Wrongly convicted Elkhart woman sues two cops for bad evidence

Lana Canen spent eight years in prison for murder before fingerprint evidence against her was discredited.

Posted on Feb. 19, 2014 at 3:07 p.m. | Updated on Feb. 19, 2014 at 4:52 p.m.

ELKHART — An Elkhart woman is suing two police officers after faulty fingerprint evidence led her to spend eight years in prison for murder.

Lana Canen, 54, who was sentenced in 2005 to 55 years in prison for the murder of 94-year-old Helen Sailor, is suing Elkhart County Sheriff's deputy Dennis Chapman and Elkhart police officer Mark Daggy. The lawsuit filed this week in the U.S. District Court for Northern Indiana alleges the officers violated her civil rights.

Police and prosecutors believed that Canen and Andrew Royer, both tenants in the Waterfall High Rise apartments, entered Sailor's apartment on Thanksgiving in 2002 and robbed and strangled her. Royer confessed to the murder and is serving 55 years in the Pendleton Correctional Facility. He is projected to be released in 2031 release date on good behavior.

Canen has maintained her innocence all along. The only evidence entered against her at trial was a fingerprint found on a Tupperware container inside Sailor's apartment, which was believed to have been handled by the killer.

Chapman, who presented himself as an expert in fingerprint identification despite having had no training or experience in the field, testified that the fingerprint belonged to Canen, the suit alleges. The print evidence originally had been sent to the Indiana State Crime Lab but was withdrawn "for reasons unknown," and was then given to Chapman for his analysis, the suit alleges.

When Canen filed a motion for post-conviction relief, Plainfield attorney Cara Wieneke had Chapman's fingerprint analysis reviewed by Kathleen Bright-Bimbaum, a certified examiner at Arizona-based Desert Forensics, Wieneke previously told The Elkhart Truth. Bright-Bimbaum concluded the fingerprint did not match Canen's.

Once Chapman told the court in a post-conviction relief hearing that he had no training in latent fingerprint analysis, and that he no longer believed the print matched Canen's, Elkhart County Prosecutor Curtis Hill allowed the original print to be tested by the Indiana State Crime Lab. On Aug. 19, 2012, the lab issued a report that excluded Canen as the source of the print, the suit alleges.

Hill then moved to dismiss all charges against her, and Canen was released from prison in late 2012 after eight years.

Shortly after her prison release, Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers told The Elkhart Truth that Chapman would be disciplined. Rogers could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.

The suit also names Daggy as a defendant because he endorsed and advocated for Chapman's testimony at trial, the suit alleges.

Canen seeks compensatory and punitive damages against Chapman and Daggy as individuals. She is not suing the county or city. Her suit alleges that Hill did not know that Chapman wasn't qualified to analyze fingerprints.

Goshen attorneys Nathaniel Jordan and Michael DeBoni have entered appearances on behalf of Chapman. Both were involved in a deposition all day Wednesday and were unavailable for comment.

LaPorte attorneys Martin Kus and David Jones represent Daggy and also could not be reached for comment.

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