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New DNA link cited at Kalila Taylor trial

A handout image of Kalila Taylor who is

A handout image of Kalila Taylor who is being tried in the 1996 killing of Curtisha Morning. Credit: SCPD/Handout

Blood smears on the boots and pants cuffs of a Riverhead High School homecoming queen who was hacked to death contain DNA that matches the woman on trial in connection with the murder, a forensic scientist testified Monday.

Kalila Taylor, now 35, is on trial for the second time on charges of killing Curtisha Morning, 17, on the edge of the school's athletic field in February 1996. Taylor was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999, but an appellate court overturned the verdict in 2004 because of faulty jury instructions. This trial, before state Supreme Court Justice William Condon, was delayed for years because Taylor had been too mentally ill to stand trial until last year.

In the years since the first trial, DNA testing has become more precise, forensic scientist Diane Shkoditch testified. As a result, Taylor is linked more firmly than ever to blood stains near Morning's feet.

Prosecutors say the smears got there when Taylor dragged Morning's body out of view after cutting herself while stabbing Morning more than 90 times.

New testing shows the odds that the blood was from someone other than Taylor's are 1 in 75.9 billion, Shkoditch said during questioning by Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson.

During defense attorney John LoTurco's cross-examination, Albertson objected to questions suggesting Taylor bled on Morning at a chance encounter a month before, arguing outside the jury's presence that his questions had no basis in fact.

"The jury will deal with it [the defense theory] the same way the last jury did," Albertson said. "It's completely ridiculous."

"Am I not supposed to advocate for my client?" LoTurco responded. "Am I supposed to just sit back and do nothing?"

Condon told both: "Everybody chill." He later allowed LoTurco to establish that DNA testing can't date when a bloodstain was left.

Earlier in the trial, Shkoditch used crime scene photos and diagrams to explain why she believed Morning's body was dragged about 90 feet to a spot alongside a chain-link fence after being killed south of the high school's track.

She said the "struggle area" was identified because of a bloodstained piece of concrete on the ground, as well as one of Morning's earrings and a silver necklace that prosecutors say was Taylor's.

Although any drag marks disappeared in the three weeks between the murder and the discovery of the body, Shkoditch said the condition of Morning's body and her clothes made it clear she had been dragged by her feet.

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