Thanks to prosecutors Glen Woods and Wendy Baldwin Vitter, “the Orleans Parish jury that sent Booker Diggins off to prison for the rest of his life on Jan. 25, 1988, didn’t hear much about the rape he supposedly committed during a robbery,” according to the Times Picayune’s story Lifer at Angola unearths DNA evidence that might help him fight 1988 rape, robbery conviction:
The examining doctor wasn’t called to the stand, and no blood evidence turned up at court.
Instead, prosecutors relied solely on testimony of the alleged victim, a 23-year-old woman who picked Diggins out of a photographic line-up and then pointed him out in court as the one who raped her while she was handcuffed to a post in the storeroom of the restaurant she managed.
Diggins was convicted of aggravated rape, which carries mandatory life without parole, plus 30 years for armed robbery and five years for conspiracy to commit armed robbery.
The judge ordered him to serve the three sentences in consecutive order. But 22 years after Diggins was shipped to the state penitentiary, he and his attorneys have unearthed the fact that prosecutors kept quiet the medical evidence that could have helped him at trial.
Well before January 1988, then-District Attorney Harry Connick’s prosecutors — Glen Woods and Wendy Baldwin Vitter — knew that blood and semen had been collected from the victim, along with a blood type that didn’t match the woman’s.
Vitter, wife of Louisiana Senator (“Diaper”) David Vitter and “home-schooled” in “closed-eye experiences”, knows Chet Traylor faces an uphill fight in getting the Senator to man-up to anything. However, the question at hand is will she [wo]man-up and do right by Booker Diggins:
Diggins wants a day in court to present the blood evidence that Connick’s team failed to hand over to the defense, according to the Innocence Project, the New York-based group dedicated to freeing wrongly convicted people through DNA testing.
“This is bulletproof scientific evidence that he is not the guy,” said attorney Barry Scheck. “He wasn’t the rapist and they could have known that in 1988.”
Scheck compares Diggins’ case to that of John Thompson, the former death row inmate who is awaiting a $14 million federal jury award for having served decades in prison after Connick’s lawyers hid blood evidence that showed he did not commit the armed robbery for which he was convicted.
Blood types disputed
While the Innocence Project resurrected Booker Diggins’ appeal, it was Diggins himself who wrested his case file free in 2006 after paying $209 to then-DA Eddie Jordan’s office, to learn that prosecutors had physical evidence that would have helped him fight the charges.
Diggins filed a huge petition in federal court in 2006, but was rejected because he had missed the legal deadline for such an appeal, U.S. District Judge Sarah Vance ruled. Diggins, whose conviction became final in 1990, had until 1997 to file a federal habeas corpus.
Vance’s ruling barred Diggins from ever bringing back the appeal in federal court.
But the Innocence Project filed its motion for a new trial back at the same courthouse on Tulane Avenue where Diggins was tried and convicted.
On July 27, at the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, Diggins was finally able to provide blood and saliva samples which were sent to National Medical Services, one of the few private DNA laboratories still performing ABO blood-typing services.
Diggins is Type O. The victim is Type B.
The rapist is Type A, according to the Innocence Project’s appeal.
“The DA’s office, led by Cannizzaro since 2008, declined comment for this story…” – and, so, I gather have the otherwise vocal Vitters.