Likely Suspect

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"The whole thing made me wonder if common sense really applies in a court of law."

Flipping through the manila folder in front of him, he continues making his case: "That woman who was getting ready for work and was attacked and robbed? They had nothing that showed I'd ever been in that apartment. No hairs, no semen. All they had was a piece of broken window glass--outside the apartment--that they said had my fingerprint on it." The recollection of the woman who said she was attacked in the parking lot before the assailant fled in a Toyota? "I've never driven a Toyota in my life," Faison insists.

What about the man in the ATM photograph, shown using a victim's card shortly after she'd been attacked? "The man," he says, "is wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and you can only see a small part of his face. But you can tell that he's clean-shaven. The only time I didn't have a beard back in 1997 was a four-day period after I'd lost a bet on the Tyson-Holyfield fight. I'd shaved it but immediately began growing it back."

As for the DNA evidence: "All they said was that I could not be eliminated, never that there was a match." There was, he notes, a window screen, found 60 feet away from the victim's apartment, that had a palm print the prosecution said matched his. "Even if it was my palm print--and I'm certainly not saying it was--that kind of evidence hardly placed me inside her home where the attack occurred."

Another woman, who lived less than a mile from Faison's residence at the time, had said that the intruder who raped her had entered her apartment through a small bedroom window she'd left open. Additionally, investigators found traces of semen on the living room floor where she had been forced to perform oral sex. "I was finally eliminated from that one when there was no DNA match," he points out. Then, with the first trace of a smile, "Can you imagine someone 320 getting through a little apartment window?"

Noting that he never knew any of the women he was accused of attacking, he questions whether the police investigated the possibility that other apprehended rapists might have been responsible for the crimes of which he was convicted.

Yet for all his denials, and some logical questions, there is one evidentiary hurdle that remains all but impossible to get over. DNA matching, regarded as a foolproof crime-solving technique, trumps all conjecture about partial or smudged fingerprints and conflicting descriptions. Five years ago Gina Cotroneo spat into a baggie, handed it over to police and the odds against her rapist being anyone other than Faison jumped off the mathematical chart. One in 300 million.

It is not a fact Faison is willing to concede. "When all that first came up," he says, "I knew it wasn't going to match. I was dumbfounded when they said it did."

Today, he remains so convinced that the physical evidence against him was somehow manipulated that he has asked DeSoto lawyer Fred McDaniel to file a motion requesting a new series of DNA tests. McDaniel, court-appointed only for purposes of filing the motion, says they are rarely granted.

Gina Cotroneo looks to her future. "He's on his own path," is all she wishes to say about the man convicted of attacking her. "I'm on mine."

Today she insists that what occurred on that night five years ago didn't change her. "I changed me," she says. Her friends have accepted what she went through and have put it aside. She insists she harbors no lingering suspicion of men and is again dating.

"In a way, what I went through convinced me that I now have the credentials to do what I want to with my life." She looks forward to reaching out to others with a line of inspirational "Soul's Calling" products she has designed and plans to market. She's signed on with a lecture bureau, eager to pursue her goal of becoming a motivational speaker, and she is writing a book.

It was shortly after the Faison trial that she took a trip to the jungles of Peru, visiting sacred Inca sites and participating in meditation ceremonies, returning to her quest for knowledge. "It was a profound experience," she says. "I came back feeling like the rising phoenix."

That, she says, is how she continues to view herself.

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Carlton Stowers
Contact: Carlton Stowers