Dickens asks for new trial in police shooting

Arsenic and cadmium play a key role in efforts to win a new trial for a convicted cop killer.

Today was a scientific day in court for Gregory Dickens, Jr.

15 years ago, Dickens was a teenager charged and later convicted of the shooting death of South Bend Police Cpl. Paul Deguch.

Today, Dickens was back in court taking a shot at a new trial that was heavily dependent on an alleged ‘bogus’ from of bullet testing.

“Compositional Bullet Lead Analysis” was used at Dicken’s 1999 trial to link bullets found at the crime scene with those found in Dickens’ bedroom.

Although Dickens has been convicted of killing a police officer, today, a retired 27 year special agent with the FBI came to his aid.

William Tobin said he had second thoughts about testifying because of his loyalties to law enforcement and that fact that his son is a police officer who has been shot in the past.

But Tobin reasoned that “bad science” was used at Greg Dickens trial and that it needed to be corrected.

There seemed to be room for agreement as the current Senior Forensic Scientist at the FBI Academy in Quantico took the stand.

Dr. Marc LeBeau said the type of bullet testing used at Dickens trial in 1999, had been “permanently discontinued” by the FBI in 2005.

LeBeau said the agency even identified 2,500 cases where agents testified inappropriately about bullet tests and that one of those involved Greg Dickens.

That doesn’t mean Dickens will automatically get a new trial. The judge will have to determine what role bullet testing may have played in his conviction and whether the bullet testing evidence presented was misleading.

The fatal flaw in the bullet testing method seems to be the way the results had occasionally been portrayed.

In Dickens case, testing was used to show that bullets found at the shooting scene and those pulled from a box in Dickens bedroom could have come from the same manufacturer’s batch (they had the same trace concentrations of seven elements).

What the prosecution may have downplayed was the fact that the crime scene bullets could have matched thousands or even millions of others that weren’t found in Dickens possession.

Paul Deguch’s widow attended today’s court hearing, along with the couple’s three children. The youngest daughter was just two months old when Paul Deguch was shot to death.

The hearing continues on Wednesday.

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