DNA and the law / by kevin murray

The first DNA exoneration was in 1989, through 2010 another 310 former convicts have been freed through DNA exoneration which demonstrates how infrequently DNA, in and of itself, is able to overturn a wrongful conviction.  DNA is an important ingredient in the arsenal of the defense for those that are accused of certain criminal offenses, but it is also something that you have no specific constitutional right to have obtained or to argue for in your defense.   When given the opportunity to provide DNA in order to prove your innocence in regards to a crime, you are well advised to do so, certainly in circumstances in which you are not complicit in the crime, doing so, is one of the few dramatic measures that you can take that could materially impact your criminal case in your favor.


In an ideal world, the prosecution and the police would not work in conjunction against you as a defendant, but instead would submit themselves to a higher purpose which is to discover truth, no matter to where it should lead, and to pursue impartial justice on behalf of the public which they are sworn to protect and to serve.  Unfortunately, prosecutors and police are under time-pressure and budget constraints to find justice and to get convictions in an expeditious and efficient manner, in which justice itself ends up often taking a backseat. Determining that a crime has been committed is usually quite straightforward, but finding the perpetrator is something of an art form, and takes concerted and concentrated effort and resources.  Consequently, the name of the game is just to get things done.


Those that become convicted through our criminal justice system either via the courts or through a plea bargain are in a nearly hopeless position, becauseonce convicted, your changes of overturning the conviction on procedural rules, DNA inconsistencies, new evidence, or whatnot is a long-shot.  The question then becomes: should DNA evidence be a mandatory procedure in all criminal trials in which DNA is available.  The answer is yes.  It should be noted, however, that the fifth amendment is not applicable to DNA samples from the accused, subject to the bounds of procedural grounds in which a “witch hunt” cannot be instituted to collect DNA samples from the so-called usual suspects.


In fact, it is in the best interests of justice to see good police work, good prosecutorial work, and good defense work in our criminal justice system.  When there is good DNA evidence available from the crime scene, it should probably be mandated that DNA testing be provided showing the connection or non-connection between the accused and the actual crime.  While suspects may still be sold down the river through our compromised and distorted criminal justice system, despite evidence that exculpates them, you are in a far more favorable position to fight an effective defense or appeal with bona-fide factual information that has previously been submitted to the court and some of the best possible objective evidence that can be provided for all sides in our justice system is DNA