A Dayton man who has spent more than 27 years in prison following a murder conviction as a teen is hoping a “touch DNA” test will help him prove his innocence.
Raymond Karl Allan Warren’s hearing is Thursday before Montgomery County Common Pleas Judge Mary Huffman. He is requesting that three fired .380 cartridge casings be tested for DNA that police found following the July 1994 shooting of Wendall Simpson, 41, on Kilmer Avenue in Dayton.
“Touch DNA” — the genetic information from skin cells left behind when a person makes contact with an object — was not available at the time of Simpson’s death.
Warren is represented by Ohio Public Defender Wrongful Conviction Project Director Joanna Sanchez, who said Wednesday that Warren “is an innocent man who has served nearly 30 years of incarceration.”
“Raymond Warren’s conviction rests upon the now-recanted testimony of two of his teenaged friends and the fact that his nondominant hand had trace amounts of antimony and barium on it. None of the evidence that was used to convict him supports the conclusion that he shot Wendell Simpson. If Raymond’s DNA is excluded from the shell casings found at the scene of the crime, it will demonstrate that he did not load the gun used to shoot Mr. Simpson. This further undermines the integrity of his conviction. … We hope that his application for DNA testing will be quickly granted.”
The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office is opposed to the testing because the Miami Valley Regional Crime Lab previously stated the shell casings are not suitable for “touch DNA” testing.
“Twenty-five-plus years ago, the firearm examiner did not wear gloves and any DNA that might have been on the casings would have been obliterated,” according to a statement on Tuesday. “In addition, since the trial, multiple other persons could have handled the casings without gloves, such as the prosecutor, witnesses, jurors, property clerks, etc...”
A Montgomery County jury convicted Warren in 1995 and a judge sentenced him to 18 years to life in prison. He entered adult prison at 17.
Warren, now 45, has maintained his innocence from the start.
His case was one of five selected in 2021 for Georgetown University’s “Making an Exoneree” program. During the undergraduate course, students reinvestigate possible wrongful conviction cases, produce short documentaries and create social media campaigns calling for exonerations, according to the university website.
“I see life outside of here and I can envision it,” Warren said in the documentary from the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville.
As an inmate, he has earned his general equivalency diploma and has taken as many educational and certificate courses as allowed. He became emotional while talking about his frustrations with the penal system.
“This is wrong. This is wrong,” he said. “I’m here for something I didn’t do and I have proof of it. Why am I still here? This doesn’t make any sense.”
Warren was 16 on July 10, 1994, when he and two friends, Chaunte Hunt, then 16, and Antonio Johnson, then 14, were working on Warren’s moped. They said a man in a green Ford Granada — later identified as Simpson, the gunshot victim — pulled up and asked to buy drugs but the youths said they didn’t sell them, according to a memorandum in support of Warren’s application for DNA testing filed by Sanchez.
Several minutes after turning away Simpson, Warren said he heard shots ring out.
Simpson had crashed the Ford into a house in the 500 block of Kilmer Avenue, and was found shot multiple times.
After police arrived, Warren, who lived on Kilmer Avenue, approached the scene on his moped. He told officers he had seen Simpson earlier. He voluntarily went to the police station in the back of a cruiser, waived his rights and spoke to police with no guardian present, according to Sanchez’s filing.
Police swabbed Warren’s hands for gunshot residue using an atomic absorption test. The front and back of his left hand and the back of his right hand tested negative, but the palm of right hand tested positive for two of three elements in GSR: barium and antimony. Scientific advances have made that test obsolete. Further, Warren had been working on his moped that night and brake pads also could produce positive results in the older test, the filing stated.
Two men had been at the shooting scene. One reached into the car and put it in park. The men talked with police but were released without having fingerprints taken or GSR testing performed.
Simpson’s wallet and keys were missing, and the gun used in the crime were never found.
Hunt and Johnson testified at trial against Warren, but as adults both recanted their testimony that Warren was the shooter, according to the court filing.
“The evidence against Raymond ultimately came down to two scared juveniles — who each appeared to believe they would be charged with murder unless someone else was implicated — and barium and antimony on Raymond’s nondominant hand,” Sanchez stated in her filing.
The Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office on Tuesday said it stands by Warren’s conviction.
“After a trial, the jury found the defendant guilty as charged of murder, with a firearm specification, in 1995. Since then, the defendant has filed a number of appeals and multiple courts have looked at the evidence and have upheld the defendant’s conviction,” a statement read.
Mary Jo Warren, who married Raymond on Dec. 21, 2022, said the hope is for a “touch DNA” test to be granted that would exclude Warren as a contributor on the casings.
This can be used as new evidence to set aside the verdict and allow for a new trial.
“He’s never been able to have a court hear the recantations or GSR validity,” said Mary Jo Warren, who added that without witnesses, DNA, GSR or motive, she doesn’t believe prosecutors have a case against him.
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