Once a crime is committed law enforcement officers are dispatched to the scene and a criminal investigation begins immediately. The first responder to the scene begins to taper off the area and assures that nothing is touched or risk of contamination of evidence occurs, while waiting on the lead Crime Scene Investigator to arrive. Upon arrival of the crime scene investigator he or she immediately begins the investigation process. Talking to eyewitnesses, obtaining evidence and gathering as much information as possible within the first 24 hours is essential to narrowing down a suspect and building a strong case. The use of DNA Technology in the Criminal Justice system has definitely become an integral part of the entire investigation process at a crime scene. When the law enforcement, crime scene investigator and forensic teams arrive their first priority is to seal off the area to prevent contamination of any evidence or DNA left at the scene.
DNA left a crime scene can consist of any of the following blood, semen, skin cells, tissue, organs, muscle, brain cells, bone, teeth, hair, saliva, mucus, perspiration, fingernails, urine, feces, etc. It can be found anywhere at the crime scene, however in order to obtain a good sample the crime scene investigator and other law enforcement officers must maintain the highest standards for the collection and preservation of the DNA evidence. They must ensure that the DNA testing methodology meets rigorous scientific criteria for reliability and accuracy. When the prosecutor is using DNA evidence in a case they want to make sure it can hold up to any scrutiny from the defense and vice versa. In retrospect DNA technology has become one of the most powerful tools used to ensure justice is served in our Criminal Justice system. It helps identify offenders and eliminate innocent suspects. In the Criminal Justice world there are some wrongfully convicted persons in prison. Increasingly, DNA has been used to exonerate the wrongly convicted and has actually been used to overturn convictions years after the fact. As effective as DNA evidence is in the investigation process, it is not without issues. There have been approximately 96 cases since 1973 of wrongfully committed prisoners released before execution. . If there were 96 cases caught think about all those cases that were not caught. DNA technology has come a long way to aid in the efforts of helping the innocent reclaim their freedom. Nate Walker is one of the wrongfully convicted that benefitted from DNA evidence. In 1974, Mr. Nathaniel Walker of Union County, NJ was convicted of kidnapping, rape and sodomy. He was sentenced to life imprisonment plus 50 years. The victim in this case stated that her assailant was in his twenties and did not wear glasses. Mr. Walker is in his thirties and wears glasses and wore glasses for years with thick lenses to say the least. After serving 10 years in prison the prosecutor for Nate’s trial agreed that there was reason to believe that he was an innocent man, because a semen specimen sample from 12 years prior was located, analyzed and proved that Nate was innocent.
DNA had proved that the blood type of Nate Walker was not a match of the real assailant. He was cleared of all charges and set free and his release won national attention . What if he was sentenced to death and his execution already took place, the effects would be irreversible. He already lost 10 years of his life but at least he is still alive, unlike the recent case of Troy Davis. Troy Anthony Davis is a prime example of an irreversible decision. He was convicted of murdering an off duty Atlanta police officer Mark Allen MacPhail on August 19th, 1989. He was sentence to death on August 30th, 1991 despite no weapon being found. To make a long story short, it was later found out that those who testified against him were coerced by law enforcement officers during the investigation. Shortly after 7 out 9 of the witnesses recanted their statements with sworn affidavits’. Troy Davis continued to confess his innocence as more and more evidence proved that there was reasonable doubt. There was no actual DNA evidence found that undoubtedly proved that Davis committed this offense. This case outraged our Nation, there were government officials calling in from other countries, begging our government to stop the execution based on the possibility of him being innocent. Former President Bill Clinton was one of many voices from our government asking the Atlanta judicial system to reconsider. The NAACP, Amnesty and other protestors actively protested throughout his incarceration (NAACP) (Amnesty International). Unfortunately, after three appeals the Georgia board refused to grant Troy Davis clemency, he was executed by lethal injection on September 20th, 2011 at 11:00pm. Two days after Troy Davis’ execution, Samuel David Crowe a white man and confessed murderer was granted clemency by the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles, claiming he was remorseful.
Crowe was remorseful yet confessed his guilt, while Davis had no reason to be remorseful or admit guilt because he was innocent. It became a question of race and questions like was Davis not given a fair trial because he was black, this question remains unanswered. This is why it is so vitally important when investigating a crime, to gather as much information/evidence at the scene of the crime by sealing off the perimeter, taking photos in chronological order, sketching out the crime scene, assuring there is no risk of evidence contamination and obtaining statements from possible witnesses. All these necessary and tedious steps are needed to assure that we arrest the right person and alleviate the injustice of poor documentation and DNA contamination. In the criminal justice field there is no room for error, someone’s life depends on the accuracy of the investigation. Wrongful convictions are just one of many issues associated with DNA within the investigation process.
Application for Leave to File a Second or Successive; Habeas Corpus Petition, 28 U.S.C. § 2244(b), No. 08-16009 (United State Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit April 16th, 2009). Retrieved from United States Court of Appeals: http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/opinions/ops/200816009ord.pdf New Jersey Victims of the State. (2009, July). Retrieved from Victim of the state: http://www.victimsofthestate.org/NJ/index.html Know the facts about Capital Punishment. (2011). Retrieved from Amnesty International : http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty/us-death-penalty-facts Amnesty International. (n.d.). Retrieved from The Ultimate Denial of Human Rights: ttp://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/death-penalty