Scientist confirms DNA on suspects’ clothing

Bo Gemmell

Doctor: Kernich’s injury consistent with brain death

Doctor: Kernich’s injury consistent with brain death

Two paper bags with the Acme Fresh Market label stood on a table in court today after the lunch recess, but they didn’t hold food. Each grocery bag had a bright orange “biohazard” sticker slapped on it and a light blue label from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

The bags held clothing sent from the Kent Police Department to the Ohio BCI for forensic testing in the case against Adrian Barker, who was charged with murder following the November assault and subsequent death of Kent State student Christopher Kernich.

The prosecution called Linda Ebeleth, the forensic scientist who studied some of the clothing, to the stand.

Ebeleth, who specializes in forensic biology and DNA, explained what was found on the evidence. She said Barker’s shirt had a mixture matching the DNA profiles of Kernich, Barker and Ronald Kelly. Kelly is to stand trial for his alleged involvement in May.

She said Kelly’s jeans had a mixture matching the DNA profiles of Kelly himself, Kernich and at least one other person. Some in the gallery gasped when Ebeleth explained just how unique DNA samples are.

“One person out of billions times the world’s population — that’s how often you’d expect to see [Kernich’s] profile,” she said.

Bill Whitaker, one of the lawyers representing Barker, questioned Ebeleth about DNA samples taken from Kelly’s knuckles 30 hours after the alleged assault.

She said the samples contained “no other DNA profiles but Ronald G. Kelly,” but confirmed that the samples could’ve given a different reading had they been taken sooner.

Later, the leader of the trauma team from Akron General testified about Kernich’s condition upon arrival. General surgeon Elizabeth Bender said medics told her “the patient had been curb stomped.”

“He suffered an injury consistent with brain death,” she said.

Kernich’s family members sobbed as they listened to Bender explain how his brain swelled against the sides of his skull and was forced downward.

“It literally pushed his brain down toward the spinal cord area,” she said.

Bender explained during cross-examination that Kernich was removed from life support five days after arrival.

After the assault, Kent police used the show-up method when identifying suspects at the start of the investigation. The show-up consists of showing the witness one suspect and asking if that suspect is the one the witness saw committing the crime. The show-up method contrasts with the line-up, which happens when police show witnesses a suspect and several uninvolved people.

After Bender’s testimony the defense called its first witness, Solomon Fulero, to testify as an expert on eyewitness identification. Fulero explained the shortcomings of the show-up process.

“It’s like a true-or-false question and a line-up is a multiple-choice question,” he said. “Students love true-or-false questions; you can get it right half the time without knowing the answer.”

Fulero, who is a psychologist and a lawyer, answered various questions related to his studies amid objections from the prosecution routinely overruled by Enlow.

Assistant Portage County Prosecutor Thomas Buchanan questioned the payment Fulero would receive as well as his professional and educational experience.

Following more questioning, Fulero said a person who witnesses a high-stress event has an enhanced memory of the event but not an enhanced memory to detail.

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Bo Gemmell at [email protected].