While DNA testing is a major component in many criminal trials in Maryland and across the United States, it has not always been a part of the evidence process. Some defendants did not have access to DNA evidence gathered during the case, which could potentially lead to a different outcome in certain situations.
According to the Innocence Project, 375 people have been released from prison after post-conviction DNA testing proved they were innocent of committing a crime. Yet, how easy is it to gain access to DNA evidence after the conviction is set?
What is DNA testing?
DNA testing is one of the most accurate and reliable types of evidence, as it identifies the perpetrator’s genetic blueprint from hair, blood, skin or other bodily fluids found at the scene of the crime. With a sample of the suspect’s DNA, the genetic information either yields a positive match or proves the suspect is not the perpetrator. Although errors in the DNA testing process can occur, it is often a clear way to identify the criminal in the case.
What is post-conviction testing?
At one point in time, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that those convicted of a crime did not have a right to use DNA evidence that could possibly prove their innocence. According to Maryland state statutes, those convicted of a crime can petition the court to receive post-conviction DNA testing. This includes those who pleaded guilty to committing the crime, as this does not always mean the person was actually guilty of committing the crime. It is essential that DNA samples are preserved, as improper safeguarding may render the sample useless if the court approves post-conviction DNA testing in their case.