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Sex Crimes: Blind faith in DNA analysis can convict the innocent

| Nov 28, 2016 | Sex Crimes |

The nature of allegations of sexual offenses can be extremely unpredictable. Forensic science such as DNA evidence plays an important part in sex crimes cases in Michigan and elsewhere, and defending such charges can be extremely complicated. Unfortunately, blind faith in any area of forensic technology is dangerous. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology recently commissioned a report on the accuracy of results obtained from analysis of mixed DNA from multiple individuals.

While juries typically assume that identifying DNA proves guilt, it was found that erroneous or inconsistent conclusions often result from crime labs testing minuscule DNA samples — often only a few molecules. In fact, researchers say many innocent people land behind bars due to DNA-test errors. A molecular geneticist says DNA analysis can be reliable and accurate when laboratories test large enough samples from single individuals.

To demonstrate his opinion, the geneticist described a case in which a victim of a gang rape could only identify one of the men who raped her. When police offered that man a deal for identifying his partners in crime, he provided a name. After DNA analysis had implicated that person, the jury convicted him. However, the geneticist re-examined the DNA sample, and the new results indicated that it could not connect to that individual; in fact, the analysis excluded him. Furthermore, as an additional test, 17 experts at a different lab were asked to analyze that DNA sample, and only one of them said it could be that of the convicted man.

Any person accused of sex crimes in Michigan may want to make sure he or she is not a victim of such an error. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney on his or her side may be the answer. A skilled lawyer can evaluate DNA analysis and have it tested by an independent laboratory if necessary. A seasoned attorney will do whatever is possible to achieve the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

Source: kansascity.com, “How DNA evidence went from reliable to error-prone”, Faye Flam, Nov. 25, 2016