8:30pm – Thursday, June 30 on ABC1
DNA evidence has become one of the most potent weapons in the armoury of law enforcement. But will DNA evidence convict a young man of robbing and assaulting an elderly taxi driver.
In 2005 two men hailed a taxi in central Sydney. The driver was Albert Frankland, a 72 year old who had been driving cabs for over 20 years. Not long into the journey, the two passengers demanded Frankland’s money. Feeling threatened by their size he handed over all his cash, then the rear-seat passenger leant over and rifled in Frankland’s top pocket for more. Frankland was then punched in the face before the two men stole his cab. It is the sort of crime that sends shivers up every cab driver’s spine.
Three years later the case is in the District Court of NSW. Steven Tofala’ao, a 22-year-old labourer from western Sydney, sits in the dock facing four charges including robbery, assault and theft. If he is found guilty, Tofala’ao could face 20 years behind bars. But there is only one piece of evidence in the case against him – a sample of DNA taken from Tofala’ao during an un-related police investigation.
Crown Prosecutor Mervyn Grogan describes the case against Tofala’ao as ‘strong’. Tofala’ao doesn’t deny the DNA is his, but he claims that he wasn’t even at the scene of the crime.
Suburban solicitor and advocate Theo Voros is representing Tofala’ao and takes the presumption of innocence very seriously. His job as he puts it is to “walk in his shoes, to fight for him.” When the Defence begins to explain a hypothesis for the existence of the DNA, Grogan becomes a little exasperated. The Defence claims that Tofala’ao’s DNA was planted or tampered with by police to gain a conviction. The Defence and Prosecution both call their own DNA experts.
In summing up, the Defence and Prosecution seek to win the hearts and minds of the jury. Theo Voros says the case is shaky enough to acquit Tofala’ao. Merv Grogan for the Crown thinks otherwise.