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Context and Importance of DNA and Other Biological Evidences in Preventing Wrongful Convictions

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Context and Importance of DNA and Other Biological Evidences in Preventing Wrongful Convictions

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The purpose of the criminal justice system in the United States is to provide justice and fairness to all people by allowing them a fair hearing in a court of law in accordance with due process (Meusch, 2019, p 19). The Constitution of the United States guarantees individuals the right to the due process of the law, being perceived innocent until proven guilty. However, there have for decades existed impediments to justice in the United States’ criminal justice system, resulting in the perception of individuals as guilty without proving their innocence. According to the reports by the Innocence Project which seeks to use DNA and other biological evidence to exonerate wrongly convicted individuals, the rate of wrongful convictions is about 6% in the general state prison population, with the variations ranging from 2%-10% (Ware, 2019, p 453).

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There are various common causes that result in wrongful convictions. Eyewitness misinterpretation is one of the major reasons for wrongful convictions as the eyewitnesses can make a lot of errors because the suspect may stand out more in a lineup or photo, making the witness pick them as the perpetrator of a crime (Berkowitz et al., 2020, p 6). There are times in which the witnesses become overconfident in believing that the person they choose is the perpetrator of the crime. Also, the police may unintentionally direct the witness to choose a suspect, which is not always the right person. Incorrect forensics is another major reason for wrongful convictions. Flawed assumptions by the forensic scientist may lead to wrong conclusions about the evidence provided including gunshot residue, arson and abrasive head trauma. False confessions have also been used to convict individuals wrongly, as the evidence may seem credible since it is coming from the suspect. Mentally ill, juveniles and mentally disabled are some of the persons who are more likely to confess for a crime they did not commit as they are subject to manipulations, and thus, can be pushed by police officers to confess (Lackey, 2020, p 43). Finally, inadequate defense can also lead to wrongful convictions. Lawyers need to be well-trained, passionate and require sufficient resources including time to conduct a proper investigation. People from low socioeconomic status find it difficult to hire a lawyer, and this leaves the courts with no option but appoints a public attorney to represent them in court. While these lawyers handle a huge number of cases at a time and are underpaid, they are more likely to lose a case since they are undermotivated. Each case requires experience, diligence and funds, and public attorneys are not a guarantee to provide these basics.

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Wrongful convictions have a tremendous impact on the parties involved including affecting a person’s mental health status, negative impacts to the families and as well tainting the criminal justice system as incapable of handling evidence. One of the major effects is the impact on a person’s mental state as wrongful convictions has a psychological impact including severe mental health problems such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), persistent personality changes, depression and adjustment difficulties, feelings of chronic estrangement and isolation, relationship impairments, as well as developing complex feelings of loss (Norris and Kevin, 2020, p 334). Depression and betrayal by country is a major impact as the person have been observant of the law, but the system has proved them wrong. In regard to the family, those close to individuals who are wrongly convicted may as well experience stigma and psychological difficulties. No person who likes their loved ones to face any challenges especially against the law, and the pain intensifies especially if the family members are aware that their loved one is suffering due to a flawed justice system. Finally, the criminal justice system can also be negatively affected as the society may deem it incompetent to handle cases or provide a fair hearing as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Based on this, it is in the best interest of the criminal justice system to show its competence and gain trust and approval from the public.

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DNA and other biological evidence have been used to prove the innocence of the wrongly convicted (McGlynn, 2019, p 709). The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989, and according to the Innocence Project, there have been 375 DNA exonerees to date. According to statistics, 69% of the exonerees involved eyewitness misidentification, 43% involved misapplication of forensic science, while 29% involved false confessions (Webb, Dennis and Aimee, 2020, p 237). Despite the success, there have been questions on whether DNA evidence should be admissible in a court of law considering the flaws associated with DNA evidence collection, analysis and interpretation. Also, planting evidence to wrongly accuse another person, and dependency on the police trustworthiness impede the recognition of DNA and other biological evidence from being admissible in a court of law (Goldstein, 2019, p 597). Based on this, this paper seeks to evaluate and identify ground on which DNA and other biological evidence can be used to convict criminals in a court of law, thus help avoid incidences of wrongful convictions.

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Works Cited

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Berkowitz, Shari R., et al. “Convicting with confidence? Why we should not over-rely on eyewitness confidence.” Memory (2020): 1-6.

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Goldstein, Joseph. “Guilty Until Proven Innocent: The Failure Of DNA Evidence.” Drexel L. Rev. 12 (2019): 597.

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Lackey, Jennifer. “False Confessions and Testimonial Injstice.” J. Crim. L. & Criminology 110 (2020): 43.

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McGlynn, Kayleigh E. “Remedying Wrongful Convictions though DNA Testing: Expanding Post-Conviction Litigants’ Access to DNA Database Searches to Prove Innocence.” BCL Rev. 60 (2019): 709.

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Meusch, Jacob E. “A” Judicial” System in the Executive Branch: Ortiz v. United States and the Due Process Implications for Congress and Convening Authorities.” JL & Pol. 35 (2019): 19.

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Norris, Robert J., and Kevin J. Mullinix. “Framing innocence: An experimental test of the effects of wrongful convictions on public opinion.” Journal of Experimental Criminology 16.2 (2020): 311-334.

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Ware, Mike. “Innocence Project of Texas.” S. Tex. L. Rev. 60 (2019): 453.

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Webb, Patrick, Dennis Savard, and Aimee Delaney. “The color of confinement: examining youth exoneration decisions and the critical race theory.” Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice 18.3 (2020): 206-237.

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