In a crime scene, investigators comb through the area looking for evidence to identify the criminals involved in the felony. But in today’s forensic science, the evidence must also be searched if the article found contains deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA (President’s DNA Initiative). Since Francis Galton came up with a system for identification of people using fingerprints (James Crow), it is expected that DNA fingerprinting will be a routine operation (Crow). But the time for the technology has not arrived, and the issue of its acceptability has not yet died down (Crow).
Recent cases have showcased the use of DNA fingerprinting by law enforcers in the resolution of crimes that were unsolved or unsolvable (DNA). Pieces of evidence that are invisible can provide the answers to some cases of murder, rape or even burglary (DNA). Recent court cases, both on the national and local circuits, validate the use of this technology in affriming, or reversing, court decisions, even executions. Cases involving DNA: Who really did it In a 5-4 decision, the state Supreme Court of Alabama, overturned the execution of Thomas Arthur, convicted in a 1982 murder-for-hire case (Devin Montgomery).
The stay of Arthur’s execution came after another inmate, Bobby Ray Gilbert, owned up to the crime (Montgomery). An added development to the case was the fact that the defense did not ask that the DNA in question had been challenged (Montgomery). Another case was the first time that a state Supreme Court had allowed the admission of DNA into evidence, in State vs. Woodall (Crime Magazine). The Supreme Court of West Virginia had accepted the defendant’s DNA results, but were inconclusive to acquit Woodall (Crime).
In the end, Woodall was proven innocent of the rape and murder charges, and was released from prison (Crime). In another case, Gerald Parker, in prison for parole violations, was sentenced for the rapes and killing of five women and a fetus (DNA). Samples of DNA recovered from the crime scene matched his DNA fingerprint. He later confessed to an additional crime attributed to another person, Kevin Lee Green, for which Green had served 16 years (DNA). Have these facts guaranteed that DNA fingerprinting is a fool-proof plan to search for the truth in solving crimes?
In a study by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, it notes that DNA testing will permit the acquittal or conviction of individuals, assuring that only the people who are the real perpetrators of the crimes will be the ones meted out punishment, to the exclusion of others who might be wrongfully accused (Crime). As to the question of juries deciding on cases on the basis of DNA, it is encumbered upon trial courts to decide on the authenticity and veracity of this type of evidence once it is entered into court (Jennifer Mellon).
This would deal with the trustworthiness of the findings, or “evidentiary reliability” (Mellon). But the failure of the producers of DNA testing systems for amplification of DNA and for challenging the manufacturer’s stipulations (Mellon). In the above mentioned cases, where the availablity of DNA was put to use in the acquittal or conviction of criminals, it should be noted that the DNA evidence secured both types of outcomes. If say, that a case where the primary evidence would only be the introduction of DNA, it should be contested or supported with more concrete evidence.
Any trial would have to secure a decision from any hint of uncertainty or doubt. Unless this is accomplished the conviction of any felon on this basis alone would be subject to scrutiny, that might lead to a wrongfully accused perosn being incarcerated, and another being exonarated from his/her crime.
Crime Magazine. “Part 2: Exoneration by DNA”. Crime Magazine 24 August 2000. < http://www. crimemagazine. com/dnapart2. htm> Crow, James. “The Evaluation of Forensic DNA Evidence”. <http://www. nap. edu/readingroom/books/DNA/>