DNA testing casts doubts on convictions
In May 1996, two gunmen armed with shotguns attempted to rob a hotel in Bedford. One of the men shot dead a German tourist, putting police under intense pressure to find the culprit. Despite four out of five witnesses to the shooting describing the gunman as white, they charged a black man, Alvin Black, with the crime.
In the preceding two years, Alvin says he had been subject to frequent harassment and intimidation by the Bedford Police, who felt that he “got away” with a 1994 robbery after a jury acquitted him.
At the trial for the German tourist’s killing, prosecutors argued that Alvin could be linked to shoes located in a garage where shotguns and ammunition were also found. These shoes apparently matched footprints from the murder scene. Alvin was convicted on a 10 – 2 jury verdict.
However, subsequent forensics tests have shown Alvin’s DNA was not present on the shoe. The mixed profile uncovered by testing has never been checked against the national database.
More than two years into his life sentence, Alvin was charged with another murder – that of a known drug dealer who had been shot dead while at home in Bedford in 1995.
At trial, the Crown relied heavily on evidence from the garage in the first case. Their expert said that shotgun pellets from the 1995 case matched pellets found in cartridges at the garage. The Criminal Cases Review Commission later described this expert’s testimony as flawed.
Police have as yet failed to provide the Centre for Criminal Appeals with the pellets for testing.
Alvin has now spent nearly two decades in prison for two crimes he has steadfastly maintained his innocence of. “The thing that has kept me going is fighting. If I’d given up I think I’d have died by now,” he says.
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