A Gazette editorial from the Charleston Gazette-Mail
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — One morning in 1987, a Charleston woman was preparing to have coffee with her 82-year-old mother when an assailant attacked them. The woman was raped, her mother was beaten, and they were robbed of $90 and a cassette player.
A player on the former Charleston Wheelers baseball team, Jimmie Gardner, was charged. A fingerprint on a vase in the women’s home reportedly matched his. He was convicted and sentenced to 110 years in prison — mostly on false testimony by former State Police lab expert Fred Zain.
Zain disgraced West Virginia’s criminal justice system in the 1980s because he fabricated evidence to help troopers obtain convictions. As his wrongdoing came to light, numerous prison sentences were reversed and taxpayers paid millions for wrongful imprisonment. Zain was awaiting trial on fraud charges when he died of cancer in 2002 at age 52.
During the rape trial, Zain testified that Gardner’s DNA matched semen in the rape victim — but he knew this was untrue…