Prosecutors drop murder charge due to DNA transference

In 2012, a millionaire was robbed, bounded and suffocated. According to the San Jose Mercury News, a homeless man’s DNA was found under the victim’s fingernail, and the man was arrested on a murder charge. However, his attorney was able to prove that not only did the man not commit the crime, but he was never even at the scene. A paramedic had accidentally transferred the man’s DNA to the location of the incident.

While the case may be the first of its kind, it is certainly not the only situation in which faulty DNA evidence has resulted in inaccurate charges and even wrongful convictions.

Building a strong defense

In the case of the homeless man, the prosecution built an argument based on the fact that the man had a history of both violent and nonviolent crimes. Additionally, the homeless man had a brain injury that caused memory issues, and he was unable to recall where he was the night of the murder. Combined with the DNA at the scene of the crime, it appeared the prosecution had a compelling case.

However, the defendant’s attorney discovered that on the night of the murder, the man was taken to a medical facility after he had passed out in an urban area. The same monitoring device that was placed on his finger was later put onto the victim’s finger, thus transferring the DNA. Upon reviewing the evidence, the prosecution dropped the charges.

The problems with DNA

The American Psychological Association points out that for as helpful as DNA evidence can be when solving crimes, it also presents a number of opportunities for mistakes, inaccuracies and exaggeration. As in the case of the homeless man, it is possible for DNA to be transferred from one location to another, misleading investigators, juries and judges to believe that someone was at a scene.

Other common issues related to DNA include the following:

  • The statistics – DNA matches are rarely perfect, meaning there are only odds that the DNA at a scene matches the DNA of the suspect. Therefore, it is possible for samples to match each other solely by coincidence.
  • Human error – Lab technicians often evaluate the samples in order to determine their validity and can make mistakes.
  • Mixed samples – Due to improper storage or contamination, a DNA sample could contain evidence from different sources, further complicating the identification process.

A study published in Psychological Science suggests that for every 100 samples, labs produce at least one or two false positive matches. Anyone with questions regarding the fallibility of DNA evidence should consult with a criminal defense attorney.

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

What to Do If You Have Been Charged with a Criminal Offense

Stay calm and compose after getting accused of a crime but not charged in Minneapolis, MN. Do not discuss the facts of your case with anyone, including your relatives and family members. Hire a criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of winning cases like yours. Your attorney will discuss your rights, guide you on how to cooperate with law enforcement within the legal boundaries, and build a solid defense strategy to fight the charges you could face in the future.
Expungement and sealing of records in Minnesota affect how your criminal history appears to government agencies and the public. The main difference between the two legal actions is that expungement permanently removes past arrests, criminal charges, or convictions from private and public databases, while sealing hides the criminal record from the public. Courts, government entities, and law enforcement agencies can access sealed criminal records.
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