Forensic Files Got it Wrong – PART 2: No Biological Evidence

In PART 1 of this three-part post, I described the case against Carloss Robinson and walked you through the ample forensic evidence he left at the scene of the crime. Now for PART 2, the case against Elwood Jones, we have an entirely different situation. There is little to no forensic evidence linking him to a brutal murder, yet he was found guilty and sentenced to death.

This brings me to another lesson I have learned from watching so many episodes of Forensic Files: The criminal justice system is R-A-C-I-S-T.

So, while I agree with the death penalty as a concept, I think the execution leaves much to be desired (how’s that for a pun?!).

Death penalty cases are extremely expensive and racially biased. Worst of all, there is plenty of evidence that innocent people have been – and continue to be – sentenced to death. I think this next episode might actually be one of those cases.

“Punch Line” – Season 6, Episode 22

Summary: An elderly woman is brutally beaten to death in her hotel room (making this one of the most offensive punny titles in the entire series). Elwood Jones, a hotel maintenance worker, is convicted and sentenced to death.

This case always bothered me because the key piece of evidence could have easily been planted. At the end of the episode Elwood and his family claim that he was framed by police… was he?

Let’s take a look at the evidence.

Fight Bite: The victim sustained such a severe beating her teeth were broken. Jones had a wound on his hand which, according to the prosecution, came from punching the victim in the mouth.

This is the most incriminating piece of evidence, especially because Jones changed his story about how he got the wound when questioned by police. Plus, his wound became severely infected with E. corrodens, a type of bacteria that lives on human teeth. Jones’ hand surgeon had only ever seen three cases of E. corrodens infections; all happened from punching someone in the mouth (hence the term ‘fight bite’).

We know for sure that Jones punched someone really hard in the face around the same time the victim was murdered, but there is such a thing as a coincidence. I have seen multiple episodes of Forensic Files where the circumstances strongly implicate one person, but then additional evidence clears them entirely (check out “Trail of a Killer” and “Watchful Eye”).

The prosecution could have taken extra steps to prove Jones’ fight bite definitely came from the victim. Here’s how:

  1. Test the victim’s mouth for the presence of E. corrodens (not everyone has this type of bacteria in their mouth)
  2. If found, test the strain in her mouth with the strain found in Jones’ injured hand.

Detectives used this same technique to build a case against the Rajneeshee cult in the Forensic Files episode “Bio Attack”.  If you watched this episode, or Netflix’s hit documentary Wild Wild Country, then you already know about the Rajneeshee Cult and its spokesperson Ma Anand Sheela (pictured below).

BB.PNG

Sheela poisoned more than 700 people with Salmonella in an attempt to rig her town’s election. To prove she was responsible scientists compared the surface protein profile of the Salmonella found in Sheela’s laboratory with the Salmonella that sickened the townspeople. It was a match. Like Salmonella, the cell surface proteins of E. corrodens vary from strain to strain, so theoretically a similar comparison could have been made.

In addition, the victim was Hepatitis B positive. Had Jones punched her hard enough to transfer her E. corrodens deep inside his hand, his defense team argued that he would have also contracted the victim’s virulent Hepatitis B strain in the process. Jones tested negative for Hepatitis B.

Master Key Card: Whoever murdered the victim gained access to her hotel room with a master key card.

The prosecution stated that Elwood had a master key card which he used to break into the victim’s hotel room and rob her. They believed he got caught in the act and beat her to death. The defense pointed out that virtually all hotel employees have access to a master key card and no eye witnesses or video surveillance actually proved Jones used his master key card to access the victim’s room.

Potential Murder Weapon: Jones’ toolbox contained a door chain and walkie talkie; both were consistent with bruising patterns found on the victim

Again, virtually all hotel employees have access to these tools. No biological evidence from the victim (blood, hair, etc.) was ever found on the tools belonging to Jones. So, really, no murder weapon was ever found.

Victim’s Jewelry: The victim was attacked after showering so she was found in the nude. Her family said she never took off the necklace and the prosecution claimed Jones snatched it off of her during the attack.

The necklace was allegedly found by a police officer who search Jones’ toolbox. No blood or fingerprints were found on the necklace. This strikes me as a piece of evidence that could easily have been planted.

In fact, none of Jones’ DNA was ever recovered from the victim and none of the victim’s DNA or biological evidence was ever definitively recovered from Jones.

Oddly enough, Jones was not charged with the victim’s murder for an entire year after police found the victim’s necklace in Jones’ possession. Why would they wait so long to indict him despite having such a damning piece of evidence?

Jones’ execution is scheduled for 2021, and there are multiple ongoing efforts to overturn his conviction.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s