Prosecutor focuses on DNA evidence

Posted: Thursday, November 28, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The prosecutor in the trial of a man accused of shooting the trans-Alaska oil pipeline has turned his focus to physical evidence.

Prosecutor Kevin Burke on Wednesday called Alaska State Crime Lab workers to testify in the state trial of Daniel Lewis now in its second week.

Burke wants to prove to jurors that items seized after the Oct. 4, 2001, shooting back his scenario of Lewis cutting himself with a scope when he shot at a pipeline support beam then transferring the blood onto the rifle, his clothing and the four-wheeler he was driving.

DNA analyst Abirami Chidambaran testified that blood samples from two jackets, the console of a four-wheeler and the .338-caliber hunting rifle allegedly used to shoot the pipeline, match Lewis' DNA. She said there was a 1 in 70 billion chance that someone else could have the same DNA sample as Lewis.

Chidambaran provided similar testimony during Lewis' federal trial that resulted in a jury convicting him of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Lewis will be sentenced to 10 years in prison on that charge.

Jennifer Hite, one of two public defenders representing Lewis, tried to draw the jurors' attention to whether that factor was significant in determining if Lewis shot the pipeline.

Prompted by Hite's cross-examination, Chidambaran said the DNA testing provided no indication about how long the blood had been on the items or how it got there.

Alaska State Crime Lab workers Jim Wolfe and Dale Bivins also testified Wednesday. Wolfe talked about examining the items sent to the lab by Alaska State Troopers and discovering the blood stains, while Bivins talked about his unsuccessful attempts to collect fingerprints from the rifle and several bullet casings also sent to the lab.

Randy Lewis, Daniel's older brother and the man billed as the key witness in the trial, testified last week that Daniel shot at the pipeline while they were driving on the pipeline access road near the family's Livengood homestead, Randy on a three-wheeler and Daniel on a four-wheeler.

Daniel first shot at a pipeline support beam with the hunting rifle he was carrying, and the scope, which was missing a protective rubber ring, cut his face when the gun recoiled, Randy testified.

Randy said Daniel pierced a hole in the pipeline with the rifle later that day.

Lewis is charged with oil pollution and first-degree criminal mischief in connection with the shooting, felony driving while intoxicated for allegedly driving the four-wheeler while drunk, weapons misconduct for allegedly handling a gun while drunk and third-degree assault for allegedly pointing the rifle at Randy.

Lewis faces as many as 22 years in prison if convicted of the charges.

More than 285,000 gallons of oil spilled from the pipeline after it was shot and cleanup costs have exceeded $13 million.

The trial will resume Monday.

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