Court Reverses Rape Conviction

SALISBURY — A Salisbury man convicted in 2010 of first-degree rape and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole was given a shot at a new trial this week when the Maryland Court of Appeals reversed the conviction over an alleged DNA sample collection.

In July 2010, Alonzo Jay King, Jr., now 29, was found guilty of first-degree rape for an unsolved 2003 case during which he allegedly broke down the door of a residence in Salisbury, armed with a gun and wearing a mask over his face, and sexually assaulted the 52-year-old female victim. In September 2010, King was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, but quickly appealed the conviction based on alleged illegal DNA sample collection following a subsequent arrest for assault.

In 2009, King was arrested after photographic and fingerprint evidence identified him as a suspect. However, a DNA sample was taken from King at the time of the 2009 arrest, and when the information was entered in the state DNA database, the evidence linked him to the 2003 rape case.

Once a connection was made between King’s DNA sample and the 2003 rape, a second DNA sample was taken. The link between that second DNA sample and the 2003 rape was presented as evidence at trial. King appealed, arguing the second DNA sample used at trial violated his constitutional right against unreasonable searches. This week, the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed the second DNA sample taken from King and used to gain a conviction in the six-year-old rape case was unconstitutional.

“We conclude that in King’s circumstances his DNA was collected unconstitutionally, and the evidence presented at trial should have been suppressed as fruit of the poisonous tree,” the opinion reads. “Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Circuit Court for Wicomico County and remand the case to that court for a new trial.”

The state’s highest court opined King’s arrest and subsequent conviction in the 2009 assault case was gained through other evidence and the collection of a DNA sample was not necessary to convict King.

“The state, prior to obtaining a DNA sample from King following his arrest on the assault charges, identified King accurately and confidently through photographs and fingerprints,” the opinion reads. “It had no legitimate need for a DNA sample in order to be confident who it arrested or to convict him on the first- or second-degree assault charge.”