Today, just about everybody knows that genetic evidence — DNA — is king in the modern courtroom. When a prosecutor really wants to make their case on a violent criminal charge, DNA evidence is something that juries tend to expect.
But what if the DNA evidence used in today’s courtrooms is given too much weight in the jurors’ minds? Consider the problem of trace (or “touch”) DNA.
How trace DNA almost led to a wrongful conviction
DNA is supposed to undo wrongful convictions, not create them — but that’s almost what happened in a 2012 incident when a homeless man was inexplicably charged with the home invasion death of a multimillionaire in Silicon Valley.
The homeless man had no apparent motive for the crime, and no memory of committing it — but the police told him he must have done it because his DNA was found in the victim’s home. DNA, as the saying goes, doesn’t lie.
DNA can, however, get transported around by the most unlikely means. In that case mentioned above, the accused was lucky enough to have a good defense team. They discovered that their defendant had been drunk, passed out and under observation at a hospital — miles away from the crime scene — the entire night of the murder.
So. how did his DNA make it to the crime scene? It was transported on the shoes, clothing and equipment of the paramedics that responded to the 911 call at the multimillionaire’s house some time after they’d transported the defendant to the hospital earlier.
There’s no such thing as irrefutable proof of guilt
If someone’s DNA can accidentally frame them for murder, then DNA can’t be considered absolute proof of someone’s guilt. Like any piece of evidence, it should always be viewed in context — and with a healthy dose of skepticism.
If you’ve been charged with a serious offense, like a sex crime or another violent act, make sure that you don’t buy into the idea that the evidence against you is absolute.