Melanson Law Office P.C.
Wrongful Murder Conviction Based on Invalid Forensic Science
Steven Barnes, now 46, was arrested and charged with the murder, rape and sodomy of a 16-year-old girl in March 1988, two years after the crime took place. Kimberly Simon, the teenager Barnes was accused of raping and murdering, had left her home on the evening of September 18, 1985, to meet a high school friend. Kimberly never returned home that night, and police found her body the next day by the side of a dirt road. She had been raped and strangled to death.
Barnes was pulled in for questioning three days after Simon’s death because several people stated they had seen his truck on the road where Simon’s body had been found around the same time she had last been seen. Police questioned Barnes for twelve straight hours, gave him a polygraph test, which was inconclusive, and examined his truck for fingerprints and other evidence. However, because there was no evidence to hold him, he was released without charges at the time.
Unfortunately for Barnes, two years later he was asked by investigators on the case to submit blood, saliva and hair samples, and then on March 1988, he was arrested and charged with rape, sodomy and murder in the death of Kimberly Simon.
Barnes should never have been convicted for Simon’s murder as the evidence introduced at the trial did not implicate him.
- Evidence from Barnes’ truck – no fingerprints collected matched that of the victim; tracks at the crime scene did not match the truck’s tires.
- Serological evidence – seminal fluids were inconclusive regarding Barnes because he is a non-secretor. The DNA testing conducted before the trial was inconclusive, as well.
- Witnesses stated they saw Barnes at a local bowling alley throughout the evening of the murder.
- A witness stated he saw the victim walking along the road that evening and saw her enter a different truck, not Barnes’ truck.
At the trial, three forms of invalidated forensic science was used against Barnes: a photographic overlay of fabrics from the victim’s jeans and an imprint on Barnes’ truck, patterns determined by a criminalist to be ” similar”; two hairs collected from Barnes’ truck were “microscopically similar” to the victim’s hair; and soil samples taken from Barnes’ truck and dirt samples taken from the crime scene a year later were deemed “similar.” These forms of evidence were not the same, just similar.
The final piece of evidence introduced by the state was the testimony of a jailhouse informant, who stated Barnes confessed he murdered Simon while awaiting his trial two years after the crime.
Tragically for Barnes, the jury believed the prosecution’s invalidated forensic evidence and the testimony of a jailhouse informant and sentenced him to twenty-five years to life in prison.
In 2007, the Innocence Project reopened Barnes’ case, and the Oneida County District Attorney agreed to conduct DNA testing using the advanced Y-STR testing that had not been available previously. The new tests conducted on sperm cells from Simon’s body proved Barnes was not the perpetrator of the crime.
Steven Barnes, after serving nearly twenty years in prison for a murder and rape he did not commit, was freed on November 25, 2008. On January 9, 2009, he was exonerated of all charges.
After his exoneration, Barnes said that he was moving on with his life, and was going to do everything he could do to make sure what happened to him doesn’t happen to anyone else. He also stated, “I want people to know that wrongful convictions happen in New York and that our elected officials can and should pass reforms to prevent them.”
Barnes can, because of his exoneration, seek compensation for his wrongful imprisonment as New York is one of twenty-five states with laws granting compensation to wrongfully convicted people.
Original Article can be found here.
Update November 11, 2016: September 18, 2016 marked the 31st anniversary of the brutal murder of 16 year old Marcy resident Kimberly Simon. At the time of her disappearance and death, Kim had been attending Whitesboro High School, and was walking on Mohawk St. from her home in Marcy to meet her friend in Whitesboro. Kim never arrived at her friend’s location and the next day she was found murdered.
The case is still being actively investigated by the Oneida County District Attorney’s office and, it is believed, that there is information out there that can assist in solving the case. If anyone has any information, or knows anyone who may have information concerning the circumstances of Kim’s death, people involved, or anything possibly related to the case, please contact Investigator David Matrulli at the Oneida County District Attorney’s office at 315-798-5575 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please help solve this horrible crime, and bring closure for the Simon family. All calls and emails will be kept confidential if desired.