Judge Procaccini, who noted the trial included no testimony from eyewitnesses said, "This court cannot think of a case more appropriate for DNA testing than one relying mainly on circumstantial evidence."
Tempest DNA tests are in - 2 years later
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By:RUSS OLIVO , Staff Writer
WOONSOCKET - 06/30/2007 - More than two years after a Superior Court judge ordered DNA tests in convicted murderer Raymond D. "Beaver" Tempest's bid for a new trial, the results are finally in the hands of state prosecutors and defense lawyers. No one is saying what the results indicate, or what they plan to do with them, however. "We're not commenting on anything right now," said Jennifer Chunias, a lawyer with the Boston-based New England Innocence Project. Tempest, 54, was convicted of second-degree murder in 1992 for beating 22-year-old Doreen C. Picard to death with a pipe and is serving 85 years at the Adult Correctional Institutions, Cranston.
In late 2004, however, the NEIP, a prisoner's advocacy group, petitioned the court to test some of the evidence used in Tempest's trial, contending he was unjustly convicted. After months of preliminary skirmishing over the types of tests that should be performed, where they would be done and who would pay, in March 2005 Superior Court Judge Daniel J. Procaccini ordered the testing to take place at Orchid Cellmark Labs in Dallas, Texas. After finding that Tempest could not afford to pay for the tests, the judge ordered the state's Indigent Defense Fund to cover the cost, then estimated to be in the range of $8,000.
Actually, the tests ended up costing substantially more. Craig Berke, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Judiciary, said the state paid two bills for tests from Orchid Cellmark in the case. The first, received in March 2006, was for $10,800; the second, received June 11, was for $3,285, he said. Mark Stolorow, the executive director of forensic science for Orchid Cellmark, said there was nothing unusual in the length of time between the judge's order for testing and the completion of the process. DNA testing in post conviction relief efforts typically takes much longer than pre-trial tests ordered by the prosecution because the genetic samples are older and more technically complex to test, convicted felons generally have limited financial resources and legal skirmishing between prosecutors and defense lawyers often results in delays. "It's the norm for these things to take months, and months and months," he said. "Unlike the shotgun approach when state prosecutors send us materials for testing, in cases of post conviction relief it's just families or advocacy groups that are paying for these tests, and typically the items that are reached for testing are sent to us one at a time, one month at a time."
State law requires defendants to pay for any DNA testing at health department labs, but the state facility was capable of performing only a relatively unsophisticated procedure known as STR, for short tandem repeat testing of genetic material. Tempest's lawyers were seeking a more rigorous analysis known as Y chromosome and mitochondrial DNA tests - procedures performed at only a handful of labs in the country, including Orchid Cellmark, where testing was done for the O.J. Simpson trial. Tempest was the first convict in the state for whom DNA tests were ordered in a bid for a new trial. Under state law, the tests can only be done in cases where a conviction was based on weak circumstantial evidence - a point refuted by state prosecutors when the Innocence Project sought the tests - and in which DNA testing was unavailable at the time of the original trial.
Procaccini ordered the tests done on the murder weapon - a 3-foot length of pipe - clumps of hair found in Picard's hands, the victim's fingernail clippings and several bloodstained pillowcases and curtains found near the crime scene. Michael Healey, spokesman for the attorney general, confirmed that the results of the tests were returned to state prosecutors around June 15. But Healey declined to say whether they indicate that any of the genetic material tested belongs to Tempest, citing several reasons. For one thing, Healey said the results must be shared with a judge assigned to the case before they are made public. Moreover, Healey said at this phase of the case, in which the possibility exists that defense lawyers might seek a new trial, the results could potentially be regarded as new evidence, in which case prosecutors must cautiously regard the Tempest matter as an open investigation. "This is an ongoing case now that the results are back," said Healey. "The court has not seen the results yet and it would not be appropriate for us to get into the outcome." Healey said it is not up to the attorney general to do anything now that the results are back, however. "The defendant is driving the case; it's up to him and his attorneys to determine what will happen next." So far, Healey said, state prosecutors have not heard from Tempest's lawyers, and there is no court date scheduled to consider the test results.
In one of the most widely publicized crimes ever committed in the city, Picard's body was found bludgeoned beyond recognition in the basement laundry room of 409 Providence St. on Feb. 19, 1982. Beside her lay brutally battered Susan Laferte, her landlady, barely alive. Laferte survived, but her memory of events was so impaired she was never able to identify her attacker.
For years, rumors persisted that one of the perpetrators was Tempest, and that he was using his connections to stay a step ahead of the law. Tempest's father was the late Raymond D. Tempest Sr., High Sheriff for Providence County at the time of the crime and former second-in-command of the Woonsocket police; his brother was Gordon D. Tempest, a detective sergeant on the police force.
By 1990, prosecutors brought the first in a string of indictments that ultimately led to Beaver Tempest's conviction. In addition, his brother-in-law Robert Monteiro and Gordon Tempest were both convicted of perjury for lying to an investigative grand jury, and Gordon was fired from the police force.
During the trial, several witnesses testified that Beaver Tempest bragged to them that he had committed the crime, and that he would get away with it because of his family ties. But there was no physical evidence connecting him to the crime scene, and he has always maintained his innocence.