Trial highlights pitfalls and promise of cold-case DNA evidence

Kevin Brown

Lawsuit over criminalist’s suicide explores how seriously police took possibility of contamination

John Wilkens
February 8, 2020
San Diego Union Tribune

The forensic results landed loudly. DNA on sperm cells in a murder case came back to one of the San Diego Police Department’s own employees: a worker in the crime lab.

“We were in a very difficult spot,” said Patrick O’Donnell, a lab supervisor.

What the police did next is central to a civil-rights and wrongful-death lawsuit unfolding in San Diego federal court. The worker linked to the crime, Kevin Brown, 62, killed himself while he was under investigation. His widow is suing the lead detective, accusing him of recklessly ignoring accidental cross-contamination in the lab as an explanation for the DNA.

The testimony so far has come from witnesses called by Rebecca Brown’s legal team, headed by Eugene Iredale. In his opening statement last week, he told the jury, “This is about the value of a human life and the value of the constitutional rights that are supposed to protect us all.”

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