Anything gun-related generates a lot of interest. Here are some e-mails about that prior e-mail (which I don’t think meant to discount the Brookhaven motel evidence):
The problem your emailer states about shotgun casings is a straw dog. Every time a gun is fired the scratches and firing pin indentations are unique. They are unique to the gun, and also to the incident. The scratches and pin indentations for a particular gun will change over use due to wear. Thus you cannot expect that microscopic review of the scratch patterns and indentations will necessarily match identically from one firing to the next. However, the statement that these identifiers are consistent with a single firearm, you are precluding 95% or higher (statistical confidence) of the same make and model having fired that shell.
Mr Lowry – your commenter is correct when saying that the evidentiary formula regarding expended shotgun shells – namely, that they are ‘consistent with’ a suspect weapon – is not very probative.
However, that is not the case with Mr Williams and his shotgun. As will be seen in the LA County DA’s response to the pleas for clemency, here.
At least one of the expended shotgun shells associated with one of the murders of which he was convicted (the Brookhaven Motel triple slaying) was linked to his shotgun to the exclusion of all others. So said expert testimony at trial, which testimony has never been rebutted in 25 years of appeals. The exact evidence is not described, but must consist of forensic analysis of chamber, bolt-face, firing-pin or ejector marks. These techniques are no different than those that are used to identify spent cartridge cases from eg semi-automatic weapons.
Your reader makes too much of his point, actually. He hasn’t read the LA District Attorney’s brief. If he had, he’s have known the weapon was a High Standard pump 12-guage (Trial Exhibit 8), with a sawed-off stock, short barrel and provably purchased by Tookie a long time before the 1979 murders. Here’s what the DA’s summary said about the testimony from a forensic firearms witness, concerning the 2 expended shotgun shells (there were three shots; the third would not have been ejected from the weapon unless re-cocked) found at the scene of the Albert Owens 7-Eleven murder scene people:
“Although these two shells lacked sufficient identifying characteristics to be conclusively matched to Williams’ shotgun, the firearms expert testified that they were consistent with having been fired from that weapon. (TT 2301-2310). Moreover, the firearms expert did not find any dissimilarity that would exclude trial exhibits 9C and 9D from having been fired from Williams’ shotgun. (TT 2301-2310).”
Much more important but not mentioned by your reader is the testimony about the single expended shell recovered at the motel murder site of the 3 family members:
“At trial, a firearms expert testified that the expended twelve-gauge shotgun shell that was recovered by investigators at the Brookhaven Motel, trial exhibit 9E, was fired from Williams’ shotgun, trial exhibit 8, to the exclusion of all other firearms. (TT 1522-1523).” [Emphasis added.]
The “probative value” of the 2 7-eleven shells was NOT near zero. That evidence was assigned whatever value it deserved by the jury, which heard that the shells could have come from that shotgun; there was no other explanation for the presence of shotgun shells at the scene of the murder; the victims died of shotgun wounds; all the testimony was that Tookie was the only person present with a shotgun and that he fired that shotgun at the time of the murder.
The uncontroverted evidence that the Albert Owens single shell could only have been fired from Tookie’s weapon was damning, and the other two shells tended to corroborate Tookie’s method.