Death Row Diaries: The first use of DNA technology in an Arizona murder case

PHOENIX - Arizona’s most notorious death row inmates past and present have interesting stories including Arizona's first use of DNA technology to help in the conviction of Richard Bible.

RICHARD LYNN BIBLE

Date of Birth: January 23, 1962

Executed: June 30, 2011

 

The Crime:

In June of 1988 the Yuma family of 9-year-old Jennifer Wilson were vacationing in the Flagstaff area. On June 6, Jennifer was riding her bicycle to the ranch house where the family was staying. The family actually went by her as they drove to the ranch house, but little did they know it was the last time they would see her.

When she failed to arrive, the family began searching for her and found her bicycle on the side of the road. Soon, a massive search was underway with roadblocks, helicopters and ground searchers.

It was this clue that first lead police to Richard Bible

The Wilson family told police they remembered a "blazer-type" vehicle speeding on the road about the same time Jennifer went missing. It was this clue that first lead police to Richard Bible. Later that afternoon, Bible went to his brother's home. His brother, believing Bible was stealing from him, called police and told him Bible was driving a vehicle that looked like a Chevrolet Blazer.

Police realized that Bible was driving a stolen GMC Jimmy that had been taken from the police impound lot the night before.

Police spotted him that night and after a high speed chase, Bible rammed a cattle guard disabling the SUV. Police used tracking dogs to find Bible hiding under a ledge covered with leaves and branches. In the SUV, police found a case of vodka with two bottles missing, a wrapped cigar broken in two places, numerous rubber bands, (the GMC Jimmy had belonged to a newspaper delivery person), and a broken steering column with a piece of metal missing from it. 

The massive search for Jennifer went on for nearly three weeks with no results. It was hikers near the top of Sheep's Hill that found Jennifer's beaten body. She was hidden under a tree, mostly covered with branches, with her hands tied behind her back with a shoelace. Police found one of the victim's sneakers, without a shoelace, near the body.

Evidence found at the scene of the body matched those found on the Inside of the vehicle Bible was driving. Police found the two vodka bottles, rubber bands, cigars broken in the same ways the ones found in the SUV and a metal piece that matched the piece missing from the car's steering column. 

Prosecutors introduced a new technology, DNA analysis

 

The Trial: 

At trial, in addition to the physical evidence linking Bible to the crime, prosecutors introduced a new technology, DNA analysis, to match the blood found on Bible's shirt to the victim.

Bible's defense team accepted the "underlying theory" of DNA testing and its research and diagnostic uses. However, they brought forward three main challenges to the admission of the DNA test results in this case:

1. The trial court erred by declining to determine before trial whether the tests were properly conducted and accurately recorded according to Cellmark's own protocol.

2. There is no general acceptance in the relevant scientific community of the procedures used by Cellmark (the lab that did the DNA analysis) to declare a match.

3. There is no general acceptance in the relevant scientific community of the procedures used by Cellmark to calculate the statistical probability of a random match and, thus, the court erred in admitting statistical probability opinion testimony.

However, after the extensive hearing, the court allowed the new technology to be introduced in the case. 

On April 12, 1990, after a six week trial a jury found Bible guilty of first degree murder.

During Bible's sentencing hearing, his mother told the court that Bible was a hyperactive child, and doctors prescribed amphetamines to control him. Testimony was also given claiming that Bible had normal relationships except for his chronic drug use. A girlfriend testified that they had a normal relationship and Bible cared for and loved her young son. She then described Bible’s avid drug use, stating that he snorted cocaine and methamphetamine. She also stated that when Bible used drugs he was unpredictable, but when he was not using drugs he was a “pretty nice” guy.

The prosecution brought up that prior to this crime, Bible was convicted in 1981 of sexual assault and kidnapping a 17-year old girl.  He served a seven year sentence for the convictions. He was released just one year before the killing of Jennifer Wilson.

Two months after his conviction Bible was sentenced to death.

"They are good people and we know it's a tough time for them also"

The Execution:

Richard Bible was executed by lethal injection on June 30, 2011, 23 years after the crime was committed. The chemicals were administered at 11:02 a.m. and he was pronounced dead nine minutes later. After the execution, the victim's family offered their condolences to Bible's family saying, "They are good people and we know it's

a tough time for them also."

Bible's last meal: 

  • Four eggs fried over easy with melted cheese on top
  • A cup of country gravy with sausage
  • Hash browns
  • Seven biscuits with grape jelly and peanut butter
  • A bottle of chocolate milk

Bible's last words:

"I'd like to thank my family, my lawyers. Love 'em all. And everything's okay. That's it."

 

Information gathered from AZ. Dept. of Corrections, AZ. Attorney General’s Office,

STATE of Arizona, Appellee, V. Richard Lynn BIBLE, No. CR-90-0167-AP.

Supreme Court of Arizona, In Banc. Aug. 12, 1993. and

UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT

RICHARD LYNN BIBLE, ü Petitioner-Appellant, No. 07-99017

v. ý D.C. No. CHARLES L. RYAN, Director of the CV-98-01859-PGR

Arizona Department of OPINION Corrections,* Respondent-Appellee. þ

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Arizona

 

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