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DNA Evidence Analysis Was Meant to Exonerate the Innocent––It May Be Doing the Opposite

As DNA technology has advanced, wrongful convictions result from touch DNA and contamination, where tiny DNA samples may have transferred from someone other than the perpetrator of the crime. Furthermore, commercial software is further advancing technology without revealing important information about its processes, which could lead to more wrongful convictions.

Forensic evidence. Swab sample from a crime scene on top of a forensic evidence bag.

Judges, juries and other members of the criminal justice system rely upon DNA evidence to decide guilt, innocence and sentences for incarceration—and even death—every day. Yet most people would be shocked to learn that new technologies have made DNA evidence less reliable than it was in the past. For instance, recent advances in forensic science use smaller DNA samples, introducing more subjectivity into the identification process than ever before.

Risks of Small Samples

Twenty years ago, available technology could only reliably test DNA from fresh semen, blood stains, or other large tissue samples. According to Christopher Phillips, a researcher in forensic genetics at the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, such a test is considered substantially reliable for purposes of forensic evidence.

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