CALIFORNIA JUDGE REVIEWS OPPOSING BITEMARK OPINIONS AND DECLINES TO BE PERSUADED BY NEW RESEARCH PRESENTING DISTURBING FACTS OF PROSECUTOR’S CASE

Posted: September 20, 2011 by daverill1 in Bitemarks
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By Dr. Michael Bowers

On September 13, 2011, Presiding Judge of the Santa Barbara Superior Court, Brian Hill, published his denial in an extraordinary post conviction claim of innocence by ex-UCSB soccer star and Ghanian national, Eric Frimpong.
Frimpong was convicted in Hill’s court in 2008 of rape and sexual battery. Since then Judge Hill has denied a post-conviction motion for a new trial (2008) and the California Court of Appeal has refused to grant Frimpong relief in a statutory appeal 2 years after the conviction (2010).

Numerous aspects of the case against Frimpong are troubling. Significant offers of new alibi witnesses unavailable at the 08 trial, and lack of complete review of circumstances supporting reasonable doubt to the victim’s statements were presented in this latest attempt for relief. A major portion regards ineffective assistance of counsel (IAC) and the activities and opinions of the Santa Barbara District Attorney’s two bitemark experts.

The DA’s expert dentist testifying during the trial claimed he could observe from a photo of the victim’s face that a bitemark on the cheek indicated the presence of a misaligned upper front tooth. This misalignment was also present in the upper dentition of Frimpong. In describing his methods, the technical basis was purely visual. The prescribed method of physical comparison of the photograph to the life-size outlines of Frimpong’s teeth did not “help” in his determination. The value of this one-tooth similarity played large in the mind of the judge and the jury because of the implied scientific relevance purported by this expert. The relationships of the other 11 upper and lower front teeth were only briefly mentioned. He also said that “worn teeth edges” could be seen in the bruising this expert “saw” in the aspect of the injury he determined to be from 4 lower teeth. Mr. Frimpong was 20 old at the time of trial and did not have the worn edges claimed by the DA’s dentist. Maybe if he was 60 years old.

Evidence of the victim’s DNA being present on Frimpong’s genitalia was also presented by the DA. The defense countered the DA’s assertion that this was the ultimate proof of Frimpong’s guilt by stating this low copy number DNA sample was capable of having been transferred by hand from the victim to Frimpong. This scenario was considered as possible by the DA’s DNA expert from the California Department of Justice DNA Lab. Frimpong had described he had been fondled by the victim at a small party a few hours before the police were called to a different location to investigate a sexual assault. It is important to point out that the copious male DNA available from the victim and victim’s underwear was determined to be from her boyfriend.
The State presented dozens of witnesses at trial.

The defense presented one witness. This disparity was one major aspect of the IAC claim presented in the most recent appeal.

No defense bitemark expert was available at trial. The bitemark evidence, however, was thoroughly reviewed, after Frimpong was convicted, at a motion for a new trial hearing granted by Judge Hill. This proceeding, held over numerous days, and was again before Judge Hill. The DA and the defense each retained new bitemark dentists.

The judge began the hearing with a two hour monologue directed at defense counsel. Judge Hill laid out on the record his opinion that defense counsel had presented a weak and confusing case before the judge and jury. No consistent theory of defense was a major defense flaw. The details of the judge’s opinions were ultimately adopted in the most recent appeal petition. Oddly, Judge Hill considered these arguments in the petition to be non-meritorious on the issue of IAC. This turn of events is confusing at best. This jurist made his own remarks about IAC at the post conviction hearing and later, when he ruled on the same issues in this latest claim of Frimpong’s innocence, considered the issues to be harmless error.

The DA and defense dentists had ample time to present their opposing interpretations of the bitemark on the victim’s face. There was no point of agreement on the forensic value of the pattern. The DA’s expert said it was “moderate to high” value. The two disagreed on where the upper and lower teeth were present in the injury pattern. The defense said the pattern detail was ambiguous. A digital reversal of the prosecution’s upper and lower orientation and comparison of teeth of the victim’s boyfriend to the facial injury, immediately showed alignment of dental landmarks in the bruising. In addition, the defense indicated the DA’s observation of “mal-aligned upper teeth” was actually a misdiagnosis due to the metric values (using published Adobe Photoshop digital methods) of the bruising indicating the teeth were from the lower jaw (where biting edges are one-half the size of upper teeth). The DA post conviction expert emphatically stated that the use of “metrics” in bitemark comparison was not a mandatory method in the field and that “shape analysis” was compelling, valid and controlling. This was clearly a recitation and support of the trial bitemark expert’s identical opinion. In one more bit of confusion, the DA’s two Frimpong dentists (the one at the trial and the different one at the later hearing) had just testified to the opposite in another CA case, (State v. William Richards). This latest Richards proceedings was a post conviction exoneration hearing wherein both these dentists had testified that the use of Photoshop and its high magnification digital methods were the “new age of bitemarks” and had, in part, convinced them to recant their 1999 Richards testimony. Both had stated at the original Richards trial, that a hand injury on the murdered wife of Richards’ was a definite bitemark.

As mentioned above, Judge Hill denied the Frimpong motion for a new trial, saying, in part, that the Defense dentist was “not credible.” He had no comment about the coup de grace performed by the DA’s bitemark expert’s presentation where the photograph of the injury was again shown to the judge. Frimpong’s upper teeth were digitally placed over the injury pattern in his “proper orientation.” The expert stated the fit between the two was significant proof of biter identity. Expounding himself as the digital examiner who performed these described methods, he confidently testified that all he had to do was digitally expand the bitemark image 128% to obtain this relationship.

Coincidentally, the dilemma of skin distortion and the accompanying distortion of tooth patterns was addressed in 2010 by a well respected University of Buffalo research team. It was published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences, and titled “Inquiry into the Scientific Basis for Bitemark Profiling and Arbitrary Distortion Compensation.” They gave the bitemark reading profession its first glimpse into relevant biological science and forensic dentists’ 40 years of judicial opinions on bitemark matching. This precedent setting and seminal piece of literature describes their “back to basics” approach into the physiological characteristics of cadaveric human skin before and during biting activity. Their findings clearly established the judicial use of bitemark opinions has broadly surpassed its scientific underpinnings. Two conclusions, which appear in the paper’s title, suggests that any bitemark profiling examiner using methods to match patterns or counteract the stretching and shrinkage of skin during the dynamics of movement, pressure and physical stress should reconsider scientific facts. Profiling (i.e. comparing) and enlarging or shrinking injury patterns to fit, as in the arbitrarily “adjustment” presented in Frimpong was not supported scientifically.

In 2009, at a national forensic meeting, there was a presentation of the prosecutorial bitemark case and served as a public pronouncement for the DA’s bitemark experts. At the culmination of this tour-de-force, at the Q&A end of this show, he was pressed by an attendee to discuss what scientific basis supported his rendition of the bitemark photo. Words from the dentist who testified on his match-improving methods seemed to detach himself from his earlier testimony, as he replied, “..

“…this was not my idea…”…”…the district attorney took it upon herself to have that done to see whether or not she could enter that into evidence to thereby bolster her case…” “…had I been operating by myself out there in the real world there is absolutely no way I would have done that…”

Fast forward to September 13, 2011.
Judge Hill writes he was not “persuaded” by the analysis and critiques presented by the appellate submission in State v Eric Frimpong.
Eric Frimpong is scheduled to be released from prison in 18 months. Upon his release, he mostly likely will be deported to Ghana unless criminal justice proceedings intervene.

 

Go to the “Write to Eric” page to see his mailing address at Tehachapi Prison – California Correctional Institute.  Prison.

Update March 11, 2010

We are still waiting for the Appeal decision.  The three judge panel is currently reviewing the appeal and will render the decision any day now.  Please continue to pray for Eric’s freedom. 

We visited Eric on Saturday, February 20th and he truly appreciate all the letters and emails of support.  He is struggling with prison life and only by faith is making it through each day.  We are hopeful that this wrongful conviction will come to an end this month.

UPDATE:  December 30, 2009

Eric’s legal team has completed his appeal and the oral arguments took place on December 10th in Ventura, CA.  We are very fortunate to have Tom Nolan of Skadden Aarps join the team – this introduction was made by one of Eric’s UCSB teammates (Kyle Raynish) in September, 2009.  This firm has been exceptional and if this conviction is overturned, it will be due in a large part to their efforts.

We are awaiting the decision (any day now) and could use prayer that the three judges responsible for reviewing this Appeal find the truth and overturn this wrongful conviction.

Special gratitude goes out to Joel Engel and Oscar Rothenberg for their taking on the investigation of what happened that night.  Without them, we would not be where we are today.  Bless you both.

The legal process is very expensive…

Please send donations!  Eric needs everyone’s help!

EMAIL ERIC now – and we will print your note and send it to Eric.

Thank you so much.

frimpongfreedom@gmail.com -This is the PAYPAL email address

Monday, March 10, 2008
Frimpong sentenced to six years in state prison
BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER
With his back turned to a courtroom packed with his supporters, convicted rapist Eric Frimpong moved very little yesterday when a Superior Court judge sentenced him to six years in state prison.
The sentence was handed down by Judge Brian Hill 13 months after a 19-year-old female UC Santa Barbara student told police she was brutally raped by Frimpong on an Isla Vista beach.
Frimpong, a 22-year-old native of Ghana and a former UCSB men’s soccer player, received a six-year sentence despite a recommendation from the County Probation Department for the maximum sentence of eight years.
Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron, the prosecutor in the case, said she was pleased with the length of the sentence.
“We felt it was a fair sentence,” she said. “Six years was an appropriate sentence given all the facts in the case.”
Robert Sanger, Frimpong’s defense attorney, would only say that he filed a notice to appeal with the court.
Barron said the victim, who was present in court yesterday, was content with the outcome.
“She’s very relieved and looking forward to this aspect of the case being put behind her,” Barron said.
Joan Fairfield, a victim advocate with the District Attorney’s Office, read a statement from the victim, in which she described the difficulty of taking the stand during the December 2007 trial and facing the man that raped her.
“I will never be the woman I was before I was raped,” the statement said. “Eric Frimpong ruined my life.”
In what appeared to be a response to Frimpong’s supporters, some of whom have charged over the past couple of months that the jury’s verdict was wrong, the victim wrote: “I know what happened to me. I was there and they weren’t.
“He broke the law and he ruined my life and he should be punished accordingly.”
The victim’s father said he was glad this process was nearly over and that the nightmares his daughter has endured can begin to end.
He commended the members of the jury and public who, “Actually bothered to listen to the evidence before making up their minds, which is a lot more than I can say for other parts of the community, especially the media.”
When Frimpong entered the Department 2 courtroom in jail issued clothing, a number of his former teammates and supporters rose to their feet.
Lonni Monahan, whose son lived with Frimpong while the two attended UCSB, and has attended nearly every court hearing, offered a harsh critique of Hill’s handling of the case and insisted that Frimpong is innocent.
“He [Hill] absolutely ran this trial for the DA,” Monahan said. “There wasn’t a chance that Eric could have gotten a fair trial. We’re going to move on. We all believe he’s innocent. We’re not giving up. This is a bump in the road.”
A prepared statement from Frimpong’s supporters called him a “gentle, honest and trusting young man who has never been in any trouble or demonstrated any disrespect toward any woman…”
The statement says Hill “mishandled” the case and accuses the judge of not safeguarding Frimpong’s right to a fair trial.
“We will continue to fight for Eric,” the statement said. “We will not rest until he is exonerated and the ugly truth of his wrongful prosecution and conviction comes out.”
A Santa Barbara County jury found Frimpong guilty of rape on Dec. 17, 2007, but Sanger filed a motion requesting a new trial shortly thereafter.
As part of that motion, Hill granted an evidentiary hearing, which lasted four days and included the testimony of three forensic dentists who analyzed a bite mark left on the victim’s face.
But the testimony didn’t convince Hill that there was a legal basis to order a new trial and he denied the motion.
In the Probation Department’s report, three aggravating factors were cited as the basis for the recommendation of the maximum sentence.
Hill read through them all and noted that only the first, which said there was a high level of cruelty, viciousness and callousness shown by Frimpong during the attack, was proven by the evidence presented during trial.
Hill said he did not agree that the second factor, which said the victim was taken advantage of while she was particularly vulnerable. He noted that during the trial, evidence was presented that showed the victim voluntarily went to the beach with Frimpong.
The third factor stated that there was a level of planning and sophistication to the attack. Hill said there was no evidence of this presented during the trial either.
“This is kind of a primitive act,” Hill said. “It’s a violent act, but it doesn’t seem to me to involve a lot of planning and sophistication.”
Sanger said Frimpong intended to make a statement, but at his attorney’s request, did not.
Hill said Frimpong’s good standing in the community and blank criminal record up until the time of the rape “mitigated” the one aggravating factor and therefore justified the six-year sentence.
Before announcing the sentence, Hill addressed the nature of rape cases, saying next to murder; they’re the most serious dealt with by the court.
“The physical and emotional injury [of rape] often lasts a lifetime,” he said. “That’s the reality.”
Hill also noted that he felt the jury’s decision was the correct one.
“I’m convinced beyond any doubt that the jury reached the right decision,” he said.
When asked about some of the criticism Hill and the District Attorney’s Office has received as a result of the case, Barron said the evidence spoke for itself.
“We always felt the evidence in this case was very strong and the jury took the time to consider it and came to the right conclusions,” she said. “If you were in court and you listened to that evidence, you can understand why the jury came to the conclusion that they did.”

A Letter From Eric.

February 28, 2008

Click Here To View Letter.

Click Here to See the Full Article.

A former UCSB soccer player convicted in Santa Barbara County Superior Court of rape in December has filed a motion for a new trial, citing testimony of a juror who says jurors were not given all the readback testimony requested during deliberations, and new evidence by a dental expert that, the defense says, exonerates its client.

Deputy District Attorney Mary Barron told the News-Press on Monday that she is preparing a reply to the motion in the Eric Frimpong case. The motion for a new trial will be heard at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 28 — the date scheduled for Mr. Frimpong’s sentencing.

A motion prepared by defense attorney Robert Sanger argues Mr. Frimpong was denied a fair trial, due process of law, the right to experts to assist counsel, equal protection of the law in violation of the Fifth, Sixth and Fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution, the California Constitution and case and statutory law.

The defense claims a new trial is indicated because the prosecution withheld bite-mark evidence that exonerates Mr. Frimpong during the trial in violation of Brady v. Maryland, a 1983 landmark case.

During the trial, the prosecution called a dental expert to testify as to the bite marks photographed on the victim’s face the morning after the incident. The victim had testified her attacker bit her on her cheek during the course of the rape. The prosecution’s expert testified he could not exclude Mr. Frimpong as having made the bite mark.

The defense objected at trial that the prosecution first contacted a different dental expert than the one called to testify.

This witness testified, outside the hearing of the jury, that he told the detectives the “best” he could do “would be to not exclude Mr. Frimpong since the bite mark was vague,” as stated in the motion.

The defense argues that the prosecution’s failure to make available to them the castings of the victim’s friend Benjamin Randall, until after the conclusion of the expert’s testimony late in the trial, made it impossible to conduct a forensic analysis from anyone before the end of the trial.

The defense also argues its expert, Dr. C. Michael Bowers, was not available to testify because he became ill.

Since the trial, Dr. Bowers has evaluated the materials and exonerates Mr. Frimpong, the motion states.

“Dr. Bowers has concluded that Mr. Frimpong could not have made the (bite) mark. . . . In other words, when Dr. Sperber (the prosecution’s witness) testified that the (teeth) transparencies were not ‘helpful,’ the truth was they showed the opposite of what he testified to at trial. Dr. Bowers’ report makes it clear that an innocent man was convicted and that the actual attacker remains free,” according to the motion.

Another issue raised in the motion by the defense is the claim that jurors rushed their deliberations and did not take time to consider the evidence based on pressure to conclude the trial on or before Dec. 18.

Juror Ann Diebold states in a declaration that she regrets finding Mr. Frimpong guilty.

“I did not feel we were given all the testimony we asked for and in the manner we asked for the requested materials,” Ms. Diebold stated in her declaration attached to the motion.

She said jurors were read the victim’s direct testimony, but when the judge asked if they wanted to hear the victim’s cross-examination, which would take time to gather, the jury foreman said they had enough for now. The jurors were never able to hear the readback of the cross-examination and other information they requested, she stated . Another issue the defense raises in the motion is the contention that juror No. 5 should have been excused for misconduct.

The motion argues that this juror could not have been impartial given the fact she was arrested for driving under the influence during the course of the trial.

Mr. Frimpong’s attorney also argues that “Deputy District Attorney (Mary Barron), committed a Griffin error in her closing argument that Mr. Frimpong had 10 months to come up with an alibi and failed to deny committing the alleged rape.”

Griffin v. California is a landmark case that stands for the rule that the prosecution cannot comment on the defendant’s failure to testify.

Mr. Frimpong did not take the stand during the trial.

e-mail: kstinson@newspress.com

Check out Photo’s Page…

January 28, 2008

New Photos from the MLK march. More to come…

youngjustice1.jpg

Upon Eric Frimpong’s shocking guilty verdict from an all white Santa Barbara jury, he was immediately handcuffed and whisked away, tears streaming down his face.   Stunned supporters, including a San Diego family that has helped with the majority of his legal defense to date since his family has no financial means, faced a courtroom full of smirking D.A.’s and Sherriff’s, as the verdict was read.  Eric was immediately taken to jail, where the sheriffs have failed to process him and at least his first few nights in jail, he has remained in his suit, and forced to sleep on the concrete floor as there was no bed available.

Eric Frimpong grew up in a village in the West African country of Ghana.  He lived with his mother, who supported her four children with $60 a month, in a mud hut with no plumbing.   He carried water jugs down dirt streets, barefoot, dribbling his soccer ball.

His skills with the soccer ball gave him a path to what should have been a better life.  He played for the University of Ghana.  His dream came true when he was recruited by an American university – the University of California at Santa Barbara to play for the men’s soccer team.

Eric had to adapt to a whole new way of life, from the language, to the food and customs.  He embraced his new home whole-heartedly, and enjoyed a diverse group of friends, black, white and Latino.  While playing soccer, he pursued a challenging degree in math with a minor in finance.  His hope was to one day take back his skills to help his tribe in Ghana.

In December 2006, Eric was an important part of the UCSB men’s soccer team that won the NCAA national championship.  The soccer players were the toast of the town.  Eric was talking to MLS teams about his professional career.  He was then drafted in the third round of the 2007 MLS supplemental draft by the Kansas City Wizards.

On one night in February 2007, everything changed.   Eric’s American dream became a nightmare.

On a typical Friday night in the college town of Isla Vista, as fate would have it, Eric met a girl.  They were both on the street outside of a party.   She approached him, and Eric, being his usual friendly self, started chatting with her, revealing his name, his age, that he was a UCSB student, and that he was a soccer player.  He invited her to his house down the street to play a college party game, “beer pong”.  Little did he know, according to the girl’s later testimony, that she had already consumed at least ten alcoholic beverages.

The girl accompanied Eric down the street.  A casual sexual partner of hers, Benjamin Randall, passed them on the street and called her on her cell phone.  He was a “little upset”, according to his later testimony, about seeing her arm in arm with Eric.

At Eric’s house, he introduced the girl to his roommates, and then the two of them proceeded to play beer pong.  When the girl wanted to smoke, Eric asked her to go outside to a park next door.

At the park, there was some kissing.  Eric was repulsed over her tongue ring and the smell of smoke on her, and said that he wasn’t interested in her.  Suddenly, she became angry, yelling at him not to judge her and put her hand down his pants, squeezing tightly.

Disturbed, Eric pushed her away, told her to leave and proceeded himself to walk by himself to a female friend’s house, and later that evening to his girlfriend’s house where he slept.

The next morning, Eric was playing ping pong in the same park next door to his house with some friends.   A detective with the Sheriff’s department, Detective Kies, approached him and asked if he would come with him for some questioning.  The friends, showing obvious concern, asked if he should have an attorney.  The detective, in a reassuring tone, said, no, this would just be a simple questioning, and that he would be coming of his own free will.

Eric went with Detective Kies in good faith.  An audio was played during the trial of their conversation.   Kies asked him what he had done the night before.  Eric answered in a calm, conversational manner – with his thick accent.   He didn’t try to hide anything.  When he was asked to allow detectives to search his home and retrieve his clothing from the night before, he asked what this was all about.   He was told that the girl he had met claimed that he took her down to the beach and raped her.  Soon thereafter he was arrested.

Headline news was all about the UCSB national champion soccer player arrested for rape.  From day one, he was portrayed as guilty.

When the DNA came back negative – not only was there no sign of Eric on the victim anywhere, but sperm was found in her underwear from another man.   At this point, the victim told the D.A. about Benjamin Randall.  His DNA matched the sperm found in her underwear the night of the alleged rape.

The victim said she had last had sex with Randall three days before.  He testified it was a week before.  Both testified that he had worn a condom.  There has never been any explanation offered as to how his sperm was in her underwear the night of the attack.

Not only was Benjamin Randall never pursued as a suspect, but the D.A.’s office decided the negative results for Frimpong weren’t good enough.  They requested further testing.   After documented mishandling of evidence, including mislabeled evidence, chain of custody reports changed months later, and evidence left on the floor, one “nucleated cell” of the victim was found on each swab from Frimpong – one from his penis, and one from his scrotum.  The D.A.’s office used this evidence to pursue the case.

The victim’s story of the attack changed with each telling.  She insisted she was hit in the face, and indeed had a large mark.  Detective Kies suggested that it was a bite mark.  Only on the witness stand ten months later did the victim describe being bitten.   She admitted to not remembering much after the beer pong game, but suddenly being attacked on the beach.  She admitted to blacking out at certain points, and in fact to blacking out five to ten times in the past.

As the D.A. continued their unrelenting quest to prove Eric Frimpong’s guilt in this “high profile case”, as they called it, another “victim” came forward alleging that Eric had sexually assaulted her back in January – that he had tackled her on the beach while exercising together.  Even in light of a Facebook entry where the “victim” said she was going to “be such a bitch” to Eric, the D.A. jumped on this to show a pattern of predatory behavior.  They charged him with sexual assault.   Ironically on this charge, Eric was found not guilty, but the damage was done.

This case should never have gone to trial.  In light of the recent Duke Lacrosse case, the parallels were too strong – a girl’s unreliable word taken at the expense of a prominent student-athlete.

Four motions for a mistrial were made and denied by Judge Hill during the trial which lasted three weeks.

Besides evidence of the mishandling of evidence, there was the shocking and blatant suppression of evidence.    Before a dental expert, Dr. Sperber, was to testify for the prosecution that Eric Frimpong could not be ruled out as the attacker, it was discovered by the defense that in fact the prosecution had sought a prior opinion from another dentist.  This dentist said that the bite marks were too vague and could in no way implicate the defendant.  This was not disclosed to the defense.  In addition, Detective Kies lied on the stand about it.  He only “remembered” this prior dentist after the defense lawyer’s investigator discovered this fact on the day of testimony and confronted him with it..   He and an upper level D.A. suggested that they didn’t go with the first dentist’s opinion, not because of his report, but because it was a money issue.  They said the second dentist, Dr. Sperber, was working for free.

Once Dr. Sperber’s testimony was allowed, he admitted that he always charges and of course the prosecution was paying him.  He then proceeded to try and sway the jury that the bite marks could have been made by Eric Frimpong and not by Benjamin Randall.  Upon cross examination he admitted that the evidence is inconclusive.

With so many glaring holes and prosecutorial errors and possible misconduct, the defense confidently and with good reason, rested of the facts of the case with only one witness.  This witness, A  Department of Justice employee, testified that the victim’s blood alcohol level was .20 the following morning, and estimated that it would have been near or over a  .30 at the time of the alleged attack.

During closing arguments, the prosecutor made a comment alluding to the fact that the defendant had no alibi and didn’t take the stand.  This was when the defense made another one of the motions for a mistrial.

Throughout this ordeal, Eric had an unwavering belief in the American judicial system and his utmost faith in God.  He believed the truth would set him free.  Unfortunately, the D.A.’s office wanted to win a conviction at any cost, with no mind to truth or justice.

On Monday, December 17, 2007 the jury deliberated.  They asked to hear two audio tapes and several transcripts from the trial.  After lunch, Judge Brian Hill advised them that if they continued to listen to the requested evidence, they would be there at least three more days.  He suggested they go back in the jury room and talk some more.

The judge, and at least one of the jurors, had holiday travel plans the following day.

It was also debated during deliberations as to what to do about one of the jury members getting a DUI two days prior.   The judge allowed her to continue deliberating.

The jury came out of the room a short time later with a verdict.  Eric Frimpong, guilty of the rape charge.

Now a convicted rapist, Eric Frimpong has no rights.  His supporters couldn’t speak to him, or wipe the tears from his face as he left the courtroom.  His attempts at phone calls from jail are continuously disconnected.   He cannot have his beloved Bible and book of daily devotions in the jail.

He is a young man from Africa, alone, half a world away from home.

The Story of Eric Frimpong
By: Kim A. Seefeld, January 15, 2008

Billed as the “American Riviera”, Santa Barbara evokes visions of a prosperous, harmonious community with sunny beaches, palm trees and red-tiled roofs. Yet behind the patina of paradise, the reality it appears is quite different.

The recent trial of a young black man named Eric Frimpong, a member of UCSB’s 2006 NCAA championship soccer team, for rape, reveals a startling portrait of bias and injustice.

At the bedrock of our criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence. Every person accused of a crime is presumed innocent until proven guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt”. The rules of procedure in our criminal justice system flow from these basic principles, recognizing that “it is better to set ten guilty men free than to convict one innocent man.

These safeguards failed to protect Eric, even though none of his DNA was found on the accuser; only the semen of her boyfriend. The girl, a 19 year old freshman with a history of alcohol induced blackouts, had a blood alcohol level between .29 and .34. At a .35 you are at anesthesia level where surgery can be performed.

What transpired in this case shocks the conscience; a far different story than prosecutor Mary Barron’s inaccurate descriptions of the case as being based on “overwhelming evidence” and “eye witnesses”.

Eric Frimpong, 22 years old, is from a village in the northern region of Accra, Ghana on the west coast of Africa. A soccer player as a boy, he was “discovered” and recruited by a UCSB soccer coach in Ghana to scout other players.

He arrived at UCSB in August, 2005, with only a small back pack of belongings. He became a starting mid-fielder on Coach Tim Vom Steeg’s 2006 NCCA championship soccer team.  He is described as an excellent student, never in any trouble at UCSB or before, devoutly religious; a warm, friendly, gentle soul. Everyone who met Eric came away with admiration and affection for this boy from West Africa.

Eric was drafted by a professional soccer team, the Kansas City Wizard’s and was set to graduate from UCSB with a degree in mathematics. UCSB soccer coach Tim Vom Steeg  describes Eric as a wonderful young man who he cannot believe would commit rape.

In February, 2007, lots of kids hanging out in I.V. struck up conversations with Eric and his teammates regarding their victory. One night Eric invited one such fan to his house to play “beer pong” and hang out with his friends. Though Eric and the girl separated, she later accused him of raping her on the beach below Del Playa. However, the evidence does not support her claim.

She alleged a violent attack on the beach that left her covered in sand, yet the first person she saw testified he saw no sand on her.

Eric had no scratches or abrasions on his body or any sand on his black skin and hair.

It was hours before she reported the alleged rape. When examined, she claimed to have been hit on the cheek.

Not surprisingly given her extreme intoxication, she had little memory of what had happened. Sheriff’s Detective Kies repeatedly suggested facts to her, including that she was bitten. He allowed two of her friends who were also drunk to coach her. A swab taken much later of her cheek was negative for any DNA.

Detectives Kies and Sherbuth did nothing to investigate what other males the accuser had contact with that night or when she last had sex with her boyfriend.

The detectives found Eric the next morning, playing ping pong with friends. They requested he go with them without explaining the allegations or his rights. Eric’s friends asked if he needed representation, explaining he was from a foreign country and would not understand what was going on. Detective Kies lied, stating he would explain everything, then took Eric away and grilled him without explaining why. He didn’t explain his rights until Eric, obviously confused, asked what was going on.

Unlike his accuser, none of Eric’s friends were allowed in his interview. Eric politely answered all questions, allowed a search his home and clothes. When they finally told him he was a rape suspect, he denied having sex with the accuser and volunteered a DNA sample.

There was no presumption of innocence. They accepted the impaired accuser’s word. Eric was the only suspect, even after only the boyfriend’s DNA was found on the accuser that night.

After the publicity of Eric’s arrest, another girl surfaced who alleged a past sexual assault. On a mere accusation, the DA charged “sexual assault” and portrayed Eric as a serial sexual predator. While acquitted, he was severely prejudiced by the false claim.

At trial the prosecutor systematically excluded minorities and foreign born citizens from the jury, depriving Eric of a jury of his peers.

The prosecution hid exculpatory evidence by not revealing a dental expert previously consulted.  They falsely told the Court the second expert was used because he wasn’t charging a fee when he did charge a fee.

The prosecutor disregarded the presumption of innocence and burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt by referring to Eric as having no alibi.

A juror was arrested for DUI, an alcohol related criminal offense, yet, in a case where alcohol intoxication was a major issue, the juror was not replaced.

The jury asked to review the accuser’s and Eric’s statements. Only the accuser’s was read. Judge Hill then told the jury it would take to long to review everything so they should just review what they had already heard. Eric was convicted two hours later.

Judge Hill revoked Eric’s bail and sent him to jail. Meanwhile the alleged victim has reportedly been observed back on the party scene in I.V.

Unlike the falsely accused student athletes in the infamous Duke rape case, Eric is indigent, without resources to fight in the courtroom or media. The kind parents and soccer team supporters who posted bail and paid for a lawyer are tapped out.

Unless a motion for new trial motion is granted, Eric will be sent to prison.

Will we, as a community, allow this to happen or will we demand that those who administer the law, also abide by the law? If we demand anything less, surely paradise is but an illusion.

(The author is a trial lawyer and former prosecutor with no relationship to any of

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