DNA Evidence: Closed Cases and Unsolved Cases

Although DNA technology can be used in criminal cases to place a suspect at the scene of a crime, it also can be used to solve cases where no suspect previously existed. In addition, it can be used to reevaluate prior convictions to determine innocence. Using new technology to analyze DNA evidence in old cases can provide answers to questions of guilt or innocence and remove lingering doubts. Many postconviction DNA cases have released wrongly convicted individuals based on evidence that was unsuitable for early DNA testing. The development of advanced technology, such as PCR testing, makes it possible to obtain conclusive results in cases in which previous testing might have been inconclusive. It is important to realize that while the testing or retesting may exonerate the individual, exclusionary results may not prove actual innocence. Prosecutors, defense counsel, the court, and law enforcement should concur on the need for testing on a case-by-case basis.

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Understanding DNA Evidence: A Guide for Victim Service Providers
April 2001