In 1992, a Phoenix man named Ray Krone was convicted of murdering a cocktail waitress named Kim Ancona. The crime was brutal. Ancona had been sexually assaulted, stabbed multiple times, and bitten on her breast and neck. Krone was indicted after a local dentist named John Piakis, who had received all of five days of forensic training, told police and prosecutors that Kroneâ€™s crooked teeth created the marks on Anconaâ€™s body.
At trial, a more experienced bite-mark analyst from Las Vegas named Ray Rawson confirmed Piakis’ findings: The bite marks on Anconaâ€™s neck could only have come from Krone. Rawson included a 39-page report with his testimony. It must have been convincing, because the jury convicted Krone despite no other physical evidence linking him to the crime. He was sentenced to death.
In 1995, Krone was given a new trial after an appeals court threw out his conviction over an unrelated legal technicality. Rawson testified again. And Krone was convicted again. After the second trial, however, the judge refused to sentence Krone to death, writing, “The court is left with a residual or lingering doubt about the clear identity of the killer.”
The judgeâ€™s misgivings proved prescient. Over the strenuous objections of prosecutors, who maintained that Rawsonâ€™s testimony was in itself sufficient to affirm Kroneâ€™s conviction, Krone’s attorney Christopher Plourd succeeded in getting a court to force the state to turn over biological evidence from the crime for DNA testing. The testing proved Krone was innocent. It also provided a match to Kenneth Phillips, a man who arguably should have been a suspect from the start. Phillips lived less than a mile from the crime scene, was already on probation for assaulting a female neighbor, and was arrested three weeks after Anconaâ€™s murder for sexually assaulting a seven-year-old girl. Several witnesses had described a man fitting Phillipsâ€™ height, weight, and complexion to police near the crime scene the night of the murder.
After 10 years in prison, including two spent on death row, Ray Krone was exonerated and released from prison in 2002.
But Kroneâ€™s lawyer wasnâ€™t quite finished. In addition to his job as a criminal defense attorney, Christopher Plourd is a legal specialist in forensic science, having served on several government commissions looking at the role of DNA testing in the criminal justice system.
All care is just not to rush. Often what seems to be, is not.
After 10 years in prison, the accused was released and the real criminal was discovered.