After 21 Years, DNA Testing Sets Man Free in Rape Case


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After 21 Years, DNA Testing Sets Man Free in Rape Case
khankrumthebulg
Regular Contributor
khankrumthebulg
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE, The New York Times

(Oct. 7) — If not for a chance inventory of DNA samples gathering dust in a Connecticut warehouse, Scott Fappiano might still be lifting weights in prison.

But after the samples were discovered by his lawyers last year, Mr. Fappiano finally had the evidence he had sought for half of his life. Yesterday, a State Supreme Court judge vacated his conviction for the 1983 rape of a Brooklyn woman, after the tests showed he had not committed the crime for which he spent more than two decades in prison.

Several hours after the judge’s ruling, Mr. Fappiano shuffled out a steel door into the hallway of a Brooklyn courthouse, clutching a brown paper bag of personal items in one hand along with every relative within arm’s length with the other.

“I just kept waiting,” said Mr. Fappiano, 44, stuffing his hands into the pockets of his gray sweat pants as his mother, a brother and several cousins looked on. “I’m just happy that it’s over.”

His family and lawyers were less forgiving, their elation warring with anger and frustration as they mulled the long path that Mr. Fappiano traveled between conviction and redemption, with 21 years of it in prison.

“The only thing I feel is that my son was kidnapped,” said Rose Fappiano, his 69-year-old mother. “I couldn’t believe this day had come.”

Mr. Fappiano was represented by lawyers from the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal clinic that works to exonerate the wrongfully convicted through DNA testing. He was the fourth person in the last year in New York State to be exonerated by testing arranged by the project’s lawyers, who yesterday called for a full-scale reform of the city’s procedures for storing evidence.

“It is no small miracle that Scott is here today,” said Nina Morrison, his Innocence Project lawyer. “Had Scott’s case depended on the evidence storage and collection inventory procedures of the New York City Police Department, he would still be in prison today.”

In a statement, Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s deputy commissioner for public information, said that the department had requested proposals for a more advanced evidence tracking system to replace the current one. “The advanced system will be used, in part, to improve retrieval of old evidence, which has sometimes proven difficult considering the extraordinary volume and the lack of an automated system in the 1980’s and 1990’s,” he said.

10-13-2006 02:26 PM

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