The Power of DNA Testing I

When it comes to catching a criminal or proving the innocence of a suspect, DNA testing comes in handy. By using samples of blood, saliva, semen and other materials found at a crime scene, investigators can shed light on identifying the guilty. In this article, you will learn of cases in which DNA fingerprinting and other testing methods played a significant role in solving a crime.

The First

The first person in the United States to receive a conviction based on the results of DNA evidence was Tommy Lee Andrews. This Florida rapist was convicted in 1987 of raping a woman during a burglary. He was sentenced to 22 years in prison for the crime.

Convictions Based on DNA Testing

The first time genetic fingerprinting was used in criminal court was in 1987 , for the trial of a man who had been accused of having unlawful intercourse with a mentally handicapped that was 14 years old. The girl wound up giving birth to his baby.

The Innocent Set Free

DNA evidence has played an important role in setting the innocent free. The following cases show how the technique has proven innocence, as well as helped catch the appropriate criminal:

Although he had already admitted to raping and murdering a teen near Leicester, England, Richard Buckland was exonerated of the charges in 1986. The city had access to DNA profiling because it was actually the birthplace of the technique. This would mark the first time that this DNA fingerprinting method was used in a criminal investigation. In the same case, a British baker named Colin Pitchfork was the first criminal caught and convicted using DNA fingerprinting , taking place in 1987.

The first person to have DNA evidence overturn a conviction for murder and sentence to death was Kirk Bloodsworth. In 1993, he was deemed a free man.  
Once DNA testing became an option in proving the guilt or innocence of suspects, a wave of exonerated individuals started to emerge. For example, Douglas Echols, who had been wrongfully convicted in a 1986 rape case was set free in 2002. He became the 114th person to be exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing.

A Death Sentence and Innocent Man Set Free

The state of Virginia saw one of the first death sentences to come as a result of DNA testing. In 1988, Timothy Wilson Spencer was found guilty for several rape and murder charges. He was given the nickname of the “South Side Strangler” because his victims were kills on the south side of Richmond, Virginia. His execution took place on April 27, 1994. At first, a man named David Vasquez was initially convicted for one of Spencer’s crimes. When Spencer was found guilty, Vasquez became the first man in America to be exonerated based on DNA evidence.