Defending Against DNA Evidence Blog by Richard J. Goldberg
DNA evidence can be very powerful evidence. It can link suspects to crimes and crime scenes. DNA has also been used effectively in exonerating innocent persons who have been wrongfully convicted.
Although the science of DNA evidence is quite accurate, a criminal defendant should not give up just because he or she is faced with DNA reports connecting him or her to a crime with close to 100% certainty.
A defendant should always challenge and test DNA evidence by hiring an attorney who has some familiarity with the science. Further, a DNA expert should be retained by the defense to re-test the DNA samples independently and/or to review the work done by the prosecution’s lab analyst.
I have defended several DNA cases and obtained acquittals in the face of what appeared to be overwhelming evidence of guilt. For example, I had a case where there were problems at the state’s crime lab and their testing protocols were sloppy. The prosecution then sent the rape kit samples to a second lab for testing and different problems existed with the second lab’s testing procedure, which neutralized the prosecution’s DNA evidence in a child-rape case. The result was an acquittal of my client, who was facing three mandatory life sentences.
Additionally, one’s DNA can be transferred from surface-to-surface, fabric-to-fabric, etc. Therefore, one’s DNA could be found on something never directly touched by transference. The issue of touch-DNA should be explored.
One final example of a lab error occurred in another rape trial I handled. The prosecution’s lab analyst’s own DNA was found on the victim’s undergarments during testing. This obvious case of contamination contributed to the not-guilty verdict.
The lesson to be learned is that when confronted with DNA evidence, do not surrender. Challenge the prosecution’s evidence and retain your own DNA expert.