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The district attorney’s office and police department put their differences aside to work collaboratively in scoring San Francisco’s first “cold hit” on a murder case by using DNA evidence to link a suspect to an 18-year-old homicide. “This was a great day for us,” DA Terence Hallinan said at a press conference Tuesday. Assistant DA James Hammer, who heads the homicide division, persuaded the city’s grand jury to indict John Davis on counts of murder, rape and first-degree burglary Tuesday morning in connection with the 1985 murder of 28-year-old Potrero Hill resident Barbara Ellis Martz. Notable on Tuesday were the back-slapping compliments lobbed between the police department and district attorney’s office. Hallinan has been battered both by negative press and his opponents in the November race for DA over his handling of the “Fajitagate” case. The incumbent’s opponents say he has little chance of a meaningful work relationship with the police department after pursuing indictments against seven of its brass earlier this year in the Fajitagate case. Those indictments were later dismissed. But on Tuesday, Hallinan and Acting Police Chief Alex Fagan Sr., who was one of those indicted in February, presented a united front on the Martz case. “It was just a team effort,” Fagan said. He began his remarks by thanking Hallinan for the work his office did on the case and “for taking the time to be here.” Hammer commended the work of three members of the police department’s staff who worked on the case, while Hallinan pointed out that one police officer, Thomas Buckley, pushed to have the case reinvestigated. Several “cold hit” identifications — where DNA evidence from an unsolved case is matched with a profile in a database of DNA samples — have been made in sexual assault cases in San Francisco, Hammer said. State law requires that blood and saliva samples be taken from individuals convicted of certain felonies. Davis — whom police said has been in state prison for about 10 years in connection with a robbery conviction — has a profile in the state’s DNA database, along with more than 200,000 others. Statewide, such comparisons have identified about 440 suspects or links to other unsolved cases between 1984 and the middle of this year, said Manuel Valencia, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office. The vast majority of those hits have come in the past few years, he noted. “The [DNA analysis] techniques are much more sensitive than they used to be,” said Dr. Cydne Holt of the police department’s forensic division. For instance, identification requires a smaller sample now than years ago, she said. Because the rape and burglary charges Davis faces are alleged as special circumstances, the DA could seek the death penalty or life without parole, Hammer said. Hallinan, who has said he will not seek the death penalty in any case, will seek the latter sentence, Hammer said. Davis is expected to have an attorney appointed when he is arraigned this morning, prosecutors said.

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