This is one of our series concerning wrongful convictions related to bitemark evidence. Certainly the Krone case was one of the highest profile cases involving bitemarks. We have collected a range of resources here in relation to the case. If you own copyright to any of them and object to them being used in this way – please contact us. Materials are collected for educational purposes. Lets start with a CNN review of the case from 2011 – it gives a good overview of the case and also features ABFO diplomate Lowell Levine talking about the science of bitemarks. Ray Krone was the 100th person released on the basis of a wrongful conviction in the United States.
On the morning of December 29, 1991, the body of the thirty-six year old victim was found, nude, in the men’s restroom of the Phoenix, Arizona bar where she worked. She had been fatally stabbed, and the perpetrator left behind little physical evidence. Blood at the crime scene matched the victim’s type, and saliva on her body came from someone with the most common blood type. There was no semen and no DNA tests were performed.
Investigators relied on bite marks on the victim’s breast and neck. Upon hearing that the victim had told a friend that a regular customer named Ray Krone was to help her close up the bar the previous night, police asked Krone to make a Styrofoam impression of his teeth for comparison. On December 31, 1991, Krone was arrested and charged with murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault.
At his 1992 trial, Krone maintained his innocence, claiming to be asleep in his bed at the time of the crime. Experts for the prosecution, however, testified that the bite-marks found on the victim’s body matched the impression that Krone had made on the Styrofoam and a jury convicted him on the counts of murder and kidnapping. He was sentenced to death and a consecutive twenty-one year term of imprisonment, respectively. Krone was found not guilty of the sexual assault.
Krone won a new trial on appeal in 1996, but was convicted again, mainly on the state’s supposed expert bite-mark testimony. This time, however, the judge sentenced him to life in prison, citing doubts about whether or not Krone was the true killer.
It was not until 2002, after Krone had served more than ten years in prison, that DNA testing would prove his innocence. DNA testing conducted on the saliva and blood found on the victim excluded Krone as the source and instead matched a man named Kenneth Phillips. Phillips was incarcerated on an unrelated sex crime and, although he had lived a short distance from the bar where the victim worked, he had never been considered a suspect in her murder.
On April 8, 2002, Krone was released from prison and on April 24th, the District Attorney’s office filed to formally dismiss all charges against him. Murder and sexual assault charges have since been brought against Phillips.
Ray Krone spent more than a decade in prison, some of it on death row, before DNA testing cleared his name. He is the 100th former death row inmate freed because of innocence since the reinstatement of capital punishment in the United States in 1976. He was the twelfth death row inmate whose innocence has been proven through postconviction DNA testing. Prior to his arrest, Krone had no previous criminal record, had been honorably discharged from the military, and had worked in the postal service for seven years.
From the Innocence Project.
Here is a newspaper article from the Arizona Republic giving details of his release. There are further details in this edition of Justice Denied (a magazine and website concerned with wrongful convictions) – you can find details of Ray Krone’s case here.
You might like to read the Appellate Court judgement here – which describes the reasons for remanding for a new trial. Here is a copy of the petition filed to prevent DNA testing in this case – a procedure that ultimately demonstrated Krone’s innocence.
In Ray Krone’s Words
“I was the 100th person exonerated from death row. So, there was lots of media attention when I got out. On that first day, a reporter asked me, ‘Ray, given your faith in God, why do you think he left you in prison all those years?’
“How do you answer a deep question like that? It shot in my head, ‘Maybe it’s about the next 10 years.’”
Ray Krone was sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit. After serving more than 10 consecutive years in Arizona prisons, including 32 months on death row, he was successfully exonerated in 2002. His innocence was finally established after DNA tests proved another man had committed the murder of a female bartender:
“One time after my release, I was being interviewed, and so was my mom. I happened to pass the room in which the reporter was speaking with her. I heard my mom tell him, ‘Our family used to set a place at the table for Ray at every Thanksgiving and Christmas.’ To hear that, to think of what my mom went through, to hear her say, ‘We wondered what he was eating in prison,’ that helped me realise how I need to do this for her, for my sisters, for all the people who have sat in a courtroom and been told that they are guilty when they are not.
“There was the time when I was testifying on behalf of Witness to Innocence, and a prosecutor said to me, ‘You’ve been exonerated. They got the guy who did it. You’re out now. See: the system works.’ I said, ‘Tell my mom the system works.’ He didn’t ask any more questions.
“So, now I’m speaking out for my friends, my family, for all the people who need me to tell my story. I was a Boy Scout, a postman…I was in the Air Force. If they could do it to me, they could do it anyone.”
Ray serves as the Director of Communications and Training for Witness to Innocence, the nation’s only organisation composed of, by and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones who are actively engaged in the effort to end the death penalty. As of December 2012, 142 people have been exonerated, thanks in part to the vigorous efforts of advocates who have brought their innocence to light.
David Love, Executive Director of Witness to Innocence, says that “exonerees” like Ray are powerful voices who change public perception about the death penalty.
“There are a host of reasons that people should be opposed to the death penalty, and who better to articulate those than the people who were innocently languishing on death row while the state plotted their murder…innocent people have been executed in the past, and if we don’t do something, innocent people will continue to be executed. Witness to Innocence is an exemplar of people who have been through a lot of pain and are trying to heal themselves and heal society.”
By sharing the stories of innocent people who were wrongly imprisoned, Witness to Innocence was instrumental in the abolition of the death penalty in Maryland in 2013, Connecticut in 2012, Illinois in 2011, New Mexico in 2009 and New Jersey in 2007. They also were a critical part of Wisconsin’s effective 2006 campaign to prevent the re-instatement of the death penalty.
“It’s difficult for those of us who are exonerated to tell our stories in a simple way that makes sense. During the time that we were locked up, there were multiple stories occurring simultaneously: our stories, what the prosecutors were doing, what our families were doing to prove our innocence, and what the police did. Lots of times, our stories went down a dead end and we had to backtrack, to re-start the process of ultimately being found innocent — and of us finding hope — all over again. And it’s difficult to keep the anger and bitterness in check when we tell these stories. Of all the tragedies and all the stuff we have to go through in our country and in our lives, this is one thing that may get better – hopefully we will succeed in abolishing the death penalty nationwide. Clearly exonerees make a difference: we enable people to see that mistakes are made. It’s a reason to get up in the morning, to keep patience.”
The Players and the Evidence
Several odontologists were involved including Dr Raymond Rawson.
The “bitemark” in the case is shown here.