In early 1994, two men violently robbed, kidnapped, and carjacked an Oakland couple. The victims were forced into their own trunk, driven around to ATMs for the purpose of withdrawing cash (which was unsuccessful), and brought to a clearing in the hills only to see the male violently beaten, tased and forced back into the trunk before the female was violently raped. With no expectation but being buried alive, the couple was released. In the short time it took for someone who lived nearby to allow the couple to call the police, the two men disappeared.
Over fifteen years later, Dewayne Ewing and Kevin Barnes are being accused of the crime and have been in jail for the past three years without trial. While the charges are serious, there is little, if any, evidence against them.
Police investigators found four major pieces of evidence. First, photos were taken of the assailants by ATM machines. Second, fingerprints collected from the scene of the crime which do not match the victims are assumed to be those of the assailants. Third, the rape kit, which was collected within a few hours of the couple’s release, found the semen of two men, which are from one of the assailants and her husband. Lastly, a used condom was found near the scene of the rape.
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The ATM photos show skin tones and facial structures which do not match those of Ewing or Barnes. The fingerprints are also unhelpful, as they give no match. It’s the combination of the second and third pieces of evidence which make the case especially peculiar.
The rape victim told police and doctors that her assailants did not use condoms during the rape, and the semen from her rape kit appears not to have been matched to Ewing or Barnes. Semen found in the condom was matched to Ewing. However, the condom was found at the scene of the rape, which is a public space—a clearing in the Oakland hills—where Ewing says he went with his girlfriend completely separately from this crime. There is a clear discrepancy between the DNA match and the victim’s account of the rape.
In late 2010, $13,000 of further DNA testing proved unhelpful, and an apparent waste of city money in the middle of a budget crisis. While it’s possible that the testing would have proved inconclusive anyway, the results probably also had to do with mishandling of evidence by the Oakland Police Department. The condom and rape kit were found a few years ago in non-refrigerated storage, after all instructions including tags on the evidence itself gave instructions for refrigeration. Without refrigeration, the DNA in the evidence deteriorates relatively quickly.
Kevin Barnes was apparently arrested simply because he and Ewing, who are cousins, had been arrested together in 1992 on charges that were dropped. There is no evidence against him in this case.
On Tuesday, January 18th, the case was scheduled to go to pre-trial, and was pushed back another two months until mid-March. Ewing and Barnes, who were arrested in 2007, remain in jail without trial. By their next pre-trial date, they’ll have served almost four years each.
Experiences like those of the victims and charges of these types of intensely violent crimes should not be taken lightly. However, in the midst of the court’s process of justice, our judicial system has apparently created more victims as opposed to finding justice for anyone concerned. The targeting of young Black men by the police or court system should also not be taken lightly. This targeting has cost the lives of numerous community members, including Oscar Grant and much more recently Derrick Jones, and it continues to victimize Kevin Barnes and Dewayne Ewing through untried incarceration.
Jesse Strauss is an independent journalist. His articles have been published on Truthout, Common Dreams, CounterPunch, Consortium News, and other sources. Reach him at jstrauss (at) riseup.net.