Test All of the Evidence

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

I have a piece up at Slate using the Hank Skinner case to argue that in rape and murder cases, investigators should err on the side of conducting DNA tests on all biological material collected at the crime scene.

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14 Responses to “Test All of the Evidence”

  1. #1 |  Aresen | 

    Well, considering the problems that have been reported with the mislabelling of evidence at various crime labs, this does have risks.

    We wouldn’t want a serial killer’s DNA accidentally mixed up with a fine upstanding citizen like Joe Arpaio’s, would we?

  2. #2 |  Stephen | 

    Nice article Radley. Keep up the good work. Totally agree that it should all be tested pre-trial. Test are getting cheaper every day and whether to test or not test should not even be an option for the lawyer games.

  3. #3 |  ParatrooperJJ | 

    It is a budget issue. There are not enough machines, technicians, and money to even handle the current volume.

  4. #4 |  JS | 

    ParatrooperJJ, and yet our government still found enough to send $24 million to the Honduran army last year.

  5. #5 |  BrentM | 

    usually when it comes to getting a conviction, the state will spare no expense. However when someone wants post-conviction DNA testing the states become paupers. even when someone else offers to pay for the testing the prosecutors don’t want to do it. Prosecutors just want convictions. Truth is down on their priority list.

  6. #6 |  MikeZ | 

    “It is a budget issue. There are not enough machines, technicians, and money to even handle the current volume.”

    Well at the very least in Death Penalty cases it seems like resources shouldn’t be an issue. With the extensive court appeals that death penalty cases go through I’d suspect it may save money. Running $8000 of extra tests pre-trial, means there’s at least one less issue to raise a legal appeal over. Certainly in this case the cost for arguing whether or not to test has well exceeded the costs of the tests themselves. Probably by at least an order of magnitude.

  7. #7 |  KBCraig | 

    It is a budget issue. There are not enough machines, technicians, and money to even handle the current volume.

    And yet the state has an unlimited budget for fighting appeals that request independent testing of that evidence at no cost to the state

    Sure, it makes perfect budget sense.

  8. #8 |  Michael G MD | 

    Looks like that Berkley guy really want the “perp” dead! Most of what I read, in his comments, looked like hearsay! How did he know there was only blood under the fingernails? With that type of information, I certainly would not want him on any jury I had to be involved with! And the major felonies were “kicking a cop in the groin” and “unauthorized use” of someone else’s vehicle? I find the charges weak, at best, after hearing the following story.

    I had a cousin who was messed over, after the guy he rented a vehicle from (uninsured), claimed he kept the car beyond the rental time. (after he had the accident and found out there was no insurance). But, the prosecutor happened to be his ex-wife’s divorce lawyer.

    But, after 150 days in county lock-up, the auto theft charges were dropped! Looks like justice was served there!……..;P. Small town politics at its best.

    How much of this legalistic reasoning applies to this case?! I don’t trust the “justice system” anymore! Do the tests! If he is, then, proven guilty, this would only delay the inevitable execution. If he was not found to be guilty, once this new evidence was in, good for him!

  9. #9 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    It is a budget issue. There are not enough machines, technicians, and money to even handle the current volume.

    So many people jumped on your statement!

    Obviously, money is no object. It is a POLITICAL issue. If you think it isn’t politics, you’re wrong, it is. It is ALWAYS political. ALWAYS!

  10. #10 |  ParatrooperJJ | 

    JS – Most forensic testing is done by the states and not the federal government.

  11. #11 |  fwb | 

    The problem is exacerbated by the fact that most prosecutors are looking for notches on their gun. Prosecutors tend to take all crime as a personal affront and are working to punish violators. Prosecutors should be charged with discovering the truth regardless of outcome and prosecutors who use DNA or other evidence to exonerate persons of interest should be acclaimed.

    But those with this kind of power crave only more power. The fear people have of prosecutors is a source of power upon which prosecutors feed.

  12. #12 |  JS | 

    ParatrooperJJ “JS – Most forensic testing is done by the states and not the federal government.”

    Yea I know brother but it all comes from our tax money so I guess its all the same to me.

  13. #13 |  André | 

    This is a funny use of the word “err” here. I am not familiar with it.

  14. #14 |  Windy | 

    Most prosecutors with whom I am familiar are absolute assholes! They abuse witnesses for the defense and defendants and even, sometimes, their own witnesses.

    They will 9 times out of 10 seek a second and even a third trial when there is a mistrial of the initial case, even when 12 out of 14 jurors (the jury of 12 plus two alternates) vote to acquit. They are determined to make that second or third trial happen even if the original complainant/alleged victim decides s/he doesn’t want to pursue the case any further because it has become a financial burden to the complainant and family members who are called as witnesses, due to not being able to work at a job during the trial, thereby putting said job and said finances in jeopardy. In such a case, the prosecutor will usually subpoena those now unwilling witnesses and the complainant/alleged victim. Not to mention how much it costs taxpayers for those trials, and in the end the defendant is frequently acquitted, anyway, at those follow up trials. I do not understand why the prosecutors in these cases are not punished by the government for which they work, or by the voters at their next election; it is obvious they are NOT cost effective. Our courts are laboring under a huge backlog in most jurisdictions and retrying such shaky cases just adds to that backlog. Cases are often dragged out over two or three years, keeping both the defense and prosecution witnesses in a state of limbo between status updates and delaying the trial another month and another month and yet another month, at each status hearing. It is a total waste of time and money and harms others who are awaiting trial, by delaying theirs, as well. It is obvious that the justice system is broken and extremely unjust.

    Andre, err — to make an error. As in “to err is human, to forgive, divine”. The way it is used in Radley’s post it means it is better to make a mistake by testing too much than to test too little.