several details of his alibi when originally interviewed.

Forensic examination of hairs found in Hammond's car showed they were consistent with the victim's hair.

Postconviction challenges: Hammond appealed his conviction on three major grounds. Hammond claimed that (1) the trial court improperly denied his motion for a new trial because of exculpatory blood and DNA analysis, (2) the prosecution made improper statements to the jury and denied his right to a fair trial, and (3) the trial court erred in not allowing his posttrial motion to have further testing of vaginal swabs from the victim.

On February 25, 1992, the Supreme Court of Connecticut ruled that the trial court and prosecution made several errors with regard to the DNA and blood evidence. The court also ruled that the trial court was not aware of "the logical inconsistencies in the prosecution's case, the evidence suggesting that the chemical alteration of the assailant's DNA was physically impossible, or the absence of any evidence that the defendant's scientific tests were unreliable" (604 A.2d 793).

Because Hammond's motion was for a new trial and not for acquittal, the State Supreme Court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings.

DNA results: The DNA results from this case were largely completed prior to trial. At the State's request, the FBI's DNA analysis unit tested the samples in May 1989. An FBI forensic analyst testified that the semen from the physical evidence could not have come from Hammond.

The victim's testimony indicated that she had not had sexual relations with anyone other than her assailant after putting on the clothes that were tested. Furthermore, blood tests performed by the State laboratory and the FBI lab revealed that the assailant had an A antigen in his blood. The victim, the victim's boyfriend, and Hammond all had type O blood. The secretions of blood type O contain the H antigen. Type O nonsecretors do not secrete the H antigen.

After the Connecticut Supreme Court's ruling, three more tests were performed on the vaginal swabs. Testing was not originally performed on the swabs because the State argued that it would be repetitive evidence. These results also showed no match to Hammond.

Conclusion: Hammond was granted a new trial and was acquitted. He had served two years of his sentence.

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