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The Champion

April 2003 , Page 16 

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Evaluating forensic DNA evidence: Essential elements of a competent defense review

By William C. Thompson; Simon Ford; Travis Doom; Michael Raymer; Dan E. Krane


“I get a sinking feeling when I hear a client has been fingered by a DNA test,” a defense lawyer recently told us. “Seems there’s not much I can do but negotiate a guilty plea.” 

Promoters of forensic DNA testing have done a good job selling the public, and even many criminal defense lawyers, on the idea that DNA tests provide a unique and infallible identification. DNA evidence has sent thousands of people to prison and, in recent years, has played a vital role in exonerating men who were falsely convicted. Even former critics of DNA testing, like Barry Scheck, are widely quoted attesting to the reliability of the DNA evidence in their cases. It is easy to assume that any past problems with DNA evidence have been worked out and that the tests are now unassailable.  

The problem with this assumption is that it ignores case-to-case variations in the nature and quality of DNA evidence. Although DNA technology has indeed improved since it was first used just 15 years ago, and

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