DNA Evidence of Innocence Rejected

The Times reported today that the case of Terrill Swift in Chicago

illustrates the resistance mounted by a minority of prosecutors around the country in the face of exculpatory DNA evidence.

Mr. Swift was convicted of rape and murder in 1994 and recently DNA evidence showed another man tied to the victim’s body.

From the New York Times here.

Those of us who watch CSI and its various iterations (I don’t) have made us as a nation come to believe that the presence of DNA at a crime scene = guilt whereas the lack of DNA evidence at a crime scene = not guilty. Not true. The presence of a criminal defendant’s DNA at a crime scene could have an innocent explanation. From the prosecution’s point of view, the lack of the defendant’s DNA at a crime scene should not necessarily equate with innocence in the face of other proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

In other words, DNA is not a magic bullet for either the prosecution or defense. Its presence or absence needs to fit within the context of the case.

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