One of the biggest advances in forensic science is the use of DNA to solve crimes. Just a few decades ago, DNA technology was crude and simplistic, requiring large samples and taking a long time and a lot of money to process. Today, DNA technology is much more sophisticated and is used in millions of criminal cases every year. Its use has even been popularized in TV shows and movies.
But DNA is not infallible. In some cases, it can even falsely implicate innocent people. One recent case shows just how inaccurate DNA evidence can be when it comes to criminal cases.
Framed by his own DNA
Take a recent case in which a blameless man was nearly convicted for a murder that he did not commit. Several burglars broke into a wealthy investor’s home and gagged him with duct tape, causing him to suffocate. When forensic scientists swabbed for DNA, they found cells from a 26-year-old homeless man. Police officers charged him with homicide.
But as their investigation continued, they discovered that the victim had been treated by the same paramedics that treated the 26-year-old, which transferred the man’s DNA to the victim’s hands. The suspects were eventually apprehended and convicted, and the innocent man was exonerated.
DNA evidence can be challenged
DNA has become a trusted method of conviction and many scientists, law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges and jurors trust its efficacy. But this case shows that it is crucial to question DNA evidence, even when it seems to confirm a suspect’s guilt.Though the case seemed open-and-shut, forensic scientists and a defense attorney were able to secure the defendant’s freedom.
Defendants who are facing criminal charges that hinge on DNA should not necessarily accept a plea deal or give up and plead guilty. It may still be possible to avoid a DNA-based conviction.
It could mean the difference between prison and freedom.