DNA testing has proven quite powerful in establishing the innocence or guilt of a criminal. However, not all handling of DNA evidence is conducted with the upmost respect for procedure. Because of this, convictions can be overturned when tampering and contamination takes place. In this article, you will learn of such a case, as well as learn how testing the DNA of family members can help discover the identity of a criminal.
Sometimes, DNA profiling is used on innocent people to see whether or not family members are guilty of committing a particular crime. This is what happened in 2003, when Jeffrey Gafoor was convicted of the 1988 murder of Lynette White. Crime scene evidence that was gathered 12 years previously was re-examined using STR techniques. The result showed that they had found a match , only it was for Gafoor’s nephew. Experts use this as an example of the first known account where an innocent yet related individual was used to identify the actual criminal. This process is referred to as ‘familial searching.’
When New DNA Evidence Arises”¦
When new DNA evidence surfaces in relation to a case, it can give an innocent man the hope he needs to appeal a conviction. In June of 2003, three men (Dennis Halstead, John Kogut and John Restivo) won a retrial on a murder conviction when new DNA evidence came to light. Unfortunately, the men had already served 18 years of sentences that were more than 30 years.
Identifying Victims of a Crime
DNA evidence is sometimes used not to convict a criminal, but to identify the victims in a crime. Authorities also need to prove the existence of victims in regards to certain cases. An example of this is the Robert Pickton trial, who was convicted in 2003. Pickton was a serial killer found guilty of second-degree murder of six women. He was also charged with the deaths of 20 more women , many of whom were prostitutes and drug abusers. He was given a life sentence in prison in 2007 with no possibility of parole for 25 years after making a confession to an undercover police officer posing as a cellmate. This sentence marks the longest that someone can get under Canadian law for murder. Pickton claimed to have committed 49 murders and wanted to kill another woman to make it an even 50. He believed he was caught because he had gotten “sloppy.”
Crime Lab Mishandling DNA Samples
The mishandling of DNA samples and evidence can become a turning point in the outcome of a case. Since those handling the samples are human, there is room for error that may include mislabeling and contamination of samples. After serving four years of a 12-year sentence for a sexual assault charge, Josiah Sutton was released from prison in 2003. Questionable DNA samples that had been taken from Sutton were retested after a scandal involving the Houston Police Department’s crime lab surfaced. The crime lab had been accused of mishandling DNA evidence, which helped bring Sutton’s case to light.
Better Late than Never”¦
After serving 24 years in prison, Evan Simmons was proven innocent of a 1981 attack on an Atlanta woman in 2005. Thanks to post-conviction DNA testing, Clark became the 164th person in the United States and the fifth in Georgia to be freed using this technique.
In 2009, Sean Hodgson was set free after being convicted of killing 22-year-old Teresa De Simone , a crime that took place 30 years ago. Unfortunately, he had already spent 27 years in jail for a crime that he didn’t commit. Tests proved that DNA from the scene did not match his. Since his release, British police have now reopened the case.