Sticking with a story
No DNA? No problem
Withheld evidence fuels appeals
To see documents, a map and a timeline on the case, go to newsobserver.com/twistedtruth.
what delayed the tests?
What Cline said in court
Tests of all the evidence were delayed for years in the case of State vs. Frankie Washington. Prosecutor Tracey Cline said the delays were caused by the State Bureau of Investigation crime lab. In March 2004, a judge issued an order that compelled the tests to be performed. In a June 2005 hearing, Cline told a judge, “The SBI lab is backed up. We’re doing the best we can.” In 2007, Cline testified that it can take years for the SBI to test. She still did not acknowledge that the court order and key evidence had not been sent to the crime lab until after the June 2005 hearing.
What the record shows
After a judge issued an order in 2004 to compel testing, Cline didn’t send the order to the SBI. None of the analysts received it, according to their testimony. Records show that key pieces of evidence - a hat and fingerprints for matching with a stolen purse - were not tested until August 2005. Final SBI reports were written in January 2006.
Cline responds now
The evidence “wasn’t sent off ... and I thought it was. I should have verified that it was. And now we do. And I take full responsibility for that. I’m the prosecutor. I should have followed through. And now we do.”
Could Washington sue?
Frankie Washington does not have any grounds for a civil suit that would involve Tracey Cline, who receives broad immunity as a prosecutor. But Washington is in contact with a lawyer and is considering a civil suit against the city of Durham based on its police investigation.
Tracey Cline, in her own words
“All of us as citizens have to realize that the Constitution protects the rights of the guilty and the innocent. And we would not want it to be any other way. Every day we go to court - or in every jurisdiction in North Carolina, South Carolina, probably all the 50 states - there’s evidence that’s thrown out because of constitutional violations. There’s confessions that are thrown out. There’s evidence that’s suppressed. Everything. This happens every day because of a violation of someone’s constitutional rights. And, to be sure, sometimes the guilty people go free.”
Hometown: Crouse, N.C.
Education: Livingstone College; law school, N.C. Central University
Career: Assistant public defender, Fayetteville, 1989-1993; assistant district attorney, Elizabeth City, 1993-1994; assistant district attorney, Durham, 1994-1997; private practice, 1997; assistant district attorney, Durham, 1998-2008; elected district attorney, 2008; re-elected with no opposition, 2010.
Did a ‘show-up’ lead to a mistaken ID?
She taught a paralegal course I took over 10 years ago; I’m now in my 3rd year of law school because she encouraged me to pursue law school...just took me a while to get here because hubby was in the Army and was wounded, kids, had to finish my undergrad, etc. Never would have imagined this type of stuff from her, but then again, Durham is a pretty corrupt city and we know what Nifong did. We are talking about moving back to NC once I graduate. Guess Durham is off the list.
Hard to know if she is cognitively incapable or if she is corrupt.
It’s Durham. Probably both.