Monday, March 17, 2008

Rethinking DNA Evidence

I've been curious about DNA evidence ever since it became possible to use it for identification in criminal trials. At first I pretty much accepted its validity but, over time, I started wondering just how accurate it was.

I still wonder about the actual physical accuracy of DNA evidence, but I'd never really considered the human aspect of the issue much until reading this story in the Orange County Weekly. According to the story, prosecutors were trying to get the DNA lab people to change their testimony in regards a suspect's DNA sample.

So, regardless of whatever lab results are, there's still the aspect of person- to- person relations and legal maneuverings that may, or may not, result in the conviction of an innocent person. Of course, the opposite is also true and more and more people are being exonerated for crimes they've been imprisoned for as time goes on.

I'll take the OC Weekly story with a grain of salt, if only because I could see how someone could say one thing and the person they were saying to could take it an entirely different way, but it does show that DNA evidence has a subjective as well as objective aspect to it.

Thanks to Radley Balko at his Agitator blog for the heads up on this case. If interested in his post on it, scroll a ways down from the beginning of the March 17 posts to Prosecutorial (and Judicial?) Misconduct In Orange County.

3 Comments:

At 12:23 PM, Blogger The Boy Most Likely to ... said...

DNA evidence has become like any other scientific data. If your expert says one thing, another expert can say another. You would think it would not be that way with something as accurate as DNA.

However, altering test results will only work if the opposing counsel refuses/forgets to ask for independent analysis.

Anything can happen in a court of law.

-boy

 
At 7:43 AM, Blogger Ernie Branscomb said...

D.N.A. evidence can be very accurate. But it can also be very “planted” by a cop that was in a hurry to get a conviction.

 
At 5:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

DNA is now thought by the general public to be infallible as evidence.

Fingerprints were once thought by the general public to be infallible as evidence.

Eye-witness identifications were once thought by the general public to be infallible as evidence.

You did well to remind us that even the best evidentiary methods can be screwed up by overzealous police and prosecutors.

 

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