Public Safety

Judge denies new trial in 2009 sex assault case


A judge will not give a new trial to a Cedar Rapids man, convicted in 2009 of sexual assault and burglary, whose lawyer claimed the DNA analysis in his case might have been tainted.

because it was conducted by a state lab criminalist fired for posting disparaging racial comments.

A lawyer for Bruce Braggs, who is serving up to 50 years in prison, claimed that racial bias might have tainted the evidence. The claim refers to fired Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation criminalist Amy Pollpeter, who made the racial comments on social media and described herself as a sexual assault survivor. She also has been a speaker and author on sexual assault. Her background shows a bias against blacks and defendants in sexual assault cases, the defense argued.

Sixth Judicial District Judge Kevin McKeever said in his ruling that the defense failed to produce any new evidence that would have changed the outcome of Braggs’ trial.

Testimony during Braggs’ trial shows he broke into an apartment and sexually assaulting a 19-year-old former Kirkwood Community College student June 3, 2007. He was convicted of second-degree sexual abuse and first-degree burglary.

McKeever ruled that Braggs’ defense failed to show that Pollpeter held views in 2007, when she tested the DNA in his case, that would amount to bias. No evidence showed any relationship between Pollpeter’s personal views and anything she did with the evidence in this case.

Also, no evidence was presented to support Braggs’ claims that Pollpeter views or “experiences” — being a sexual assault survivor — influenced her lab work, McKeever said.

Pollpeter’s DCI supervisor and other criminalists testified at a previous hearing that she was fired in July regarding code of conduct issues and violating the social media policy. Her work was reviewed or retested in the Braggs’ case and no errors or anything unusual was found.

Some of her other cases also have been retested and none have indicated any bias or changes in conclusion, according to previous testimony.

Pollpeter testified at the previous hearing that her views or being a sexual assault survivor didn’t affect her lab work. She also said Braggs being black didn’t affect her analysis of the evidence.

McKeever concluded that Braggs’ defense failed to meet the requirements to establish grounds for a new trial based on newly discovered evidence. Costs also were assessed to Braggs for the court action.

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