In criminal trials, juries and the public in general tend to put a lot
of weight on science when deciding whether a criminal defendant is guilty
of a charge. The slam dunk of evidence, at least as it is often seen in
movies and on TV, is when DNA evidence connects a defendant to the scene
of a crime.
A current DNA controversy in an out-of-state medical examiner's office,
however, shows that science isn't perfect. Why? Because it is subject
to human error, for one thing. In 2011, a technician at a medical examiner's
office left her job after the quality of her work came into question.
She worked with
rape kits in order to collect DNA evidence that would work to incriminate or
Working with sex crime evidence likely is filled with pressure, but the
gravity of the situation should lead to extreme meticulousness and accuracy
in a technician, not sloppiness. More than 800 New York rape cases must
be reviewed because of possible mishandling of evidence. The review has
already discovered evidence that identifies possible rape suspects, evidence
that may have helped take the blame off of innocent targets.
Sources claim that no one was wrongly convicted of a sex crime because
of the particular lab technician, though that is just a claim and not
a hard-and-true fact. That claim seems less credible, too, since The New
York Times reports that the former technician was guilty of the cross-contamination
of samples. That means that evidence from different cases got jumbled
up during an investigation.
This one person in a science lab is responsible for researchers having
to address several hundred rape cases. Imagine the scope of cases that
could be compromised on a larger scale if more technicians are even just
half as irresponsible as this one worker reportedly was.
Source: The New York Times, "New York Examines Over 800 Rape Cases for Possible
Mishandling of Evidence," Joseph Goldstein, Jan. 10, 2013