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The danger of assuming infallibility with DNA test results

A proven criminal defense legal team takes a broad-based view in its client representation, knowing that the alleged "facts" aren't always as they seem and that there are two sides to every story.

A tried-and-tested defense strategy necessarily assumes a healthy skepticism toward evidence cited by police agencies and prosecutors. Those parties have an overt and clear agenda, which is to convince a judge and/or jury that a criminal suspect is guilty of a charged offense and that a harsh sentencing outcome is justified.

Defense attorneys need to respond to that challenge through good-faith strategies that test assumptions and demand the emergence of truth. As we note on our website at the established St. Louis law offices of Frank, Juengel & Radefeld, one way to accomplish that aim is through "aggressively challenging the admissibility of evidence."

That is easier said than done with one evidence category, namely, lab-delivered results based on DNA research. DNA evidence is largely credited in the public's mind as being unquestionably accurate, if not flatly unassailable. Science doesn't lie, so how could results based on objective research be anything but correct?

Here's a quick and easy answer, which has been sadly confirmed in legions of instances: humans err, notwithstanding their scientific forays, which has led to flawed DNA findings all across the country.

A recent New York Times article underscores the fallacy in arguments that confidently assert the unfailing accuracy of DNA testing. The bottom line concerning a study conducted by the prestigious National Institute of Standards and Technology was the spotlighting of failure by scores of crime labs that wrongly connected an innocent individual with criminal conduct. In a NIST-authored test of accuracy involving the proper identification of suspects linked with a mock bank robbery, 74 out of 108 testing facilities fingered the wrong person.

That is fundamentally instructive and emphatic in stressing that every shred of evidence offered against a criminal suspect -- even DNA findings customarily accorded preferential status -- be thoroughly considered and vetted by knowledgeable defense attorneys.

Truth and a just outcome depend upon it.

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