Impact of DNA Analysis on Criminal Cases That Involved Misidentification Term Paper

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¶ … DNA Analysis on Criminal Cases' Misidentification

DNA, "the evidence that does not forget..." As Kirk (cited by Butler, 2005, p. 33) purports, aptly introduces the summary for the following paper. As DNA, present in every nucleated cell, constitutes present and biological materials left at crime scenes, Butler (2005. p. 33), it may, this researcher contends, lead into the jail yard, or in some instances, as this paper notes, free someone who has been sent there by mistake. (Columbia, 1996) When DNA samples are mishandled, however, during an investigation's initial stages, no amount of hard work in the final analytical or data interpretation steps will compensate.

Mishandling of DNA may consequently, lead to misidentification of an individual.

After it is collected, the proper handling of DNA involves that it be isolated and put in the proper format before the characterization. "... Each of these steps is vital to obtaining a successful result regardless of the DNA typing procedure used." (Butler, 2005, p. 33)

Regardless of the typing procedures or findings, the catalyst of DNA constitutes a vital component of the impact of DNA analysis on criminal cases' misidentification. It also opens a "door" to help see whether a person did or did not commit a particular crime.

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Bierce's quote presents a definition for the word, "opiate," however, this researcher contends that DNA also provides "...An unlocked door in the prison of Identity." (Columbia, 1996) DNA, as Bierce contends, lead into the jail yard, or in some instances, as this paper notes, free someone in prison, who has been sent there by mistake.

IMPACT of DNA ANALYSIS

ON CRIMINAL CASES' MISIDENTIFICATION

Introduction

It is undisputed that people are convicted and sentenced, sometimes to death, for crimes they did not commit. (Mcmurtrie, 2005)

Undisputed Question

Term Paper on Impact of DNA Analysis on Criminal Cases That Involved Misidentification Assignment

The advent of deoxyribonucleic (DNA) testing and rapid improvements in DNA technology, Mcmutire (2005) contends, contributed to the exoneration of over 163 people in the United States.

The word "undisputed" also denotes one general contention regarding DNA evidence. At times, albeit, despite DNA evidence confirming a person's innocence, some individuals in the judicial system, such as the original prosecutor in the case of Charles Fain, exonerated in 2001m after spending eighteen years on death row for a rape murder. This prosecutor states: "It doesn't really change my opinion that much that Fain's guilty." (Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery & Patil, 2005)

The following account depicts another prosecutor's doubts regarding DNA evidence in exonerating an individual.

On December 8, 1995, at the request of the prosecution, the DuPage County, Illinois, Circuit Court dismissed all charges against Alejandro Hernandez, who had spent eleven and one-half years in prison for an abduction, rape and murder in which he had no role. By that time DNA tests and a confession had established that the real criminal was an imprisoned serial rapist and murderer by the name of Brian Dugan; a police officer who provided crucial evidence had admitted to perjury; and Hernandez's codefendant, Rolando Cruz, was acquitted by a judge who was harshly critical of the investigation and prosecution of the case.

Nonetheless, when Hernandez was released, the prosecutor said: "The action I have taken today is neither a vindication nor an acquittal of the defendant." (Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery & Patil, 2005)

Exonerations

Regarding the traditionally undisputed "proof" DNA provides, Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery and Patil (2005 study exonerations which occurred in the United States during a fifteen year span, from 1989 through 2003, as they identify and discuss a number of exonerated individuals' cases. "Overall, we found 340 exonerations, 327 men and 13 women," these researchers note. Of the 340 exonerations, DNA evidence cleared 144 of them were cleared by DNA evidence. Most of these individual had served terms of ten years or more. Eight percent of those individuals had been imprisoned for at least five years. (Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery & Patil, 2005) Since 1989, Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery and Patil (2005) purport, previously rare events such as the following experienced by Gary Dotson have become disturbingly commonplace.

On August 14, 1989, the Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, Illinois, vacated Gary Dotson's 1979 rape conviction and dismissed the charges. (1) Mr. Dotson -- who had spent ten years in and out of prison and on parole for this conviction -- was not the first innocent prisoner to be exonerated and released in America. But his case was a breakthrough nonetheless: he was the first who was cleared by DNA identification technology. It was the beginning of a revolution in the American criminal justice system. Until then, exonerations of falsely convicted defendants were seen as aberrational. (Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery & Patil, 2005)

Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery and Patil (2005) point out that the contemporary availability and sophistication of DNA contributed to the recent increase in DNA exonerations. As a result of DNA exonerations becoming more newsworthy, public awareness has also grown. In turn, a substantial increase in the number of false convictions, confirmed by DNA, come to light and end in exonerations. Consequently, resources devoted to this concern, contributed to the development of "forty-one Innocence Projects in thirty-one states...and judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and police officers have all become more aware of the danger of false convictions." (Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery & Patil, 2005)

Exonerated Defendants' Wrongful Convictions

Gross, Jacoby, Matheson, Montgomery and Patil (2005) report that convictions known to be cleared by DNA exonerations since 1989 comprised Murder; Rape or Sexual Assault; crimes of violence, which included robberies, attempted murders, kidnapping and assault-plus larceny, gun possession and drug cases. The following figure depicts percentage comparisons of defendants' DNA exonerations.

Figure 1: Defendant's Exonerations Compared

Scientific Proof of Identification and Misidentification

The blood or semen that [the perpetrator of the crime] deposits or collects all these and more bear witness against him.

This is evidence that does not forget..."

Paul Kirk (crime investigation, 1953; cited by Butler, 2005, p. 33)

DNA

DNA, present in every nucleated cell, Butler (2005. p. 33) states, constitutes present and biological materials left at crime scenes. Some of the biological materials that have been tested with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) based DNA typing methods include:

Blood and blood stains

Semen and semen stains

Bones

Teeth

Hair with root

Hair shaft

Saliva (with nucleated cells)

Urine

Feces

Debris from fingernails

Muscle tissue

Cigarette butts

Postage stamps

Envelopes sealing flaps

Dandruff

Finger prints

Personal items: razor blade, chewing gum, wristwatch, ear wax, toothbrush (Budowle et al., 1995; Gill et al., 1984; Alvarez Garcia et al., 1996; Higuch et al., 1988; Wilson et al. 1995; Sweet et al., 1997; Benecke et al. 1996, Yasuda at al., 2003; Hopwood et al., 1996; Wiegand et al., 1993; Hochmeister, 1991; Hochmeister et al., 1991; Hopkins et al., 1994; word and Gregory, 1997; Herbor and Herold, 1998; Van Oorschot and Jones, 1997; Tahir et al., 1996; cited by Butler, 2005. p. 34)

Since DNA technology's evolution and improvement, experts have begun to question some other forensic sciences, previously accepted by courts as scientific proof of identification in criminal cases.

A number of individuals previously "misidentified" on "expert forensic testimony on comparisons of bite marks, hairs, voiceprints, ear prints and fingerprints, were freed after post-conviction DNA tests established their innocence and proved the 'scientific' evidence wrong." (Mcmurtrie, 2005)

According to prosecutors, one example of misidentification, hairs found at a rape scene were "indistinguishable" from Jimmy Ray Bromgard, eighteen-years-old.

Due to this "scientific proof," supported with faulty statistics to bolster this bold statement, Bromgard received a forty-year sentence. Fifteen years later, however, DNA evidence exonerated proved he did not commit the rape. Another example, according to Mccoppin (2007, p. 1) is considered as possibly the most well-known example of misidentification. During 1977, in the case of Gary Dotson in the Chicago area, after "Cathy Crowell falsely claimed she was raped," she helped produce a police sketch, and subsequently identified Dotson as her attacker. In turn, Dotson was convicted and sent to prison. Later, Crowell recanted her claim and in 1988, DNA confirmed Dotson's innocence. (Mccoppin, 2007, p. 1) "The Fingerprint Controversy" (2004) article purports that fingerprints have an advantage over DNA, as "the fine details of fingerprints are developmental characteristics, and even identical twins sharing the same DNA have distinguishably different fingerprints." A fingerprint displays widespread correlation over the parts of its pattern, however, unlike a DNA strand, cannot be so easily disaggregated into elementary components. In both fingerprint and DNA evidence, known cases of misidentification have been exposed. Similarly, dangers exist and have been exposed regarding eyewitness misidentification. This, according to Giannelli (2003), "has long been recognized and is the single most important factor in wrongful convictions." Jailhouse "snitches," at times give eyewitness accounts of crimes, and routinely later are documented to be false accounts.

In Escobedo v. Illinois, the Supreme Court observes: "We have learned the lesson of history, ancient and modern, that a system of criminal law enforcement which comes to depend on the 'confession' will, in the long run, be less reliable and more subject to abuses… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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