In September 1997, Alvin Davis was found stabbed to death in his apartment in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania. Two bloody fingerprints on a fan near Davis’s body were the only evidence located. Rickie Jackson, Davis’s sometimes lover, voluntarily went to the police and told them he was with Davis the night before he died, but said he had nothing to do with the murder. Police arrested him anyway. At trial, the prosecution argued that Davis was murdered in a lover’s quarrel gone awry. A fingerprint expert testified for the prosecution that the prints on the fan matched Jackson’s, while the defense presented its own experts who concluded that the fingerprints were not a match. In September 1998, a jury convicted Jackson of first-degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison.
After Jackson’s conviction, an investigation by the International Association of Identification, the trade association that certifies fingerprint experts to testify in court, determined that the fingerprints were not Jackson’s and revoked the certification of the prosecution’s expert. An expert consulted by the prosecution also concluded that the fingerprints were not a match. In total, 50 fingerprint experts examined the evidence and determined that the fingerprints were not Jackson’s. Jackson’s attorney filed a motion for a new trial. In December 1999, after the FBI also concluded that the fingerprints did not belong to Rickie Jackson, a Delaware County Superior Court judge overturned the conviction and freed Jackson on $1 bail at the request of both the defense and the prosecution. In March 2000, the prosecution dropped the charges. Jackson filed a civil suit against the police officers involved in his case. A judge dismissed the claims against everyone except the police officer who first claimed that the fingerprints belonged to Jackson. A jury found the officer not liable in February 2003.
- Stephanie Denzel