NOTICE: The attached/linked briefs are available to the public at www.mycase.in.gov. This site redacted the alleged adult victim's name from the briefs to protect her identity. All information provided on this page is available to the public.
A record number of citizens were exonerated for crimes they were convicted of but did not commit in 2016. The number of people found innocent after receiving a conviction nearly doubled since 2013. There exist many more convictions waiting to get vacated in the coming years. Indiana inmate Edward Meiggs is one of those waiting to be exonerated for a crime, evidence proves, he did not commit. Meiggs is a father of six and husband of 25 years. He was charged and reports did not find any presence of his DNA on retained evidence. He was offered a plea deal but maintained his innocence. He was convicted for one of the three counts of rape he was charged with committing as a result of the prosecutor lying during closing arguments.
Meiggs was a small business owner in Evansville, Indiana. His business was operated with the help of his wife and oldest daughter. His business had been performing well since it opened doors in 2011 until May of 2015. According to the appeal briefs by Meiggs’ attorney and the State of Indiana, the alleged victim visited his small business for a massage and ended up at the hospital several hours after her appointment.
SIDE NOTE: This site received confirmation that the alleged victim did not receive a massage, but an acupressure treatment. However, the State of Indiana insisted on referencing her treatment as a massage and so it is on the record in both the Appellant's and Appellee's briefs as such. The alleged victim had a Groupon for Meiggs' place of business, of which he, his staff, and his family had served thousands of Indiana and Kentucky residents for years.
Meiggs was arrested and later released on bond. He consented to a DNA analysis and hired attorney Mark Phillips of Boonville. According to Meiggs, in late summer of 2015, the Vanderburgh County prosecutors offered Meiggs a plea deal because all DNA analyses were inconclusive. This plea deal involved a guilty plea of misdemeanor assault with no jail time and no sex offender registry. His DNA was not found anywhere on the alleged victim. What was found, however, was an unknown DNA mixture of three or four male contributors on the alleged victim’s underwear. Because Meiggs maintained his innocence, he denied the plea deal.
Meiggs’ trial took place in April of 2017. He was found not guilty for two of the three counts charged against him. He was found guilty of one count. That one count is related to alleged prosecutorial misconduct committed by Vanderburgh County’s prosecutors Nick Hermann and Javier Lugo. Amylase (an enzyme produced in the pancreas and salivary glands that helps in the digestion of starches) was detected but a male contributor could not be concluded due to insufficient presence of male DNA. The only amylase identified belonged to the alleged victim. During closing arguments at Meiggs’ trial, Vanderburgh prosecutors said the following:
Amylase is a component of saliva. Mr. Phillips said a lot of things that I didn’t hear an explanation of how his DNA while giving a massage while never having touched her in any appropriate - inappropriate manner… How does saliva end up there? How does amylase end up getting detected [sic]?
While Meiggs’ counsel objected to the overt lie committed by the prosecutor, the presiding judge Robert Pigman overruled and allowed prosecution to continue with their closing argument. None of the DNA reports published on the case were admissible in court due to the presence of unknown male DNA on the alleged victim’s affects. The jury was literally barred from cross referencing prosecution’s final claim with tangible evidence during deliberations.
What was admissible were expert testimonies by two forensic scientists who ran the DNA analyses. Forensic scientist “Ms. Hoffman testified that amylase was detected in Item 2F, the underwear, but she could not do an analysis because there was a mixture of individuals contained in the samples.” While Hoffman confirmed the presence of amylase, she admitted that Meiggs’ DNA was not confirmed on the sample because of the abundant mixture of unknown DNA not matching Meiggs’ profile.
During deliberations, while the jury was not present in the trial courtroom, Vanderburgh County prosecutors scoffed at Meiggs and his counsel by stating that he, “never specifically told the jury that the saliva was Meiggs’ saliva.” This demonstrates, in our opinion, the alleged prosecutorial misconduct committed by Vanderburgh County by stating “his DNA” as in Meiggs’ DNA to automatically incriminate a defendant.
Meiggs’ counsel continued his objection for the record during deliberations while the jury was absent, “What was said was the only amylase in this entire trial that was identified was," the alleged victim's amylase (victim's name excluded).
Under this allegation of prosecutorial misconduct and the fact that everything in the linked court documents are accurate, this case would at the very least be remanded down for a fair retrial by Indiana Court of Appeals. That did not happen.
Indiana Court of Appeals judges John Baker, Patricia Riley, and Elaine Brown decided:
While the prosecutor could have been more accurate than to state that Meiggs’s DNA was definitively present in the external genital swabs, the expert testified that Meiggs cannot be excluded as a contributor. The prosecutor was within his purview to point out that there was amylase on the external genital swabs, that amylase is a component of saliva, and that Meiggs cannot be excluded as a DNA contributor; and then to question how Meiggs’s saliva ended up on A.W.’s external genitalia if it was truly a normal massage.
The problem with Meiggs not able to be excluded as a contributor is that he also can’t be concluded as a contributor. That was, in our opinion, the misconduct committed by prosecution. That was, in our opinion, the miscarriage of justice committed by the appellate court.
The jury never knew about the four unknown male contributors not matching Meiggs’ DNA on the alleged victim and her clothes. That information was barred during trial to guarantee the alleged victim respect and dignity. When anyone within the courtroom cited that there was the presence of male DNA, all that could be assumed was that the DNA must belong to Meiggs. This is common practice due to Indiana’s Rape Shield Law that determines DNA evidence as inadmissible in court when the victim’s sexual conduct is revealed in the evidence. Also because of the Rape Shield Law, Meiggs’ counsel was not allowed to properly cross examine the forensic scientists, which is a Sixth Amendment right. We assume that had the jury been made aware of the other male contributors, they would not have been able to find Meiggs guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
In fact, the Rape Shield Law has an exception to barred evidence when someone other than the defendant committed the crime. That exception includes when there is, "evidence which shows that some person other than the defendant committed the act..." There is proof, scientific DNA evidence, indicating some person[s] other than Meiggs could have committed the crime, but there is no proof or scientific DNA evidence whatsoever that points to Meiggs. If the State of Indiana had upheld their Rape Shield Law exception, the jury could have had access to the DNA reports. Meiggs would not have been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Meiggs was convicted of the charge relating only to prosecution’s closing argument. He was found innocent of all other charges. That charge related to penetration with tongue (i.e. amylase).
The charge Meiggs was convicted of proved confusing for the jury. During deliberations, the jury requested for clarification on that charge twice. They first asked for the definition of penetration. Their second question related to whether or not all aspects of a charge must be met in order to convict someone of that charge (versus only one part of the charge). The presiding judge Robert Pigman responded, “I’m not going to answer the second one at this point.”
Meiggs was sentenced to nine years and is now at New Castle Correctional Facility. He has been removed as the sole provider for his family of eight members. His youngest children, adolescent daughters, just spent their first Christmas without their father. In fact, their mother – Meiggs’ wife – had to inform the girls the week of Christmas that Meiggs was not coming home because the Indiana Court of Appeals decided in favor of the conviction on December 19th. Merry Christmas.
Edward Meiggs’ story is just one of hundreds – maybe thousands – of wrongful convictions that take place throughout the United States. That is indeed a small percentage of total incarcerated inmates. However, to the families affected by these wrongful convictions, it is the end of the world as they know it. That has been the case for Edward and his family.
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