DNA as Evidence

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Appellee v. Mark M. Ring, Appellant,
2014 PA SUPER. 718 (2014).

This case originally occurring in 2006 was recently decided April of this year. Joseph Tarreto walked in the kitchen where his fiancée Elizabeth Powell was. He was crying and saying “he’s back.” Elizabeth immediately knew Joseph was talking about Mark Ring. Joseph went back outside and Elizabeth noticed a man wearing a baseball hat and a painter’s mask hitting joseph with an aerosol paint can. Elizabeth intervened in the fight and recognized that it was Mark Ring. Mark had also brought a gun to the altercation and ended up shooting Joseph and killing him.

Mark Ring ended up pleading guilty on March 17th, 2007 to third degree murder. He was sentenced 12 to 24 years in prison. Mark Ring filed a petition under the Post-Conviction Relief Act. He said that he had ineffective assistance from the plea counsel. The Court affirmed the order, but the appeal was denied. Appellant filed another Post Conviction Relief Act petition, but the PCRA court dismissed Ring’s second petition.

Then in late 2014, Mark Ring filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing. Ring wanted the wooden spindle tested for Joseph’s DNA. If Joseph’s DNA was present on the wooden spindle, Ring could claim that shooting him was self-defense. This would call for new proceedings. The court dismissed Ring’s motion for DNA testing without a hearing. Ring then filed objections. The court responded by saying that they dismissed the motion for post-conviction DNA testing because Ring did not meet some requirements by acting with unreasonable delay by waiting 7 years after his conviction.

Ring argued that his motion was not a Post-Conviction Relief Act petition, so the court should not have dismissed his motion for the reasons they did. Even if Joseph’s DNA was on the wooden spindle, that would not have changed the nature of the incident. All the other evidence is inconsistent with self-defense; therefore, the DNA would not make it more likely to be self-defense. Therefore, Ring cannot establish innocence even if Joseph’s DNA was on the wooden spindle.


Forensic Summary by Marissa Felinczak 


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