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DNA Evidence: Just One Tool in Criminal Investigations

DNA evidence presented in a Toledo, Ohio, murder trial proved to be insufficient proof for a conviction, and jury members deliberated only 4 hours to acquit Darin Armstrong in the murder case of Marc LaShawn Draper. An expert review by DDC’s forensic DNA scientist, Dr. Julie Heinig, provided insights that led to the acquittal.

Mr. Armstrong’s defense attorney, Mark Geudtner, retained the services of Dr. Heinig to review the DNA testing completed by the state’s laboratory. He stated, “[Dr. Heinig’s] analysis and insights regarding the DNA test results in this case were extremely helpful to me and enabled me to successfully cross-examine the State’s DNA expert and to teach the jury the true significance (and limits) of the DNA evidence.”

Mr. Armstrong was one of two men charged and acquitted in the November 22, 2007, murder. He was found not guilty of two counts of murder and one of aggravated robbery. The only evidence linking Mr. Armstrong to the crime was a garden glove found next to the victim’s body that contained Mr. Armstrong’s DNA on the inside and gunshot residue on the outside. Even though this evidence pointed to Armstrong, it was not enough direct evidence; the DNA could have gotten there in a number of different ways.

Moreover, three witnesses testified in his defense: his girlfriend, who stated she was with Armstrong throughout the night of the crime, and two others, who implicated someone other than Armstrong. Ultimately, according to Assistant Prosecutor Andy Lastra, “there was very little or no connection between Darin Armstrong and Marc Draper.” He added that the case proved science is only one tool used by investigators, and DNA alone cannot be expected to pinpoint exactly what happened at a crime scene. Investigators believe that a number of people were involved in this robbery and murder. Mr. Lastra hopes more information about the 2007 death will come forth, bringing the actual perpetrator to justice.

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