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DNA testing has played a major role in exonerating victims of wrongful incarceration. Many of the cases that have been corrected by DNA had other factors that contributed to the errors. Unfortunately for many, DNA is not available to correct their wrongful convictions. For others, DNA testing has been the key to proving their innocence.

DNA testing has played a major role in exonerating victims of wrongful incarceration. Many of the cases that have been corrected by DNA had other factors that contributed to the errors. Unfortunately for many, DNA is not available to correct their wrongful convictions. For others, DNA testing has been the key to proving their innocence.

Since 1973, over 300 people have been exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing.

The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have now been won in 33 states; since 2000, there have been 160 exonerations.

17 of those exonerated through DNA testing served time on death row.

The average length of time served by those exonerated by DNA testing is 12 years.

Nearly all of the 300-plus exonerations obtained through post-conviction DNA proceedings so far have involved similar facts and circumstances, including one or more of the following factors:

  • Fabricated or coerced confessions
  • Faulty forensic work
  • Mistaken identification (often caused by suggestive police practices)
  • False testimony from jail house informants

Junk Science

Over the years, extensive scientific research has been conducted to develop accurate DNA testing. Unfortunately, this cannot be said for other forensic techniques such as bite marks and, fire analysis. False “expert” testimony using often exaggerated statistics, or conclusions put forth based on unproven science has contributed to wrongful convictions. There have also been cases of outright fraud, whether it be through expert testimony, by prosecutors, or at the laboratory.

Fixing the System: Forensic Oversight

Resources

FRONTLINE: The Surprisingly Imperfect Science Of DNA Testing