Fred Zain, a police chemist whose expert testimony and lab tests helped put scores of rapists and murderers behind bars in two states over 13 years, now finds himself in the dock.
Zain is charged with lying in court and tampering with evidence in his laboratories, compelling judges in West Virginia and Texas to release men sent to prison on the strength of blood and semen samples Zain verified."I really have no idea why he did what he did," said Jack Buckalew, a former superintendent of the West Virginia State Police. "The only possible reason I can speculate on is to enhance his status with prosecutors by saying what he thought they wanted him to say."
Zain, 43, surrendered on Thursday in Hondo, Texas, to answer charges of aggravated perjury, evidence tampering and fabrication connected to the 1990 rape conviction of Gilbert Alejandro.
"I think there's no criminal intent," said attorney Sam Bayless.
Zain refused to talk to reporters and left Medina County Jail after posting $6,000 bond. Trial is scheduled for Oct. 12.
Zain worked as a serologist for the West Virginia State Police from 1980 to 1989. He resigned to become chief of physical evidence for the medical examiner in Bexar County, Texas.
Texas has freed two men convicted on now-disproven blood tests done by Zain: Alejandro, who served four years of a 12-year sentence, and Jack W. Davis, convicted of murder in 1990.
Davis missed a death sentence by the vote of one juror and is suing Zain for $10 million. After Davis' conviction, Zain changed his testimony about blood at the scene of a teacher's mutilation-murder, acknowledging the blood came from the victim rather than Davis.
Zain's work or testimony figures in hundreds of other Texas cases, and authorities say they will review each one.
On Thursday, Zain goes to West Virginia to be arraigned on charges he lied about his credentials and about performing specific lab tests in a 1991 double-murder trial.
Seventy-one convictions, all but five of them for murder or rape, were granted reviews because of Zain's "long history of falsifying evidence in criminal prosecutions," according to a report presented to the West Virginia Supreme Court last year.