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DNA Techniques Used In Criminal Cases Come Under Fire


Most-everyone is familiar with how persuasive DNA evidence is in our modern criminal justice system. Two techniques in particular that were considered to be cutting edge—and were relied on by many jurisdictions over the last few years—have recently come under fire by agencies such as the FBI; as have the many cases and criminal convictions that they are connected to.

While both techniques have now been phased out and replaced with new technology, the lab that developed them indicated that thousands of cases over the years are connected to the techniques. One of these techniques is known as the Forensic Statistical Tool (FST), which tests DNA when it is present in mixed substances found at crimes scenes. The other—known as “low copy number analysis”—tests for trace DNA amounts by multiplying the sample. The FBI has now labeled both of these methods “inconclusive and unreliable.”

The Problem

Unfortunately, the lab is the largest DNA crime lab in all of North America, and tests approximately 40,000 items per year in criminal cases, ranging from weapons possessions to murder, rape, and assault.

It is problematic to place evidence which DNA experts cannot agree on in front of a law jury precisely because of the weight that juries give DNA evidence in general, regardless of any specific disputes in the field. In court testimony, one former lab official reported being fired for criticizing one of the methods, while another (expert) witness who examined the software source behind the other technique concluded that its accuracy should be “seriously questioned.” 

Early Warning Signs Ignored

Reportedly, the medical examiner’s office knew there were problems for some time, but decided to quietly correct them instead of notifying anyone. Some also believe that the lab manipulated data and made false statements to the Commission on Forensic Sciences, which oversees the labs.

The question now becomes: what is to be done with the thousands of criminal cases affected by the use of the disputed analysis methods? If an investigation is launched and finds flaws with the analysis, it could prompt an avalanche of litigation, particularly since the concern is not only for those cases where potentially false evidence has led to wrongful convictions, but also led defendants to enter into guilty pleas where strong scientific evidence existed in the case.

Work With Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys

It is more important than ever to ensure that any scientific evidence used in criminal trials is accurate. That means working with an experienced criminal defense attorney who takes a close look at any DNA analysis involved in a case and ensures that the defense runs its own tests and works with its own experts.

At the Baez Law Firm, we have a reputation for providing the very best in criminal defense representation. For assistance with any criminal defense questions, contact our firm today. We serve clients throughout Florida and Massachusets, and your initial consultation is free.




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