Skip to main content Skip to local navigation

The dark side of DNA evidence

The dark side of DNA evidence

DNA evidence is popularized in cop and legal dramas as proof of irrefutable guilt, but it's only as solid as the conditions under which it is collected. Alan Young, professor of criminal law in York's Osgoode Hall Law School,  was featured in a Globe & Mail article on the dark side of DNA evidence on March 13:

Last year, University of Virginia law Professor Brandon Garrett and Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, found that three of 156 US individuals ultimately exonerated in serious crimes had been wrongly convicted because of DNA errors. In one case, a technician grossly overstated evidence. Another featured lab contamination. The third wrongful conviction came after senior analyst Fred Zain gave evidence in court he knew to be false.

Alan Young, a criminal law professor in York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, describes the Zain case as “a classic example of why you can’t simply roll over and play dead in the face of science.” After his shortcomings at the West  Virginia State Police Crime Laboratory were discovered, Zain left and became head of a medical examiner’s lab in Texas. His errors became one of several problems the state ultimately faced.

“They have had to reopen hundreds of cases in Texas because of the discovery of horrible preservation and contamination issues,” said Young. “They had to literally shut down a lab in Houston because it was generating so many false results.”

The full article is available on The Globe & Mail's Web site.

Republished with files courtesy of YFile – York University’s daily e-bulletin.