Hamilton County: Pantyhose evidence allowed in rape trial

Hamilton County: Pantyhose evidence allowed in rape trial

March 18th, 2009 by Monica Mercer in Local Regional News

A judge has ruled that prosecutors can use the pantyhose worn by a rape victim to help prove their case against defendant Kacy Cannon, who has been granted a new trial in connection with an attack 10 years ago on an elderly woman.

The prosecution said the defense is in the process of appealing Hamilton County Judge Rebecca Stern's decision over the key piece of evidence. The retrial was scheduled to start Monday, and Mr. Cannon is set to be in court May 21 for a hearing, but a new trial date has not been set. Until the new trial begins, he will remain in jail due to his conviction in the original rape trial, which took place in 2004.

Public defender Ardena Garth, who is representing Mr. Cannon, declined comment Tuesday but indicated she would be filing documents in the case soon.

The unusual case - which hinges on the pair of pantyhose - gained attention last year when the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned Mr. Cannon's conviction. The court's opinion stated that prosecutors had failed to prove that the pantyhose in question had been worn by the victim.

Eighty-two years old at the time of the attack in 1999, the elderly victim was expected eventually to testify about her pantyhose, which likely would have been sufficient to prove that she was wearing the main evidence of the crime.

But by the beginning of the trial in 2004, the victim had developed dementia and did not even remember the attack. That led prosecutors to strike her as a witness and instead rely on hearsay testimony, DNA evidence from the pantyhose, which, at the time, was linked only to Mr. Cannon, and medical records.

That was a mistake, the Supreme Court ruled, noting that it was improper for a nurse and a detective to have testified about what the victim told them about the rape.

It was only last year, though, that tests confirming the presence of the victim's DNA on the pantyhose came to light - tests prosecutors were not aware of during the first trial and which might have prevented a re-trial.

"It's terribly unfortunate (that report) wasn't introduced at trial," Judge Stern said last August before scheduling a new trial.

Now that Judge Stern has decided to allow the newly uncovered testing to link the pantyhose to the victim, the defense is expected to appeal her decision.

Mr. Cannon, 34, now is serving a 32-year sentence for the rape. Authorities say he randomly walked by the victim's front porch on Nov. 18, 1999, barged into her house and raped her on her couch before fleeing.

Authorities did not make a break in the case until 2002, when Mr. Cannon's DNA profile showed up in the statewide database as the result of a separate felony theft conviction.

According to court documents, Mr. Cannon looked "puzzled" when authorities read him his rights, responding, "I don't remember doing that. How much time will I get?"