Wednesday, December 05, 2007

DNA Evidence: The Savior for the Wrongly Accused

by team UAB jld

DNA evidence gives a woman back her life after spending 13 years in jail for a murder she did not commit.

A judge's decision to vacate the verdict and order a new trial made her the first woman in the U.S. to have a murder conviction overturned on the basis of DNA evidence.

Stories like this make me excited to get into this field. To have an opportunity to clear people's names and make a real difference in society. However, I can't understand why they are going to try this poor woman for second degree manslaughter after she spent 13 years in prison for a crime she did not commit. Even if she was convicted she would not spend any time in jail. It just seems like they are pouring salt on a open wound.


Anonymous said...

The article says DNA tests were not available in 1994. I don't know when they were available, but couldn't they have used DNA tests in her case whenever they became available. Serving 13 years in prison for a crime she didn't commit is absurd. She has to connect with a son she has hardly seen while in prison. It seems she should be compensated monetarily for her wrongful conviction since she can't get the time back she missed with her friends and family.


Anonymous said...

This is a very sad case. I understand from the article that in 1994 DNA tests were not available, but it seems somewhat difficult to understand why this woman had to set in prison for som many years. It just seems like someone could have done something before now to prove that she was innocent (13 years is a long time in prison). And to retry the class would be so hard on a person, considering they have already been through enough. She is innocent so let her live her life in peace and be with her loved ones. Considering that her "then boyfriend" was already found guilty for murdering another woman he had dated (along with his "then girlfriend's" dauther, Crystallin) is just terrible.

Anonymous said...

Although I agree it's wonderful that DNA evidence collected at a murder scene has shown it is not the DNA of the woman accused, and it's sad that it took so long to do so even after technology was available, I don't think she should receive monetary compensation for her imprisonment as long as there was no police misconduct in the case. After all, a jury of her peers found her guilty of the murder. She received what we can only believe was a fair trial. Also, as far as her being retried for a lesser charge, maybe I am heartless but I don't see anything wrong with it as long as there is sufficient evidence to convict. Even though she won't have to spend any additional time in prison, she will have a criminal record if convicted in a second trial. If she does not go to trial again, she will have nothing on her record regarding her daughter's untimely demise. Simply because the DNA evidence used was not that of the woman does not mean that she was not involved in some manner. Let's let a jury weigh the facts and make the judgment. The scumbag boyfriend was a less-than- credible witness, I will admit, but in most violent crimes, the witnesses are not saints. mking

Anonymous said...

I would agree that this case is very sad, but even if DNA testing were available in 1994, she still could have been wrongly convicted due to human error in the laboratory also. It seems that the 13 years in prison for a wrongful conviction is hard and I believe that she should be compensated a controlled amount so that she could get back on her feet and up to date with society. The important point here is that her name has been cleared, which will allow her to connect again with her family, but the next problem will be; is she forever angry with the people who put her in prison in the first place?


Anonymous said...

This article makes it sad to think of how many people are still serving long and possibly life sentences for crimes that did not commit. With everyone in the prison community for the most part saying that they "did not do it", the ones that could be vindicated through this DNA testing may be never proven and will be paying for someone elses actions.


Anonymous said...

Yes, this is a tragedy. Not only did she suffer from being wrongly accused, she lost her daughter also. Moreover, Donahue was given immunity. Makes you wonder if her bad reputation, which was more than likely used by the prosecution, influenced the jury back in 1994 rather than hard evidence. For me, there seems to be an issue with the investigation. If Crystallin was found naked, would it not be plausible that she may have in fact been raped? Either the police, or the autopsy examiner did not do a full examination of her body. Regardless of DNA evidence, rape would have elicited other signs as well. But lets take it a bit further, say the examiner did find signs of rape. Could it then be possible the prosecution withheld exculpatory evidence reflecting such? Something does not seem right with the investigation, or there were some ulterior motives. I guess the question becomes, even though forensic investigation are scientific, does personal bias play a role when collection or analyzing evidence?

Anonymous said...

I agree that it is sad that the woman
in the case was wrongly accused. However, the justice system is not perfect. Without the current technology, the case was judged to the best of the ability of everyone involved. It's fabulous that DNA testing has become something that can
be used on older cases. 13 years is a long time to have to wait. I think, however, that the woman should be thankful she is free now. Thanks to technology, she is free and hopefully can return to a semi normal life.


Anonymous said...

This woman's story is extremely unfortunate. The justice system is not always effective. It is sad to think about how many wrongly accused people are still in jail and paying for someone else's crime. But this article also shows how far the forensic system has come since 1994. Now there are more effective ways to prove guilt or innocence. I believe the woman should receive some sort of settlement for being wrongly accused and staying in jail away from her family for so long. BC

Anonymous said...

This is a very tragic case. I can not imagine being locked behind bars for over a decade, for a crime I did not commit. This lady deserves some sort of compensation for the time she spent behind bars. Although she will never be able to make up the time, at least she might get some kind of closure. I know that the legal system is not perfect, but the U.S. should always try it's best to reach perfection. I am thankful that we now have DNA testing that can help prove someone's innocence. However, DNA testing may still wrongly accuse someone. Nothing in this world is perfect, but with the help of DNA testing, the legal system could help prevent mistakes like this one from happening.


Anonymous said...

This article is very distrubing, and made me feel very much for this woman. She had to sit behind bars for 13 years while the whole time she knew she was innocent. I believe that she should be somewhat compensated for the time of her life that was lost due to technology.

Anonymous said...

It is understandable that DNA wasn't available until 1994 but it seems that it is still not commonly used device. I think it should be mandatory in any nd/or all cases when there's doubt or to erase uncertainty. Wrongly accused individuals have been known to be compensated financially but taking away years that can't be replaced is shameful.


Forensic Bloggers said...

good comments, everyone.

I like how some of you touched on compensation as that is a good topic for cases like this one.

LD brings up a very interesting point. Although DNA wasn't perfected in 1994 (see OJ), there were tests to detect the presence of semen. From the brief description of the crime scene, it sounds like there were obvious signs of rape. I am assuming that the DNA found last year came from sperm cells, although they don't really say that in the article either. I'm not sure how they convinced the jury that the mother caused that crime scene without an accomplice.

i'm going to have to stay a little heartless with mking. I am not an attorney, but it appears there may have been some neglect on the mothers part leaving a 13 yr old girl home alone while out barhopping with violent men. Perhaps not a criminal act, so i wonder what the basis for the manslaughter charge would be?

-dr. l

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