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Do bad DNA tests keep people in Virginia wrongfully imprisoned?

In most criminal cases, DNA evidence is needed to connect an alleged criminal with a crime scene. If law enforcement officials report that DNA from the crime scene matches the DNA of the alleged criminal, that is often the final straw in convincing the jury of the person's guilt.

Unfortunately, few people ever question the validity of the DNA samples. After all, if it was tested in an FBI lab, it must be correct, right? Wrong.

Individuals in Virginia and throughout the country have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned after faulty DNA tests "proved" they were guilty of criminal charges.

After learning that, many people have the same next question as well: If the Justice Department knows that individuals are being wrongfully convicted because of errors in DNA testing, what is being done to protect the rights of those individuals while they're incarcerated? Nothing.

Yes, you read that correctly. In the 1990s, the Justice Department suspected that there were errors with the results from some DNA tests. Officials reviewed several cases and confirmed that sloppy work was producing unreliable forensic evidence in court trials. However, even after the Justice Department learned about the flawed DNA tests, they did not inform the defendants whose cases they knew might be impacted.

Instead, the Department of Justice only told the prosecutors in the affected cases, and most of the prosecutors didn't bother mentioning it to the individuals who were incarcerated.

How many people are in prison because of bad DNA evidence, and who is helping them? Read more in our upcoming posts to find out.

Source: The Washington Post, "Convicted defendants left uninformed of forensic flaws found by Justice Dept.," Spencer S. Hsu, April 16, 2012

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