Is DNA Evidence Always As Reliable As We Think?

Often, when people hear that an individual's DNA has matched DNA found at the scene of the crime, they assume that the individual must be involved in the incident. DNA evidence is frequently used as an indicator of someone's innocence or guilt. Consequently, any issues associated with DNA evidence must be carefully considered, to ensure it is not given more weight than it is worth in a given case.

Recently, the New York Times reported on a case in which an individual was charged with murder, after his DNA was found under the fingernails of an individual who had died during the course of a robbery. The only problem with the murder charge was that the man in question was in the hospital when the murder took place.

Nevertheless, the man was arrested and imprisoned for five months while officials attempted to determine how his DNA ended up on the murder victim. Eventually, the officials discovered that the paramedics who responded to the scene of the crime had previously taken the man to the hospital. They suspect that one of the paramedics then accidentally transferred the hospitalized man's DNA onto the individual who had been killed.

Problems at the New York City medical examiner's office

Of course, the scene of a crime is not the only opportunity for DNA evidence to be contaminated or mishandled. Earlier this year, a number of issues at the New York City medical examiner's office were uncovered.

In one particular case, one of the laboratory technicians was believed to have mishandled DNA evidence, leading the office to investigate 843 rape cases. During the investigation, the researchers found that the technician had failed to document DNA evidence in 26 sexual assault cases. In addition, there were approximately 16 instances in which the technician assigned DNA evidence to the wrong case.

Since then, other issues have been uncovered at the medical examiner's office. In one instance, officials reported that DNA evidence from over 50 cases had not been uploaded into New York's DNA database.

These cases of improper handling of DNA evidence have led some to question whether the mishandling of evidence could have led to an innocent person being convicted of a crime he or she did not commit.

If you are facing criminal charges, it is best to be proactive to ensure that your rights are protected. Seek the advice of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney to make certain a strong defense is established on your behalf.

Categories: General
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