Sentenced to death for a crime he didn't commit.
Convicted of first degree murder
The Arizona Justice Project did not represent Ray Krone in post-conviction proceedings. However, the Arizona Justice Project was involved in a post-mortem analysis of Ray Krone's case to determine what went wrong. The Arizona Justice Project uses post-mortem analysis to educate law students and lawyers about the causes of wrongful conviction.
I. The Story
An Ordinary Man Whose Life Was Turned Upside Down
This is the story of a man named Ray Milton Krone - an ordinary man whose life was turned upside down when he was wrongfully convicted of a murder that took place in Phoenix in 1991. Despite his innocence, and despite a lack of evidence tying him to the crime, Krone was twice convicted by juries of his peers right here in Phoenix, Arizona. Krone spent more than two years on death row, and more than ten years behind bars before he was finally exonerated by DNA testing of biological evidence gathered from the crime scene.
Ray Krone was something of an ordinary guy - no record of violence, no criminal past … not the sort of person you would expect to end up on death row. He was an above-average student, honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force, and employee of the U.S. Postal Service, had no criminal history, and no history of violence.
One thing out-of-the-ordinary about Ray Krone was that he was a regular patron of a bar that was the scene of a chilling murder shortly after Christmas day in 1991. The CBS Lounge was a casual bar and restaurant located between a shoe store and a video store in a Phoenix strip mall at 16th Avenue and Camelback Road.
The Day That Changed His Life
On the morning of December 29th 1991, the owner of the CBS Lounge arrived to find the front door unlocked. Inside, he discovered a grisly scene. A pool of blood seeped under the men's room door. Inside the men's room, Kim Ancona, a manager at the bar, was found lifeless and naked, with a row of stab wounds like a necklace across her neck. She had been sexually assaulted and there were bite marks on her left breast. The night before, Kim had worked her first shift as bar manager, and was in charge of closing the bar- including cleaning the floors and restrooms - after the bar's last customers had left for the night around 2 a.m.
The murder scene was full of evidence. The murder weapon- a knife from the bar's kitchen - was found underneath a plastic bag in the men's room trash can. There were fingerprints all over the scene, including prints on the condom machine and on the inside of the men's room door. Police lifted 50 prints, and gathered seventeen hairs from Kim's body. The newly cleaned floors also left a clear trail of footprints leading into the kitchen and into the men's room. There was a mix of various body fluids at the scene - blood on Kim's clothes, saliva on Kim's tank top, cheek, and pubic area, a small amount of semen. And, of course, the now-famous bite mark evidence.
Kim had left her purse on the counter of the bar. It was apparently undisturbed by the murderer. Inside was Kim's address book and note pad, listing Ray Krone's name and phone number. A colleague told police that a man named Ray was going to help Kim close the bar that night. Police quickly focused on Ray Krone as a potential suspect.
Police searched Krone's house and car. They seized shoes and clothes from his laundry room dryer. Detective Gregory noticed Krone's crooked teeth - which had been caused by an auto accident some years earlier -- and asked Ray to bite into a Styrofoam plate to make a bite-mark impression. A dental examiner, Dr. Piakis, found Krone's teeth "consistent with" the bite mark on Ancona's breast. Krone denied being in a relationship with Ancona, a statement seemingly contradicted by statements from some of Kim's colleagues. Police believed they had their man.
The Day Of Ray’s arrestRay Krone was arrested on December 31st 1991 and was charged with rape, kidnapping and murder. He began serving what would turn out to be more than a decade behind bars. Because of his unique dental structure, and the apparent connection between his teeth and the bite marks on the victim's body, Ray Krone would come to be known as the 'Snaggletoothed Killer'.
Krone's first trial started on July 27th 1992. It lasted only 8 days. Prosecutors focused on the apparent relationship between Kim and Krone, a number of scientific coincidences and the Bite Mark Evidence. A friend of Kim's testified that Krone had given Kim a ride home after Kim helped close the bar a few days before the murder. The two apparently shared a brief kiss under the missletoe at a Christmas party.
Another woman testified that Kim told her someone named 'Ray' was going to help her close on the night of the murder. In fact, Ray had gone to bed early that night, and his roommate testified to that, but police and prosecutors sought to debunk the alibi by pointing out that Krone could have left in the middle of the night, committed the murder, and then returned without the roommate knowing.
Police interpretation of Ray’s Statemen
Krone never denied that he knew Kim Ancona. He did, however, deny having "been with" her - a reference that he thought had a sexual connotation. Police and prosecutors, however, interpreted this statement as a denial of any association with Kim. They characterized this, along with Krone's apparent nervousness when he was first interviewed, as the outward signs of a guilty conscience. Krone testified that he and Kim had never dated, but admitted that he had seen her on several occasions outside of the bar, including at the Christmas party.
Forensic Evidence from the crime scene was largely inconclusive. Krone and Kim had similar hair, so he could not be excluded as a possible source of hairs that were analyzed by the police crime lab. DNA tests were inconclusive, using the technology then available. Fingerprint evidence was found to be inconclusive. Krone and Kim had the same blood type, type O. Investigators concluded that no other person's blood could be isolated from the large amount of Kim's blood at the scene.
It would be surprising, from all the evidence of a brutal struggle at the murder scene, if the murderer had not also been injured during the killing. A photo of Kim's underwear shows a droplet of what was later found to have been the murderer's blood. This evidence was not tested before trial.
State’s Bite Mark Evidence
The centerpiece of the State's case against Krone was the bite-mark evidence. The prosecution argued that bite marks were like fingerprints. A cast made of Krone's teeth was compared to the teeth impressions on Kim's breast. The strength of this evidence was bolstered by Krone's unique dental structure, which the State's expert concluded was a match to the bite marks left on Kim Ancona.
The prosecution's star witness was Dr. Raymond Rawson, a Nevada state Senator, college professor and deputy coroner, who had a persuasive demeanor. He presented a video comparison of Krone's dental mold to the victim, which seemed to show beyond a doubt the "perfect match" between Krone's teeth and the bite marks left by the killer. The defense denied that the bite-mark on Kim was made by Ray Krone. Their expert, however, was a mere dentist, without the credentials of Dr. Rawson.
The most damning evidence was Dr. Rawson's video, which allowed members of the jury to see with their own eyes the seemingly perfect match resulting from overlaying Krone's teeth mold onto the photographic evidence of the bite mark. This video was first made available to the defense on the eve of trial. Jeffrey Jones, Krone's lawyer, requested a continuance and sought to exclude Dr. Rawson's video based on its late disclosure. Both motions were denied.
Lack Of Any Corroborating Evidence
The most remarkable thing about Ray Krone's conviction was the lack of any corroborating evidence tying Krone to the crime. It was a circumstantial case based on a few coincidences, a seemingly innocent choice of words, and little else - except for the bite-mark evidence. Nonetheless, the jury found Krone guilty of kidnapping and murder. Krone was sentenced to death based on the judge's finding that the bite mark-- inflicted near to or after the time of death - demonstrated that the murder was especially cruel, heinous or depraved.
On direct appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court, Krone's conviction was overturned because of the late disclosure of Dr. Rawson's video. As Justice Martone noted, the bite-mark evidence had been critical to the State's case, and the late disclosure of their critical video could not be written off as harmless.
The State Re-Tried Krone
Still convinced of his guilt, the State re-tried Krone in 1996. This time, thanks to financial assistance from his family, Krone was able to hire private counsel. His lawyer, Chris Plourd, conducted a meticulous investigation, uncovering much evidence that brought renewed hopes for a judgment of acquittal. The second trial lasted seven weeks. But ultimately, the trial focused on three categories of physical evidence: Bite Mark Evidence, Shoeprint Evidence, and DNA Evidence.
Other than these issues, much of the case amounted to little more than Prosecutorial Spin - making much out of seemingly innocuous facts, such as Ray Krone's having done his laundry in the days after the murder, his failure to cover his car on the night of the murder, and the discovery of shuffleboard wax beads from the CBS Lounge in Krone's car. And again, the State's most persuasive evidence came from its bite-mark experts. The State's experts, Dr. Rawson and Dr. Piakis, testified once more, this time contending there were two bite marks on Kim's breast which, after intensive analysis, matched the unique dentition of Ray Krone.
Questioning The Methodology Of The State
This time, four defense experts questioned the methodology, the experience, and the conclusions of the State's witnesses. They accused the State's experts of making up a second bite to cover up their inability to create a match between Krone's teeth and the single bite they saw reflected in the marks on Kim's breast. They also attacked the credibility of the State's experts in other ways. Dr. Piakis had falsely claimed to be a board-certified forensic odontologist at the first trial. He had also been warned early on by a mentor, Dr. Steven Sperber, that Krone's teeth did not match the bite wound on Kim. And Dr. Rawson was a maverick with controversial theories and methodologies. His persuasive video presentation had been created on his home computer, through manipulation of images, including the shrinking of Krone's teeth to obtain an overlay match. Defense Expert Dr. Vale disputed whether bite mark analysis under the circumstances could ever be conclusive. Yet the State's bite-mark evidence once again proved compelling to the jury. Members of the jury, in fact, are reported to have done their own experiment in the jury room, matching up Krone's dental mold to a mold of the bite wounds on Kim's breast.
Police also seized four pairs of shoes from Krone's house. They were all either a size 11 or a size 11 ½. The handling of the shoeprint evidence by police investigators raised a number of questions. Detective Olsen, who was in charge of collecting shoeprint evidence at the crime scene, reported Converse shoe prints in a size 9 ½ to 10. But the numbers were just a guess - he used no measuring device. Police were able to eliminate other possible sources of the shoeprints - the cooks at the CBS Lounge, the owner, a repairman, police investigators. Although none of Krone's shoes seized by police matched the crime scene footprints, that fact was far from conclusive of his innocence. The State downplayed the shoeprint evidence at trial, insisting that there was no way to be sure whether the footprints at the CBS Lounge were even related to the murder. They stated that no photographs at trial showed the proximity of the shoe prints to the crime scene. But as Krone's lawyers would later demonstrate through enhanced photographic analysis, there was clear evidence connecting the Converse shoe prints to the murder. And, as it turns out, Ray Krone's feet would not have fit - or at least not fit comfortably-- in the shoes that left those prints at the murder scene.
On the subject of DNA evidence, the State was left to argue simply that a biological mixture from the murder scene was consistent with a mix of Krone and Kim's DNA. The Defense attacked the credentials, the statistical techniques, and the conclusions of the State's expert, but at the time did not have any smoking gun evidence of innocence. During cross-examination, the State's expert admitted that his tests had found that the DNA on Kim's jeans and tank top, as well as the sperm evidence, could not have come from Krone. In addition, DNA on Kim's jeans was identified as male DNA from a single unknown donor, and some DNA from Kim's bra positively excluded Krone as the source. Yet the State was able to explain away these findings by arguments that Kim was found in a public restroom, had been tending bar earlier, and may have gotten bits of DNA on her from a customer's spittle during conversation, from the crime scene floor, or from an empty beer bottle earlier in the evening.
Also during the second trial, evidence came to light pointing to a possible unknown suspect, an American Indian man. Various bits of evidence lent credence to this theory that police had the wrong guy. The State, of course, successfully downplayed the significance of this evidence. And so a jury of his peers once again found Krone guilty of murder.
Sentenced To Life In Prison
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge James McDougall, in view of his own residual doubts about Krone's guilt, sentenced Krone to life in prison rather than death. The decision weighed heavily on Judge McDougall, who remarked that "This is one of those cases that will haunt me for the rest of my life - whether I did the right thing."
As Krone went off to serve a life sentence, his lawyers and his family did not give up. His parents took out a mortgage on their home to pay for Ray's private legal fees. A Phoenix lawyer named Alan Simpson joined Krone's legal team after the second trial. In 2001, Simpson filed an application for DNA testing of biological evidence that had been preserved from the murder scene, and had been found on Kim's clothes, a beer bottle and glass, and a substance on the men's room floor. A year later, Simpson received the results of the DNA tests from the Phoenix Police Department's Crime Lab. The DNA results all excluded Ray Krone. And when the results were run through the FBI's DNA database, they were found to match the DNA profile of a man named Kenneth Phillips, an American Indian who was already incarcerated for an unrelated crime of sexual assault. At the time of Kim's murder, Kenneth Phillips had been living just a couple of blocks away from the CBS Lounge.
On Friday, April 5, 2002, based on the overwhelming weight of newfound evidence of his innocence, Ray Krone's defense team asked for his release. The request was denied. But on the following Monday, the State independently moved for Ray Krone's release. That day, Ray Krone walked out of a Yuma prison, but was still subject to his conviction.
More tests were run on the remaining evidence. Blood from Kim's jeans pocket and underwear was found to have come from Kenneth Phillips. Fingerprints found at the murder scene, previously ruled by police to be irrelevant to the crime, were found to match Kenneth Phillips, who had evidently leaned against the condom machine and inside of the men's room door while attacking and killing Kim. On April 29th 2004, Ray Krone's conviction was thrown out and the case against him dismissed.
II. What Went Wrong: A Post-Mortem
The goal of a post-mortem analysis is to try to learn and pass on the lessons of such a tragic case. We have identified several areas for further investigation that we will discuss here briefly. In reviewing these facts that, in retrospect, could have led police more quickly to the actual killer, we reflect on some of the many missed clues and dropped leads, and try to better understand why they occurred.
critical lead was dropped by police
A common theme in this case is what has been called target fixation - investigators who begin to focus on a particular suspect tend to view the emerging evidence in light of that suspicion. Seemingly innocent facts come to take on a sinister light, while potentially exculpatory facts are discounted as irrelevant, or are too quickly explained away.
For example, a critical lead was dropped by police. The day of Kim's murder, police were stationed outside to protect the crime scene. That night Officer Kurtenbach was on duty to guard the area. As he stood guard, an unknown white male, wearing a hooded sweatshirt, approached the crime scene near the adjacent shoe store. As he neared, the man stopped, attracted the attention of Officer Kurtenbach, dropped an envelope on the ground, and ran away from the scene. Kurtenbach did not touch the envelope; he immediately contacted his superior at the scene, Sgt. Givens, who opened the note. Sgt. Givens then passed the note to Detective Gregory. The note gave police a description of the murder who had been lurking behind the bar the night of the murder.
A Hair never Tested By Police
Now, undoubtedly police receive a lot of false leads from notes such as this. But the circumstances of the delivery of this note were such that most of you would probably agree it should have been taken very seriously. At the least, police might have canvassed the area to search for the author. Had they searched the area, investigators would have discovered this: The back door of the CBS Lounge is visible from only a handful of apartments directly behind the bar. Had they checked those apartments, they might have found the author of the mysterious note, Robert Fredrickson, who lived right there. Had they interviewed Mr. Fredrickson, police presumably would have learned that what Mr. Fredrickson saw that night that was so important for him to risk his own arrest in coming forward to notify police, was a murderer stalking his prey at or near the time of the killing. Had they followed up on leads to a possible American Indian suspect, they would have found potentially significant the following facts: a report that, on the night that she was killed, Kim Ancona had cut off a Native American customer who left intoxicated, a report that another bar customer saw an Indian male at the CBS Lounge at the time of closing, a hair found at the crime scene was American Indian in origin and that the police crime lab viewed as irrelevant and did not analyze.
Yet it appears that this note played no significant role in the police investigation of Kim's murder. It was put in a desk drawer and not impounded into evidence until weeks later. Perhaps police believed they already had their man - and would not allow themselves to be led astray by evidence pointing to a different suspect.
Additionally, seventeen 'single' hairs were found on Kim Ancona's body. They were labeled A through Q. Dr. Scott Piette, the state criminologist, observed that the head and pubic hairs of Kim and Krone appeared indistinguishable. Thus, Ray Krone could not be eliminated as a donor of these hairs. However, two hairs, N and O, were later discovered to be dissimilar to both Krone's and Kim's hair, and therefore signaled the presence of someone else at the crime scene. Hair Q was never tested and it was finally revealed as being American Indian in origin. The most striking thing about this hair Q - was its location. All the other hairs found on Kim were found on her back and torso, making it possible that the hairs were picked up off the restroom floor. Hair Q, however, was discovered among the mass of congealed blood in Ancona's left buttock crease. You would be hard pressed to find an expert at any price who would conclude that a hair in such a position could be unrelated to the murder. And yet, either because of inexperience, poor supervision, and bad-luck coincidence -- or because this hair obviously did not "fit" the emerging evidence pointing falsely to Ray Krone's guilt - the Phoenix police lab simply failed to analyze this hair. Again, the evidence pointing to the real killer was available from the start.
Finally, the most obvious errors in this case came from reliance on what you might call "junk science" - the controversial field of forensic odontology or bite-mark science. This case makes clear that juries place tremendous - and sometimes unwarranted - weight on so-called scientific evidence. There is no substitute for a persuasive expert, and there is no substitute for the critical role that judges must play as the gatekeepers to preclude junk science from getting to the jury. To this day, bite-mark science has still not been subjected to the sort of rigorous peer review and testing that is expected of other forensic sciences. We could all use a healthy dose of skepticism when relying on so-called science as the basis of proof beyond a reasonable doubt - especially in a case of life and death.
The Ray Krone case is a reminder to us all just how much hangs in the balance of our criminal justice system, and just how easily so many well-meaning people can simply get it wrong. In a sense, Krone was lucky - there was enough DNA evidence remaining from the crime scene that he eventually could be exonerated thanks to advances in DNA technology. Who knows how many other innocent men and women still remain behind bars because they are not equally fortunate in their ability to prove their innocence. In another sense, of course, Ray Krone is an American tragedy, a man who lost over ten years of his life to jail and prison. Those of us who care about the criminal justice system owe it to people like Ray Krone to study, learn and disseminate the lessons of his wrongful conviction in the hopes that this will never happen again.