Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) testing has long been heralded as the “gold star” of evidence among both law enforcement officers and juries. In a world where television magic has convinced most people that DNA is always subjected to exacting tests and provides incontrovertible evidence of someone’s guilt or innocence, it’s easy to understand why jurors convicted a Texas man of murder based on the genetic material found under the victim’s fingernails.
The problem is that the defendant was innocent. However, it took nine years for members of the Innocence Project to prove it and get a judge to listen. In the meantime, the defendant languished in jail — only being released under strict conditions once it became clear that someone else had committed the crime for which he was convicted.
What happened? The DNA analysis that was done by the court-approved lab before the man’s 2012 trial was flawed. More advanced technology and a second look by another lab allowed investigators to find the correct DNA sequence and match it to another man through a national genetic database. That man has since confessed to the murder and is guilty of several crimes since.
This case highlights something defense attorneys have known for a long time: DNA evidence isn’t nearly as exact and reliable as most people think. DNA from several different donors can be comingled, leading to mistakes in analysis. A partial DNA sequence can also lead to incorrect results. Combined with mistaken witnesses and faulty, high-pressure police interrogation techniques, DNA isn’t nearly as infallible as anyone would like to believe.
If you’ve been charged with a violent crime, protect your future. Obtain experienced legal representation right away.