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DNA test puts convict at murder scene

Opponents of the death penalty sought the test to show the death row inmate was wrongly convicted. It didn't work out that way.

By SHELBY OPPEL

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 27, 2000


TALLAHASSEE -- Over the past few years, new DNA technology has freed dozens of wrongly convicted rapists and killers across the country.

But Florida death row inmate Crosley Green won't be joining them any time soon.

On Wednesday, Florida Department of Law Enforcement inspectors released DNA test results placing Green at the scene of a 1989 fatal shooting in a Brevard County orange grove. When Green was convicted in 1990 of the slaying of 22-year-old Chip Flynn, no physical evidence linked him to the crime.

The case became a cause celebre for death penalty opponents last year when a high-profile team of private investigators said they had proof that prosecution witnesses lied at Green's trial. Spurred by those claims, FDLE reopened the case.

During the 11-month investigation, a North Carolina laboratory used a DNA test, not yet developed when Green stood trial in 1990, to match DNA from Green's blood to DNA found in two hairs vacuumed from Flynn's truck after the shooting.

Green, 42, and his state-appointed attorney agreed to FDLE's request for a blood sample, inspectors said.

The case began in April 1989 when prosecutors said Green robbed Flynn and his 19-year-old girlfriend, Kim Hallock, at gunpoint as they sat in Flynn's truck in the Holder Park area of Mims, about 30 miles northeast of Orlando.

Prosecutors said Green then tied Flynn's hands behind his back and drove the couple to a nearby orange grove. Before Green forced them out of the truck, Hallock handed Flynn a gun he kept in his glove compartment. With his hands still tied behind his back, Flynn fired four shots at Green but missed each time.

At Flynn's urging, Hallock jumped back in the truck and drove to get help. At Green's trial, she testified that Green shot at Flynn as she drove away. Flynn died at the scene.

Green has maintained his innocence, saying he was at his girlfriend's house the night Flynn was killed. Green was sentenced to die in February 1991 and remains on death row.

Last year, four private detectives took up Green's case after they were contacted by a Brevard County death penalty opponent who had been corresponding with Green.

The detectives told Seminole-Brevard State Attorney Norm Wolfinger that four witnesses who testified against Green, including Green's sister, had recanted.

The witnesses also told the detectives that sheriff's investigators and prosecutors pressured them into implicating Green. The allegations were published in Florida Today, a newspaper in Melbourne.

Wolfinger, who had been state attorney at the time of Green's trial, contacted FDLE and asked the agency to conduct an independent investigation.

In addition to releasing the DNA test results Wednesday, FDLE inspectors concluded that Brevard County authorities did not pressure witnesses into testifying against Green. Further, inspectors concluded that the witnesses who changed their stories after Green's trial were not credible.

Two of the private detectives who took up Green's case showed up Wednesday at FDLE headquarters in Tallahassee, where the findings were announced at a news conference. FDLE officials would not allow the detectives to attend the news conference but later met privately with both.

One of the detectives, Paul Ciolino of Chicago, said the test used to match Green's DNA to the crime scene was unreliable and "error-filled." Ciolino said the laboratory, Lab Corp. of Raleigh, N.C., was "suspect."

"There is just not one iota of evidence that has connected Green to the case," Ciolino said.

Although DNA technology has helped free wrongly convicted killers in other states, some Florida prosecutors and courts have been reluctant to use it to reopen closed cases.

James T. "Tim" Moore, executive director of the FDLE, said his agency used DNA tests in 1,800 investigations last year, but conceded most of those were new cases.

But if a judge orders a new DNA test for a death row inmate, his agency will make sure it gets done, Moore said.

"We're able to do a lot of things," he said, "that heretofore we hadn't done."

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