Author: Michael Macrae, Law Student, University of Toronto, Pro Bono Students of Canada (PBSC)
As technology increases in importance to the modern world, the evidence used in solving crimes has become increasingly complex. What was once typically a matter of considering witnesses’ testimonies, now often involves ballistics experts, psychiatrists, handwriting analysts, and other types of experts providing highly technical evidence that the average trier of fact has little inherent familiarity with. Of the various fields of specialized knowledge that have gained prominence, in the opinion of this author, none is more exciting in its implications or more misunderstood in its reliability than DNA evidence.
It cannot be denied that DNA testing is very beneficial in criminal trials. Since even identical twins differ in their DNA, properly comparing DNA from suspects with that left at crime scenes by the true perpetrators of crimes can prove that a suspect was or was not at the scene of the crime. Conversely, those who were not present at crime scenes can be eliminated once it is discovered that their DNA does not match samples that investigators have collected.
The above scenario has happened, causing great benefit to many wrongly convicted people. Since its introduction as a legitimate tool of criminal investigation in 1989, DNA evidence has exonerated many who were wrongly convicted. Between 1989 and 2007, 200 innocent Americans were exonerated due to DNA testing. This positive trend extends to Canada. Guy Paul Morin – AIDWYC’s first client – was convicted in 1992 of raping and murdering his neighbour based on incorrect hair analysis results. Morin was exonerated after spending about a year and a half in prison when DNA comparisons between him and samples originating from the murderer-rapist eliminated him [...]