The Pennsylvania Innocence Project at Temple University Beasley School of Law has won a new trial for Crystal Weimer on the strength of testimony from an expert witness that his own prior testimony was based on junk science.
Fayette County President Judge John F. Wagner granted Weimer’s petition for a new trial, citing a fundamental change in forensics since the time of her trial. Convicted of participating in the murder of a Connellsville man, Ms. Weimer has consistently maintained her absolute innocence. At her trial, the only objective evidence to connect her to the murder was an expert odontologist who told Ms. Weimer’s jury a mark on the victim’s hand was a bite mark made minutes before he died and that Ms. Weimer is the one who bit him.
Today, that same expert declared his own trial testimony “junk science” and “invalid.” When Judge Wagner asked whether he could give the same opinions today he did in 2006, the expert said “absolutely no.”
Finding the testimony credible, Judge Wagner ruled Ms. Weimer is entitled to a new trial since the jury made its finding of guilt based, in large part, on the Commonwealth’s argument she left the mark on the victim. Ms. Weimer will be released on unsecured bond with monitoring while she waits to see whether the District Attorney will try her again.
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project represents Ms. Weimer with a team of pro bono counsel from Jones Day in Pittsburgh led by Partner Jeffrey J. Bresch and associate Katelyn M Matscherz. “Ms. Weimer had nothing to do with this murder,” said Mr. Bresch. “Today’s ruling gets us that much closer to securing her ultimate freedom.”
Pennsylvania Innocence Project staff attorney Nilam Sanghvi explained, “Courts all over the country are revisiting convictions where bite marks played a part. There are scores of cases that need to be re-examined where we have convictions secured through the use of testimony that was never scientific, and that has been thoroughly discredited. We are pleased Judge Wagner and the District Attorney’s Office agree this is such a case.”
The Pennsylvania Innocence Project is an independent non-profit organization housed at Temple University Beasley School of Law in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The mission of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project is to exonerate those who were convicted of crimes they did not commit, and to prevent innocent people from being convicted.