Once again, according to police, the death of Officer Gavin was murder.

And once again, an officer felt compelled to change his report.

After being confronted six months later with evidence gathered by a private accident analyst hired by Stennett's lawyers, Howard issued another unsigned, undated report.

In fact, he acknowledged, the track he had found at the scene did not match any of the Bronco's tires.

And he conceded that severe damage to the throttle linkage "disallowed any further acceleration" after impact.

"This supplementary report is in reference to a correction necessary for certain information that was originally reported, but additional facts have been discovered," Howard's second report concluded.

The crash was downgraded from "intentional" to "avoidable."

Or, as the jury saw it, from murder to something more like manslaughter.

A bomb called Dorsey

The final and perhaps most devastating blow to the police version of events centered on a pair of pants - specifically, a pair of black jeans worn by Antonio Dorsey, 18.

In the sequence of events leading to the death of Officer Gavin, none was as important in the minds of many jurors as the shooting on Wilkens Avenue. For it was the shooting that set everything else in motion.

And the alleged target of that shooting was Dorsey.

Despite the fusillade of bullets thrown his way that night as he sat on the steps drinking beer, Dorsey was untouched save for a nick on his right shin. And nothing about the nick distinguished it as a bullet wound.

Taken into custody by police, Dorsey agreed to identify the man who shot at him, choosing a picture of Eric D. Stennett from a photo lineup of possible suspects.

Detectives photographed the front of his jeans and the nick on his shin. But they did not impound Dorsey's pants as evidence. Neither did they insist that he see a doctor after he refused treatment.

Worse, when their film was developed, there was no bullet hole visible in the pants.

"I remember thinking: 'How exactly does Antonio Dorsey get a supposed bullet wound in his leg without there being a bullet hole in his pants?'" Pettit recalls. "And how does the detective - a 21-year veteran of the force - explain the fact that he didn't seize the jeans?"

"We just forgot," testified Detective Joseph Smith of the Southern District, acknowledging that he let Dorsey walk out of the police station that night with his pants still on.

Then Dorsey took the stand - and dropped a bomb in the middle of the prosecution's case.

Dorsey testified that police had handcuffed him, threatened him repeatedly and told him he couldn't leave until he identified Stennett's picture.