The US Legal System and DNA Testing
DNA testing is regularly used in the American and British legal systems. But perhaps it is America that has truly culturally embraced forensic testing in the crime world. America has in fact created an obsession around forensic crime with TV shows such as the CSI series. There have been countless cases of criminals being convicted as a result of DNA tests linking them to a murder or rape scene. And conversely, there have been accounts of convicted criminals being found innocent of crimes they had done time for, such as the story of two men highlighted on Fox News – David Scott and Tim Masters.
DNA Testing Reveals Innocence
In both the Scott and Masters cases they were both 15 when convicted of murder – both served long stretches in prison, and both were revealed to have been wrongly convicted after DNA testing. In fact, over 200 people have been freed as a result of advances in the field after being imprisoned for crimes they didn’t commit. The number may sound small, but not all criminal cases involve biological evidence.
Ray Of Hope
But the fact that the cases that do involve biological evidence – namely murder and rape – are so serious, those wrongly convicted can experience huge travesties of justice, spending decades in jail. DNA testing offers those who claim innocence a ray of hope. For DNA forensic testing to be viable the evidence to be tested needs to be well preserved and in testable condition.
The Demand For Forensics
Some critics of the US legal system believe underfunding means crime lab work suffers – some jurisdictions are simply not as hot at DNA testing because budgets are tight. A report by Fox News showed that Dallas had a higher percentage of criminals fighting wrongful conviction claims. This however is said to be because of their use of a private lab to carry out their analyses, with better resources, well preserved evidence, and thanks to a crusading district attorney (Craig Watkins) who has made it his mission to clear the names of those wrongly imprisoned.
Guilty Until Proven Innocent
The high exoneration rate in Dallas suggests the same is true for the rest of America – but less DNA testing and fewer facilities means we’re not finding out the real number of innocent people wrongly convicted. Investigations using DNA is one way of ensuring the legal system is as fair as it can be. Something that is increasingly important in a country that supports the Death Penalty.
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