On detective shows, it only takes roughly an hour to solve a crime. Complicated facts are easily and efficiently unraveled in a crime lab using DNA evidence. Investigators and prosecutors produce a conviction, and the case is wrapped up.
The reality is that this is not reality. Although police and prosecutors certainly do use DNA evidence to charge people with crimes, numerous reports shed doubt on the credibility of DNA evidence. Whereas many people believe DNA evidence is infallible, studies show that it has led to wrongful convictions of innocent people.
FBI Finds Crime Lab Errors
According to a report published by the Washington Post, the FBI just this year notified crime labs across the U.S. that the agency has discovered numerous data errors used by scientists in thousands of cases.
Specifically, the agency found mistakes in the data used to match criminal suspects with DNA found at crime scenes. The agency discovered errors dating all the way back to 1999. Flaws in data related to population statistics, which are coded into a staggering nine out of 10 software programs in crime labs throughout the country, are responsible for the mistakes.
So-called “clerical errors” in crime labs have also led to false arrests and convictions. In 2015, a Colorado man was wrongfully accused and jailed for two months for a sexual assault he did not commit. According to the ABA Journal article, a mistake in labeling a DNA sample led to the man’s arrest and imprisonment. He was released as soon as authorities discovered the error, but he will never recover those two months of his life.
These cases demonstrate the importance of working with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Contrary to how criminal cases are portrayed on television, most cases are complex and require significant research and investigation. Don’t assume that your case is an “open and shut” situation or a lost cause just because police or prosecutors claim they have DNA evidence linking you to a crime.