“Taylor’s laboratory had spent the last year running all sorts of tests on the Profiler Plus system and the 310 Genetic Analyzer, he told Bartick. On numerous occasions, the results had been, at best, ambiguous.” -Weinberg 259
I find it very astounding to think that DNA tests that were being used to test people’s innocence or guilt in certain situations were not giving clear results. I think that when people’s lives are at stake, everything should be as blatantly clear as possible. This obviously ties in to the Innocence Project and its purpose of freeing wrongly convicted people, but it was from the other side: using DNA evidence to show that people were innocent. I think that it is a hard line to walk, especially because DNA evidence has the power to be so influential, so it is important that it be used ethically and carefully.
This also brings into question the nature of the court system and prosecution. Why were they so quick to accept the lab results given to them? I think it was because they were amazed by the infallibility of DNA. But as infallible as science is, it can be fallible when handled or interpreted incorrectly, either on purpose or unknowingly. I think that the best solution for this is to do all testing blind, but most importantly, make sure the technology is 100 percent accurate before it is used to convict someone of a crime. I think the end goal of the courts should be to find the person who committed the crime, not just a person.
In Chapter 17 of Pointing From The Grave by Samantha Weinberg, David Bartick, the defense lawyer hired by the Frediani’s considers using the defense of planted evidence to get Paul acquitted of his charges. In tv shows on a regular basis cops plant evidence on criminals to get convictions. But how often does this happen in real life? how many times do the police get caught doing it? This article sheds some light on cops planting evidence. It would have been completely possible for police to plant Frediani’s dna since it had already been collected by law enforcement, so is there a federal agency watching over this case like in the ones mentioned in the article? Perhaps the lab did in fact plant the dna to get a conviction since Frediani was the only suspect.
In this chapter Frediani changed his plea from not guilty to no contest. Do you think that he had done this because he feels guilty or for the reason that he would simply like a less severe punishment. This makes me think of the large amount of deals the prosecution can make with the defense, all around similar reason. This also makes me think is it smart to release a convicted felon three years earlier because of a plea bargain? In some cases of misdemeanors and petty crimes yes that is agreeable but for felons like frediani, do you think it is the best option to release someone convicted of rape and assault because he “pleaded guilty”.
“DNA evidence must always be looked at in the context of the evidence that has to be analyzed. It is an aid, not a substitute for police work.” -Weinberg, pg. 221
I think this quote from the British forensic scientist answers a lot of questions we’ve discussed in class, most importantly whether or not it was just to convict someone on DNA evidence alone. Even though it can point to a single person out of thousands or millions, DNA is still just a type of evidence. It can certainly help build a strong case against a suspect, but it’s important that those working in the justice system acknowledge that DNA is only a piece.
Say DNA is found at the scene of a crime, and it’s a perfect match for a prime suspect. A DNA match shouldn’t automatically call for a conviction; if the suspect has a solid alibi, they shouldn’t be convicted for that crime, despite what the DNA says.
According to the innocence project more then 25% of suspects are proven to be innocent once DNA results are returned to police. Since the discovery of how to use DNA to identify a certain person 337 people have been exonerated from crimes they did not commit. Clearly the use of DNA in forensic science is a crucial development in our justice system and assists prosecutors in convicting the right criminal. In the case of Helena Greenwood DNA would have been an easy way to discover if Mr. Frediani was in fact her rapist or if he had been wrongly accused. The evolution of science can be applied to our justice system and help us improve the decisions that come from it.