Saturday, May 3, 2014

DNA alone not enough to convict for a crime in California

The science in criminal and DUI cases has risen to a level of CSI proportions.  Courts have been very lenient in allowing people to be convicted based on scant scientific evidence.  Here, the courts draw the line.  The defendant herein was convicted of several crimes based solely on his DNA.  Here are the facts:  The owner of a nail salon discovered a window in the front door of his business had been broken and the store burglarized. Investigating officers swabbed for DNA evidence at the crime scene. One item tested was a palm-sized rock found inside the business. DNA from the rock was matched to appellant, who was convicted of second degree burglary. On appeal he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence. 
The appeals court threw the case out and reversed the conviction, exonerating the accused.   No evidence other than appellant's DNA on the rock tied appellant to the crime. The court noted this is "a case where the only evidence inculpating the defendant to the crime is the defendant's DNA." Relying on fingerprint-only cases, the Court of Appeal stated the issue is whether a trier of fact could reasonably conclude that "contact with an object could not have occurred other than in connection with the crime." The evidence in the trial court showed the rock was located inside the business underneath one of the nail stations, and contained appellant's DNA. There was no evidence regarding the origin of the rock and the evidence regarding its relationship to the crime was weak. The DNA expert could not say how long the DNA had been on the rock. Without evidence showing when and where appellant came in contact with the rock, the factfinder could not rely on the rock alone to convict him.  (CCAP).