Murder-trial evidence re-examined, court told


Testimony yesterday in the retrial of two Mexican immigrants accused of killing three young relatives revealed that Baltimore prosecutors ordered a wide-scale re-examination of evidence after the first trial ended in a hung jury in August.

Policarpio Espinoza, 24, and Adan Canela, 19, are on trial in the May 27, 2004, deaths of three children whose throats were cut in their parents' Northwest Baltimore apartment. The defendants, the victims and other family members came here illegally, and prosecutors have said the motive for the killings is a "secret buried in the family."

Teri J. Labbe of the Baltimore Police Department's crime laboratory testified yesterday that in late October she examined evidence in the case, including bloody blue jeans containing genetic material consistent with the defendants' DNA and articles of clothing from the crime scene.

Labbe said she found a "blue granular substance" on several pieces of clothing that were taken from the crime scene. She said the substance was not visible to the naked eye and was never mentioned in any previous lab reports.

She testified that she "didn't have a clue" what the blue substance was or how, if at all, it might relate to the crime. More details could come later in the trial from scientists who examined the composition of the substance.

Although the blue substance was not mentioned in the previous trial, jurors in this trial, which began June 22, have heard about it several times.

Assistant State's Attorney Sharon R. Holback briefly spoke about it in her opening statement, and Adam Sean Cohen, a defense attorney for Canela, questioned whether a police detective saw it when he walked through the crime scene on the day of the murders. (He responded that he had not.)

Labbe said that in October she also examined 29 hairs connected to the case and submitted three of them for DNA analysis.

In a question to Labbe, Holback implied that the new testing of those hairs could have jeopardized the state's case against Espinoza and Canela if they had been found to be someone else's.

In cross-examination, Nicholas Panteleakis, Espinoza's attorney, countered that prosecutors and detectives told Labbe to look only at hairs that could have come from Espinoza or Canela.

Labbe agreed that they had told her that.

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