Thursday, April 23, 2009

Innocence Project appeals rape conviction of Allegheny County man

By Rich Cholodofsky- Pittsburgh Tribune Review- Pittsburgh, PA

The Innocence Project of New York has filed an appeal of a conviction of an Allegheny County man found guilty in 1992 of brutally raping a New Kensington woman, saying prosecutors used bogus science at his trial.

John Kunco is now 43 and serving a 45- to 90-year prison sentence. He was found guilty in a four-day trial in 1992 that heavily relied on testimony from forensic dentists concerning a bite mark found on his victim's shoulder.

Experts, using science available to them in the early 1990s, found the bite marks were made by Kunco.

But Innocence Project lawyers, in court documents filed last week in Westmoreland County, said that science should be disregarded. A study released in February by the National Academy of Sciences found that bite mark comparison is not reliable.

"Simply put, Kunco's trial was polluted and contaminated with false, misleading and grossly unreliable bite mark evidence, and as a result this court can have no confidence in the jury's decision to convict Kunco," states the appeal written by Innocence Project lawyer Craig M. Cooley.

Kunco had worked as maintenance man at the apartment where his 55-year-old accuser lived. During the trial, prosecutors presented evidence that he broke into her home on Dec. 16, 1990, blindfolded her with her own underwear, shocked her with a frayed electrical cord, raped her, then forced her to perform painful and degrading sexual acts.

The victim was able to identify Kunco by virtue of a recognizable lisp.

Five months after the woman was attacked, an ultraviolet photograph of her back was enlarged and healed bite wounds were compared to a mold of Kunco's teeth. Forensic experts testified at trial that the healed wounds matched Kunco's dental impression.

Defense attorneys never challenged that testimony during the trial, but a subsequent appeal did. That appeal eventually was taken to the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals, where it was rejected in 2003.

Westmoreland County Assistant District Attorney Wayne Gongaware, who tried the case against Kunco in 1992, said Friday that he is confident the right man is in prison for the rape.

"We had two different experts. They independently reviewed the evidence and found it was his bite marks," Gongaware said.

The Innocence Project, a private nonprofit agency based in New York, was created in 1992 and has worked on high-profile cases in which DNA could be used to overturn a conviction.

Kunco has maintained his innocence since his arrest. After the federal appeals court ruling Kunco contacted the Innocence Project, Cooley said on Monday.

In January, Westmoreland County prosecutors agreed to DNA testing of some evidence used against Kunco, including an electrical cord and the victim's girdle. Test results have not been returned.

"We're testing to find some other male DNA that we can hopefully use to exonerate John. If the results are inconclusive, then we will have to find another available avenue of appeal," Cooley said.


Anonymous said...

Appreciating the time and energy you put into your website and
in depth information you offer. It's good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn't the same unwanted
rehashed material. Fantastic read! I've bookmarked your site and I'm adding your RSS feeds to my Google account.

My weblog :: home exercise

Anonymous said...

I could not refrain from commenting. Very well written!

Feel free to visit my page - men's stuhrling watches

Anonymous said...

It's a shame you don't have a donate button!
I'd without a doubt donate to this outstanding blog! I suppose for now i'll
settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
I look forward to brand new updates and will share this site with my
Facebook group. Chat soon!

Visit my weblog

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the auspicious writeup. It in reality was once a leisure account it.
Look advanced to far delivered agreeable from you! However, how can
we keep in touch?

Also visit my webpage;

Anonymous said...

Thanks very interesting blog!

Feel free to surf to my blog post -

Anonymous said...

Have you ever considered creating an ebook or guest authoring on other
sites? I have a blog centered on the same ideas you discuss
and would really like to have you share
some stories/information. I know my viewers would appreciate your work.
If you're even remotely interested, feel free to shoot me an e mail.

Feel free to visit my weblog: rc hobbies now

Anonymous said...

I used to be able to find good advice from your

My site :: armitron

Anonymous said...

This article will help the internet people for building
up new web site or even a weblog from start to

My web-site ... women's vestal watches

Anonymous said...

This post will assist the internet visitors for creating new
web site or even a blog from start to end.

My site :: mens victorinox swiss army

Anonymous said...

Do you have any video of that? I'd love to find out some additional information.

my homepage :: home business idea

Anonymous said...

I simply could not depart your website before suggesting that I
actually enjoyed the usual info an individual supply to your
visitors? Is gonna be back frequently in order to check up on new posts

Here is my weblog: wrist watches

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude! Thanks, However I am experiencing problems
with your RSS. I don't understand the reason why I am unable to join it. Is there anyone else having identical RSS problems? Anyone that knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!

my blog; remote control hobbies

Anonymous said...

Hey! Someone in my Facebook group shared this website with us
so I came to take a look. I'm definitely enjoying the information. I'm book-marking
and will be tweeting this to my followers! Terrific blog and fantastic design and style.

My site watches for men