Tony Cercy Trial: New DNA Evidence Introduced
THERMOPOLIS -- New DNA testing from the Wyoming State Crime Lab found an astronomical likelihood that Tony Cercy and his alleged sexual assault victim were on the same couch cushion where the alleged sexual assault occurred at Cercy’s lake house in June of 2017, according to testimony Friday during his trial at the Hot Springs County Court House.
Jennifer Brammeier, Senior Forensic Scientist with the State Crime Lab, outlined the process for collecting samples from the cushion on the couch at Alcova Lake, and applied new technology for determining the ratios of DNA — deoxyribonucleic acid — on objects.
The alleged assault occurred about 3 a.m. Sunday, June 25, 2017, when she said she had passed out on a couch in the living room, woke up, found most of her clothes had been removed, and Cercy was between her legs performing oral sex.
Cercy was charged in July with one count each of first-degree sexual assault (rape), one count of second-degree sexual assault, and one count of third-degree sexual assault.
In February, a jury in Natrona County District Court acquitted him of the first two counts, but deadlocked on the third count.
District Court Judge Daniel Forgey declared a mistrial.
In March, the young woman asked and District Attorney Mike Blonigen agreed to again file the charge of third-degree sexual assault.
In June, Forgey granted the defense attorneys' request to move the trial to Hot Springs County because of the intense publicity before, during and after the first trial.
The new trial meant the prosecution would revisit many of the issues from the first trial, including DNA evidence and testimony from Brammeier
To examine the DNA evidence, Brammeier said Friday under questioning from Blonigen that swabs were taken in 2017 from Cercy, the alleged victim and her boyfriend at the time.
Analysts determine whether DNA in a sample is “included,” “excluded” or “inconclusive,” she said. “Inconclusive” means there may be DNA present, but it is not enough to make a conclusive match from an object and from samples taken from people, she added.
In the February trial, evidence was introduced showing Cercy’s DNA did not appear on swatches or samples of the clothing of the alleged victim according to reports Brammeier did in 2017 —a point underscored by the defense attorneys.
Earlier this year, however, Brammeier said the crime lab was asked to conduct tests on a gray blanket covering the alleged victim and on cushion covers of the couch where she said the assault occurred.
Brammeier said she tested four samples of cloth from one cushion cover and three from another cover.
The DNA of the boyfriend, who had consensual sex with the alleged victim two days earlier, was not on the samples — that is, excluded — from the cushion covers, Brammeier said.
However, Brammeier found Cercy’s DNA on the sample, which was to be expected, she said.
She also found DNA from the alleged victim, and DNA from another unknown person.
Brammeier used a relatively new, but well-respected system for DNA analysis called STRmix that matches DNA profiles against a database and gives statistical weight to mixtures of DNA found on a sample, she said.
That statistical weight is known as a “likelihood ratio,” she said. “A likelihood ratio is a numerical value that gives strength of one scenario versus another,” she said after her testimony.
In the sample from one of the cushions, there was a likelihood ratio of 52.6 sextillion — 52,600,000,000,000,000,000,000 — with Cercy’s and the alleged victim’s DNA being present together, compared to the alleged victim with DNA from two unknown persons, Brammeier said.
If comparing the DNA from the alleged victim and three unknown individuals, that likelihood ratio would be 10.5 billion, she added.
Under cross examination from Cercy’s defense attorney Pamela Mackey, Brammeier reviewed the analysis of the cotton underwear of the alleged victim, which excluded Cercy’s DNA.
Mackey asked how DNA from saliva or semen can be transferred from one person to another, and Brammeier resound that can be done by touching, friction or pressure.
Mackey showed her a study that cotton is highly susceptible to transferring DNA.
Mackey also questioned how Brammeier examined the cloth samples from the cushion covers, which involved swabbing the entire swatch. She said that poses a problem if one person’s DNA is on one side of the swatch and other person’s DNA is on the other side of the swatch. By swabbing the entire swatch, the two otherwise unrelated DNA samples would be mixed together, Mackey said.
Brammeier also admitted that the testing could not indicate when DNA was deposited on a sample such as a cushion cover, that it can remain for a long time unless the item in question had been cleaned, and it cannot be determined if the DNA was from saliva.
However, the alleged victim testified Tuesday that she had been to Cercy’s lake house before, but did not go inside those previous times.
The trial will resume Monday morning with the prosecution calling its final witness and then resting. The defense then will begin calling its witnesses. The trial is scheduled to end Wednesday.