After a long set of jury selections and opening arguments Monday, the retrial of Orange Taylor III, who is accused of raping and murdering Eastern Michigan University student Laura Dickinson, continued yesterday.
Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor Blaine Longsworth blitzed through eight of his witnesses yesterday, with most testifying about the forensic evidence found at the scene.
Michelle Lockwood, a custodian who worked in Dickinson’s residence hall, testified, saying she smelled a bad odor and, after investigating, found it was strongest on the dorm’s fifth floor on Dec. 16. When Lockwood entered the room, she said, she saw a woman lying on the floor, naked from the waist down.
“I backed up and called the police,” Lockwood said.
Longsworth called several witnesses who saw the Dickinson’s body shortly after Lockwood, including Aida Beard, Eastern Michigan’s facility manager for housing, and Eastern Michigan police officer Kenneth Hardesty.
While cross-examining these witnesses, defense attorney Laura Graham tried to suggest that there were no apparent signs that a struggle had occurred in the room. Graham also said that the first few people who entered the room after Dickinson’s death weren’t wearing protective gloves or shoe-covers, which could have tainted the evidence from the room.
In her testimony, Jennifer Dohring, a Michigan State Police forensic scientist, went into great detail about the procedure for gathering the DNA evidence from the room, one of the keys to the prosecution’s case. Both camp’s attorneys spent a considerable amount of time questioning Dohring to ensure that the “biological fluids,” like semen, weren’t contaminated when they were collected.
The prosecution also called Heather Vitta, the supervisor of the Biology and DNA unit for the Michigan State Police, who explained that the first round of DNA testing determined that the DNA found in the semen stain on the inner right thigh of Dickinson matched Taylor’s. She later said that of the two different types of DNA found on the fitted bed sheet on Dickinson’s bed, one matched Dickinson and one matched Taylor.
The defense argued yesterday that Taylor’s DNA being found on Dickinson does not necessarily prove that he raped her. Graham raised suspicions about the 10-week period it took scientists to test the DNA found at the scene.
The trial will continue today with more witnesses from the prosecution.