Former employees at Alaska State Crime Lab testify in the Jury Trial of Steven Downs

Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 6:54 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) -The details that evolved in the jury trial of Steven Downs continued Thursday, January 27, 2022, with a more in-depth cross-examination of former forensic scientists. Steven Downs is on trial for the death and sexual assault of Sophie Sergie, from Pitka’s Point, Alaska.

Janeice Amick and Hayne Hamilton were both tasked with analyzing the forensic evidence items that were brought to the Alaska State Crime Lab in 1993 after the death of Sophie Sergie.

Both the prosecution and the defense spent several hours hearing testimony from Amick, going over several hair samples that were taken at the scene, but focused primarily on the foreign hairs that were found on Sergie’s body.

In her report, there were four hairs in question that at the time Amick wrote were not Sergie’s and could have come from a person of Caucasian ethnicity. Those hairs were reported to be possible chest and pubic hairs.

“When you say foreign pubic hair, what is significant with the word foreign?” asked Lead Defense Council James Howaniec to Amick.

“That it was compared to Sophie and it did not, that it was not consistent with her hairs,” she answered.

Howaniec replied, “It was a Caucasian pubic hair, that was different, that was foreign from the pubic hair that was a known sample from 10-10 correct?”

The hair in question was taken from the backside of Sergie’s body when forensic samples were initially taken. They were then delivered to the Alaska Crime Lab in Anchorage, Alaska, where Amick and others were able to analyze the evidence.

Hayne Hamilton is a retired forensic serologist. She started working at the Alaska Crime Lab in 1988. During cross-examination, she was asked questions regarding her knowledge of the possible fluid and DNA samples on slides that were taken from Sergie’s body.

At the time DNA testing was in the early stages for the State.

“There are three unique markers on the DNA chain that is unique to that person if that person has even one marker that does not match in that sample, it does not match the person they are excluded.”

The presence of Spermatozoa was questioned in Hamilton’s initial report. The defense asked questions as to why Hamilton did not initially address what she had found in her initial report in 1993.

Later in 1999 after going over samples again she later found more evidence of Spermatozoa on slides that she previously did not report, where she then had to give an updated report on her findings.

“These slides that I prepared in ‘93 were re-examined, and after taking much more time and spending a lot more time searching for sperm in ‘99, and found some that I had not found because I didn’t spend that time looking on the same slides that I prepared. So they were there the whole time and because there was a discrepancy between the two reports I examined them myself and noted in my notes, that was a prepared slide, prepared by me in each of the four items and that I did find sperm and Nucleo-epithelial cells in what I saw,” said Hamilton.

Howaniec asked if it would be common for crime lab personnel to re-review evidence samples. “And this is something that you would do regularly? Were very few of the results of the samples produced any evidence of sperm and then later you would find that there was much more sperm?”

“This is the only time that I recall at all that we found something different than what we had found originally. But searching for sperm is a quick or very tedious process,” said Hamilton.

This trial is expected to last several more weeks, and our station was granted authorization to use video and audio recordings of the Trial.

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