A petition was recently launched asking McLean County State’s Attorney Jason Chambers to allow DNA testing in the Jamie Snow case, in Illinois. The petition, which was launched by Injustice Anywhere on Change.org, has people asking the simple question: “Why not test the DNA?”
Jamie Snow was convicted in 2000, of a 1991 “cold case” murder and armed robbery of a gas station attendant in Bloomington, Illinois. Snow has proclaimed his innocence from the start and has remained hopeful that new technology can now work to prove his innocence. Unfortunately, DNA evidence continues to go untested in his case. Snow has been asking for DNA testing for years. Yet the State has used every excuse in the book NOT to test the DNA, even though not one shred of physical evidence has ever linked Snow to the crime.
Snow is being represented by the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project, who has agreed to pay for all testing at an independent lab. If all costs are completely covered, why in the world does the McLean County State’s Attorney Office oppose the tests? Furthermore, why do they continue to use TAX PAYER DOLLARS to fight against DNA testing which will cost the State nothing and may very well lead to the truth?
Jason Chambers, has shown that he is well aware of those questioning his decisions on the Snow case, and he has taken to Facebook to state his position. On March 12, a McLean County citizen (who happens to be Facebook friends with Jason Chambers) signed and shared the Change.org petition for Snow. Chambers decided to respond – not to the petition’s organizers – but to his friend’s public post on Facebook.
Snow’s supporters welcome an open discussion, but the discussion should be based on FACTS of the case with informed persons from both sides. Not a “one-sided” Facebook post by a State’s Attorney who is actually bound by Supreme Court Rules from making public statements about an impending case that he has been involved in. Here are the rules in case anyone (including Chambers) would like to read them:
Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct
RULE 3.6 Trial Publicity
(a) A lawyer who is participating or has participated in the investigation or litigation of a matter shall not make an extrajudicial statement that a reasonable person would expect to be disseminated by means of public communication if the lawyer knows or reasonably should know that it would pose a serious and imminent threat to the fairness of an adjudicative proceeding.
RULE 3.8 Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor
(e) The prosecutor in a criminal case shall refrain from making extrajudicial comments that would pose a serious and imminent threat of heightening public condemnation of the accused, except for statements that are necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s action and that serve a legitimate law enforcement purpose.”
These rules are in place for good reason. The State’s Attorney is in a position of power, and has complete influence over his constituency. It is a matter of trust. Jason Chambers is using his position to influence the community, as is abundantly evident in the responses he receives to his Facebook posts. Here are the screenshots from Chamber’s exchange on Facebook (names redacted):
Here is a snippet taken from the screenshots above:
Facebook Poster: “If the DNA test cost the state NOTHING and can prove one way or the other why not have it done? I have to agree test the DNA I really do not see any issue not to.”
Chamber’s response: “There is nothing they want tested which would prove innocence at this point. They are requesting one thing to be tested which already was tested. It is not like a sex assault case where they are requesting a sex assault kit be tested to prove exactly whose DNA was involved in a rape. They want to argue that because someone else’s DNA was in the gas station, it must have been someone else, and that is simply not that case.”
Jason Chambers manages to rattle off a series of falsehoods all within a single post. Those falsehoods, along with others seen in the screenshots above, are outlined here:
- Chambers wrote: “There is nothing they want tested which would prove innocence at this point.”
Chamber’s statement regarding proof of innocence, is misleading and is a complete distortion of Illinois law. Nowhere in the Illinois Post-Conviction Act does it say that testing is only allowed if it “proves innocence.” In fact, the allowance for testing was put in place to also further a claim of innocence. For example, if the fingerprints matched the blood sample which matched the touch DNA on the victim’s clothing – and did NOT match Snow, but matched a person who has a history of violent armed robberies, it could produce an alternative suspect.
Chambers has repeatedly misstated the Illinois Post-Conviction Act. He is either ignorant to the law, or he is intentionally providing misinformation. Here is the law in case anyone (including Chambers) would like to read it:
(725 ILCS 5/116-3)
Sec. 116-3. (c) The trial court shall allow the testing under reasonable conditions designed to protect the State’s interests in the integrity of the evidence and the testing process upon a determination that:
(1) the result of the testing has the scientific potential to produce new, noncumulative evidence (i) materially relevant to the defendant’s assertion of actual innocence when the defendant’s conviction was the result of a trial, even though the results may not completely exonerate the defendant, or (ii) that would raise a reasonable probability that the defendant would have been acquitted if the results of the evidence to be tested had been available prior to the defendant’s guilty plea and the petitioner had proceeded to trial instead of pleading guilty, even though the results may not completely exonerate the defendant; and
(2) the testing requested employs a scientific method generally accepted within the relevant scientific community.
- Chambers wrote: “They are requesting one thing to be tested which was already tested.”
Chambers knows that his statement is false. It is clearly outlined in the petition that Snow’s defense team is asking for four items to be tested: fingerprints, clothing, bullets, and blood. Additionally, they are asking for discovery. The reasons are CLEARLY stated on the petition as well as in the DNA motion filed with the court.
It is possible that the one piece of evidence, that Chambers has chosen to acknowledge, is a blood sample that was found underneath the counter at the service station where the crime occurred. During the 1991 investigation, a technician from the Illinois State Police (ISP) lab reported that a sample (Exhibit 2) was identified as “human blood.” In the same report, the victim’s blood was typed. The technician asked for samples to be submitted by possible suspects to compare to the unidentified human blood (Exhibit 2). The inference is that the “unidentified human blood” did not match the victim – otherwise why would the technician request that it be compared to any possible suspects?
In 2008, Snow was granted limited DNA testing. The only test allowed was on Exhibit 2, all other requests were denied. The tests on Exhibit 2 came back as a match for the DNA of the victim. Snow’s defense team found out several years later, through additional police reports obtained through supporter FOIA requests, that in 2008, when the technician at the ISP received Exhibit 2, and opened the envelope, it was empty. This was never revealed by the State. Additional police reports (never seen before the FOIA requests) reveal that when the Bloomington Police Department (BPD) was contacted by the ISP about the missing sample, a BPD officer brought “another” sample to the ISP to be tested, and that sample turned out to be the victim’s blood. Isn’t that convenient? Keep in mind that Exhibit 2 was the sample that the original technician wanted compared to possible suspects. How does a police stored blood sample, which was originally deemed unrelated to the victim, later come back as a positive match for the victim?
If Chambers is indeed talking about that specific piece of evidence, it needs to be made clear to him that Snow’s defense team would like to see the chain of custody of Exhibit 2 blood evidence, along with their other requests for testing of the fingerprints, clothing, and bullets, which were collected at the crime scene. These are all items that would surely be tested in any murder investigation taking place today. So why are these items of evidence in Snow’s case being completely ignored by Jason Chambers.
- Chambers wrote: “It is not like a sex assault case where they are requesting a sex assault kit be tested to prove exactly whose DNA was involved in a rape.”
Chamber’s statement is misleading. How does he know it won’t prove exactly whose DNA was involved? Is he clairvoyant? Any possible results will obviously remain unknown as long as Chambers continues to block testing. And again, testing does not have to “…prove exactly whose DNA was involved…” it only needs to further Snow’s claim of actual innocence, as outlined by the Illinois Post-Conviction Act: “…even though the results may not completely exonerate the defendant…” Chamber’s Facebook comments suggest that he may need to take a refresher course on the law.
- Chambers wrote: “They want to argue that because someone else’s DNA was in the gas station, it must have been someone else, and that is simply not that case.”
Once again, Chamber’s statement is misleading. Why would evidence be collected by crime scene technicians if it was deemed irrelevant? How could it be relevant in 1991, and not relevant now? FOIA requests have uncovered around 600 leads in Snow’s case, many of which were never cleared, followed up on, or were cleared with no rhyme or reason. Imagine if the DNA matches one of those suspects? Additionally, there are multiple affidavits from people who worked at the service station, stating that the manager was a stickler for cleaning the windows, door, etc. at the end of each worker’s shift. Chambers conveniently leaves this information out.
- Chambers wrote: “There is no additional weapon.”
There was never ANY weapon recovered. It is impossible to tell what Chambers means when he mentions an “additional” weapon. However, in 2004, police did recover a gun from Susan Claycomb’s (Snow’s co-defendant) apartment after she had moved. They were quick to run ballistics tests on that gun. Their actions clearly show that they are in favor of testing if it can possibly prove guilt. That seems reasonable enough, but why do their actions also show that they are against testing that can possibly prove innocence? Aren’t they supposed to be seeking the truth?
- Chambers mentions other cases in his Facebook comments in an attempt to show that he does grant DNA when warranted.
Chambers referenced three cases in support of his track record, when he wrote: “On Beaman, there was relevant DNA evidence and I agreed to testing. In McNeil, the defense attorney made some rationale arguments for some testing and I agreed to some of it. In Whalen, we are agreeing that with a new DNA profile, some things should be tested. When it might prove innocence, we agree to test it and have a record of that.”
Before analyzing the cases Chambers mentioned, it must first be noted that all of the above cases were prosecuted by then State’s Attorney Charles Reynard. Snow’s case was also prosecuted by Reynard. The following year, Reynard was promoted to judge. Additionally, before Chambers took office, every State’s Attorney assigned to Snow’s case in the years following Reynard’s promotion were also promoted to judge. Bill Workman and William A. Yoder, were both State’s Attorneys before Chambers took office. Both are now judges today. Is Jason Chambers allowing his career aspirations to cloud his judgment in the Snow case?
When taking a closer look at the cases mentioned above, it is immediately clear that Chambers has provided misleading statements in an attempt to support his position. The Alan Beaman case came very early in Chamber’s career as State’s Attorney. In fact, while he was running for office, he stated publicly in an interview with the Pantagraph in August 2011 that DNA testing: “…validates our system” by confirming the correct person has been convicted, or exposes and error that put the wrong person behind bars…And it is our opportunity to remove the cloud that’s been hanging over not just the people involved in the case, but our community.”
Of course, Chamber’s statement in favor of DNA testing only came after Beaman had spent 12 long years fighting for his innocence. It is also important to note that the statement was made before Chambers was elected. His campaign mantra was “Justice Over Politics.” It is unfortunate to see that Chambers has since failed to fulfill his central campaign promise in his years after taking office.
It is interesting to see Chambers choosing to reference the Beaman case, as it was thrown out, in part, because it was shown that the McLean County State’s Attorney’s Office hid evidence. It is probably not the best case for Chambers to use when attempting to prop up the reputation of his office. In his defense, Chambers did manage to make one accurate statement about the Beaman case, when he wrote: “On Beaman, there was relevant DNA evidence and I agreed to testing.” Chambers now needs to apply the same logic to the Snow case.
Barton McNeil was convicted in 1999 for the murder of his three-year-old daughter. He claimed immediately that his ex-girlfriend, Misook Nowlin, might have committed the crime. His claims fell on deaf ears to McLean County law enforcement at the time. Fast forward nearly a decade, and Nowlin was convicted of luring her mother-in-law out to a nature preserve in Joliet and murdering her. In wake of that tragedy, McNeil’s case is finally being heard. McNeil is now being represented by the Illinois Innocence Project (IIP).
In reference to the DNA motion for McNeil, Chambers had this to say: “In McNeil, the defense attorney made some rationale arguments for some testing and I agreed to some of it.” Once again, it is interesting to see Chambers referencing this case. Although Chambers finally came around to DNA testing that the IIP agreed to pay for, he still fought several items (on the McLean County tax payer’s dime).
Members of Injustice Anywhere attended the McNeil hearing in 2014, and the defense, the IIP, made a brilliant argument. As with Snow, the IIP agreed to pay for all of the testing, yet the State fought touch DNA for the three-year-old victim’s clothes (underwear and a t-shirt) and a fingerprint. Why would the state oppose justice for this three-year -old victim by not testing EVERYTHING? Especially at no cost to the McLean County taxpayer. Chambers relies on a theory that another suspect, Misook Nowlin, “could” have committed this crime, and no doubt, she is high on the suspect list.
However, if it is Chamber’s job to seek justice, wouldn’t he want to determine without a doubt who committed the crime? Why fight it? Once again, they fought it using McLean County taxpayer dollars. What if the perpetrator was a child molester who lived down the street, and they tested her underwear and t-shirt, and it did not match anyone on the suspect list – but matched someone unknown to them? Where is the justice for this little girl, her father, and her family?
Donald Whalen was convicted in 1992 for murdering his father after the tavern his father owned had closed. Whalen has been fighting for years, predominately on his own, to have DNA tested in his case. Chambers had this to say about the Donald Whalen case on Facebook: “In Whalen, we are agreeing that with a new DNA profile, some things should be tested.”
Yes. Chambers “agreed” after it was COURT ORDERED. After an excruciatingly long fight by Whalen, mostly on his own. Chambers said in 2013 that, “Blood on a knife doesn’t mean that’s who committed a crime,” noting the knives were found at a bar where numerous people may have had access to the items. Chambers said at the time that he supported running the results through the database. “We’ll see if there are any hits in the database. It could just be that we get the identification of a co-defendant we don’t know about,” said the prosecutor. Chamber’s first thought was to tack on a co-defendant, rather than give a single thought to any suggestion that the State may have gotten it wrong.
In Whalen’s case, the state took issue with defense expert Karl A. Reich’s opinion that he was able to combine three DNA samples from knives collected at the crime scene and create a DNA profile suitable for comparison with the state database. Reich referred to the process as a means of obtaining a “deduced profile.” McLean County First Assistant State’s Attorney Adam Ghrist, called Reich’s work a “Frankenstein theory.” In return, Reich was highly critical of the state crime lab, saying the facility is ill-equipped to address post-conviction cases.
In 2015, Chambers said state funding cuts have impacted the amount of forensic testing available to authorities in criminal cases. “We sometimes have to choose what gets tested and that may be one of five things,” said Chambers. Chambers compared the reductions in state spending at crime labs to closures of mental health facilities by the state. “What are the societal costs of all this? Sometimes cutting costs leads to more costs later,” he said.
To sum things up on the Whalen case, Chambers stated on Facebook that he agreed to some testing in the Whalen case, but as we can see, the State only agreed because they were ordered to do so. Furthermore, they have made excuses about lack funds to complete testing, and have challenged testing methods which have been used. Whalen has had to deal with one roadblock after another from the State. He continues to fight for his freedom, and he is now being represented by the Exoneration Project, as is Snow.
It is quite frankly disturbing to see Jason Chambers using Facebook as a platform to defend his decisions on such important issues. It is even more disturbing to read his misleading responses. His comments clearly show that he is not being honest with the citizens of McLean County, and he is using his status as the McLean County State’s Attorney, in violation of Supreme Court Rules, to disseminate misleading information. Chambers holds the key to a powerful office. Dishonesty in his position poses a threat to the safety of the entire community. People need to stand up and demand honestly and integrity from McLean County State’s Attorney Jason Chambers.
Jason Chambers continues to go out of his way to protect the work of former State’s Attorney, Charles Reynard. He has now shown, by violating the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct, that he will stop at nothing to preserve Reynard’s reputation. Chambers should have come to realize long ago that he had gone to bat for the wrong man. Reynard has already had two cases overturned, based in part by misconduct of his office, and three more of his cases are currently being supported by innocence projects. It is quite possible that Chambers feels he is on the road to becoming a judge but, in the end, his loyalty to Reynard just might cost him his job.
Please take a moment to read and sign the Change.org petition asking Jason Chambers to allow DNA testing in Snow’s case. Snow’s supporters are open to discussion, and will happily provide answers to any and all questions to the best of their ability. You can contact them through their website or through their Facebook page. Please read the court documents at FreeJamieSnow.com. Snow’s supporters work diligently to provide documentation to back up their statements. If any information they provide is ever proven to be incorrect, they would like to know about it immediately. Obtaining the truth is the central focus of their efforts.