We have previously posted about the importance of DNA evidence and Wisconsin’s criminal DNA database. As forensic science improves, there is no stronger or more accurate piece of evidence than DNA. For someone falsely accused of a sex crime such as rape, DNA evidence may be the only thing keeping him from a lifetime of wrongful imprisonment.
Over the last few years we have come to realize just how often defendants are wrongly convicted by witness testimony. Juries become convinced to convict a defendant as soon as rape victims identify him in a courtroom. In fact, the rape victims may be just as sure of the identity of their attacker.
But human memory and witness testimony are unfortunately very fallible. The Innocence Project is a group which seeks to overturn wrongful convictions in the United States. They report that DNA testing has already led to 267 exonerations for wrongfully convicted prisoners, some of which have already spent decades in prison. In more than 75 percent of these cases the defendants were convicted by a witness or victim who identified the wrong person.
The rape victims themselves are not to blame for this injustice. Human memory is unreliable, especially during a traumatizing event. And when rape victims eventually learn that they sent the wrong man to prison, they are left with a crushing guilt because they accidentally ruined an innocent person’s life.
In light of all this, DNA evidence is more important than ever. And it is also important to remember that a conviction based on flimsy or missing evidence can be appealed. No one in our justice system wants to see an innocent man get sent to prison, especially because of an ineffective lawyer or incorrect testimony.
Wisconsin’s criminal DNA database is in place to make sure that the guilty take responsibility and the innocent go free. If you are facing charges for a sex crime you didn’t commit, you need the power of DNA evidence and a strong defense attorney on your side.
Source: The Washington Post online, “In DNA reprieves, guilt from another source,” Maria Glod, 22 March 2011