Polls and other surveys have proven that when there is DNA evidence involved in a case that juries are more likely than not to convict a defendant. According to researchers at several large universities, jurors find DNA evidence to be 95% accurate, and extremely persuasive.
Although juries may be more likely to convict a defendant because they have heard DNA evidence, it does not mean that the DNA obtained came from committing a crime or that the DNA evidence the prosecution is offering is completely accurate.
Cells containing DNA are easily transferable. If you touch something, your DNA is transferred to the object. If you sneeze, your DNA could spread around to multiple objects. If you throw some laundry in with someone else's laundry, it's possible your DNA can transfer to the other person's clothing. Not only is DNA easy to transfer, but also tends to stay in places for long amounts of time, like decades. It is likely in some circumstances that DNA evidence on an object, or article of clothing, came to be there innocently, and not through the commission of a crime.
During the investigation phase, DNA collection is a long process, as is its testing. Both procedures can come with accompanying errors and can provide results that should not give jurors proof of a defendant's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Contamination can occur during collection or testing of the DNA, or not enough evidence is collected for appropriate testing. DNA is often times amplified when there is not enough to complete a test. This makes it easier for lab technicians to produce results, but these results are not always seen as being accurate or favorable.
DNA is also typically measured by loci, which are specific areas on a DNA strand. Thirteen of them are usually focused on and a separate fourteenth one is looked at which determines gender. On these places, two alleles, or genetic markers, can be found. Each allele on the loci represents a gene given by each parent. Usually, we share most of the same markers with relatives, however, we also can share the same markers with other people.
It may be surprising to most, but DNA evidence in criminal sexual conduct cases is rare. A lot of people believe that there has to be DNA evidence to bring charges of criminal sexual conduct. This is not the case. DNA evidence is not necessary to bring charges or to convict someone of criminal sexual conduct.
Most cases involving minor complainants are based around circumstantial evidence showing a person may have sexually abused a minor, rather than direct DNA evidence proving a sexual assault happened. This is because most allegations of criminal sexual conduct happen long after DNA evidence would have disappeared. In many cases, children do not allege right away that they have been sexually abused. Sometimes the claims are made months or years before the allegation is made.
Though this evidence in CSC cases is rare in Michigan, The Law Offices of Shannon M. Smith has still taken the time to research and understand DNA. Our office does also have experience in defending cases where DNA evidence has been present. Criminal sexual conduct allegations brought by minors require the utmost attention from a defense attorney because the allegations, whether they are misconstrued or false, could lead to serious consequences for the accused. General defense attorneys are not familiar with the research done with children on their suggestibility, false memories, or ability to make false allegations. Our office has dedicated its practice to defending those accused of sex crimes by minors, so we are very familiar with everything a good defense to criminal sexual conduct allegations entails. If you are facing charges or allegations of criminal sexual conduct brought forth by a minor, do not hesitate to contact our office.
An article titled "The Surprisingly Imperfect Science of DNA Testing" appeared on Frontline that influenced our office in to writing this blog post. The article can be found here.