DNA leads to 15 years for rape

Craig Damian Dilbert, 30, was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment on Wednesday after a Grand Court jury found him guilty of a rape committed in January 2005.

The only evidence linking Dilbert to the crime was DNA found on the victim. Justice Priya Levers said the level of police investigation needed to be looked into because of the way forensic material had been dealt with; without the DNA the crime would not have been solved.

Calling the crime horrendous and particularly brutal, she passed sentence after hearing the local tariff for rape is 10 to 12 years.

The maximum sentence is life, but in one case where that sentence was imposed, the Court of Appeal reduced it to 15 years.

Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees conducted the case for the prosecution and presented her evidence on Monday. Defence Attorney Phillip McGhee agreed that the victim’s statement could be read to the jury.

The woman said she had been asleep in her home when someone broke in. During the struggle that ensued, she was punched in the face, choked and had her hands tied behind her back. She was raped twice. She heard the man say, ‘If you go to the police I will come back and find you and kill you.’ She was unable to identify him.

The woman went to the hospital and provided samples for a sexual assault kit. Police sent the kit to a laboratory in Texas.

Police went to the woman’s home soon after receiving an incident report. Two officers gave evidence of checking for finger prints outside around the window that was the point of entry and inside in several areas. No prints were found.

The officer in charge of the investigation had drawn a sketch of the house interior, noting a trail of dirt with what appeared to be shoe impressions. She did not ask that they be photographed. The officer taking photographs said he did not see any show impressions.

Questions from Mr. McGhee and Justice Levers elicited the fact that there was blood on the floor, but it was not swabbed. There was a patch of wetness that was not swabbed. Hairs had been recovered, but no one had asked that they be analysed. Scuff marks on a bed sheet were referred to, but there was no photo of them or indication of where they came from.

The judge referred to all this when she summed up the case for the jurors and instructed them in the law. Given that the only evidence connecting Dilbert with the crime was the DNA, they had to look at the Crown witness who gave evidence on the subject, decide if they accepted him as an expert, and then decide if the DNA evidence was sufficiently accurate, convincing and reliable for them to make the decision that Dilbert was guilty.

The Crown’s witness about DNA was Mr. Lonnie Ginsberg, supervising forensic serologist at the laboratory to which police had sent the sexual assault kit. Mr. Ginsberg gave evidence via video link.

He listed the various swabs and smears contained in the kit and said he had found DNA consistent with the DNA in the woman’s own saliva. He had also found DNA foreign to the woman and he could say it came from a male because it contained a Y chromosome, which only males have.

The jury heard that, over time, swabs were taken from a number of men and five were sent off for analysis. Dilbert’s swab was taken about a year after the rape. His DNA profile was found to match the DNA of the male in the rape kit.

Asked how common the DNA profile was, Mr. Ginsberg said the frequency that one would find that DNA was one in 120 trillion. He said the number was not exact, but a few billion more or less did not make a big difference statistically. He noted that the world’s population is around 6.5 billion.

Mr. McGhee questioned him about the databases used for comparison. Mr. Ginsberg explained how the US Federal Bureau of Investigation had collected samples. He did not believe that any samples had been collected from outside the US and put into the database he used.

But, Mr. Ginsberg indicated, even if different databases were used, you would still need the world population several times over to find a match like the one in this case.

At the sentencing hearing, Ms Lees read a victim impact statement. The woman said what had happened to her had changed her life forever. Physically, because of the choking, she had a slight hearing loss and a weakness of the jaw that was painful at times and likely to get worse.

She had suffered the humiliation of begging for her life and being raped twice. Now there were times she felt utterly alone and different from anyone else. She has been unable to engage in any serious relationship, she needed help controlling anxiety and sleep would never again be the sanctuary it once was.

The woman referred to the impact on her parents and the guilt she felt because of their distress. She said she had been dealt a lifetime sentence of fear and the knowledge that one human being could deliberately and violently attack a complete stranger. ‘His grudge is with the world, and that means no one is safe,’ she said.

Mr. McGhee spoke in mitigation. He said Dilbert, 30, did not graduate from high school, but worked as a bus boy or bell man in various hotels or restaurants until his arrest in December 2006. Since then he had been locked down 23 hours a day, with no opportunity for work or study.

The attorney asked for a sentence sufficient to punish, but one that would give Dilbert some light at the end of the tunnel.

Justice Levers said every woman has the right to be safe in her own home and anywhere she goes. In this case, photos showed that the woman had been beaten to the extent she could not be recognised. The judge said she did not know how the law could address the woman’s nightmares.

UK sentences cited by Mr. McGhee did not apply here, she indicated. She had to take into account Cayman’s image as a very safe place. The smallness of these islands cannot stand this sort of crime.

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service issued a news release later Wednesday. In it, Detective Chief Inspector Peter Kennett, current head of the Criminal Investigation Department, said ‘The judge’s criticism of the police investigation will be taken extremely seriously and lessons will be learnt. The management of criminal investigations has fundamentally changed since 2005 and the RCIPS is continually striving to improve its professionalism.’

Mr. Kennett said the victim’s impact statement was the most powerful he had ever heard and it summed up the horror of rape. He hoped the 15-year sentence would help her recover from the ordeal.