My research project will examine if DNA should be tested in earlier rape cases. Before the mid 1990s DNA was not tested a much as it is today in rape cases. Because of the lack of testing, it is possible that many innocent individuals are serving time for a crime they did not commit. This is the reason I feel this project is important to research. No innocent person should have to serve a sentence for a crime. Literature Review Rape is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed. The word rape can have several different definitions. The one definition that is used by all states is if a man forcibly subjects a woman to sexual intercourse without her consent he has committed rape (uslegal.com, 2008). However, many people are falsely convicted of rape.
By using DNA the falsely accused can regain their freedom. Despite the availability of DNA testing there are still people serving a sentence for a rape they did not commit. Bruce Gross’s article False Rape Allegations (2008) states that “There is no way of knowing the number of defendants who have been convicted of rape on the basis of false allegation. One study found 28 cases in which the defendant had been convicted and served an average of 7 years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence.” According to Alex Trensniowski’ s article, Ronald Cotton was wrongly sentenced to two life terms for rape, he was exonerated by DNA evidence in 1995 (2009). James McKinley’s article tells of a Houston man that served five years in prison before released after DNA proved he did not sexually assault an 8 year old boy in 2002. Kara Goeke’s articles states that Ronald Taylor served a 13 of 60 year sentence for rape before DNA SHOULD DNA BE TESTED IN EARLIER RAPE CASES? proved him innocent (2008).
Kevin Johnson describes in Cleared by DNA test, but still struggling to be free (2009), “that not even DNA washes away the lasting stigma that shadows once-convicted sex offenders who are cleared by genetic testing.” From reading these articles I found that there is a desperate need for DNA testing of past rape cases. It is hard to imagine being accused and convicted of a crime you did not commit. That is why I feel DNA needs to be tested in all past rape cases. Discussion Rape is the most serious form of sexual assault in the United States. In all states if a man forcibly subjects a woman to sexual intercourse without her consent he has committed the crime of rape (uslegal.com, 2008). With today’s technology DNA can help identify the rapist in a crime. However, Before DNA technology was widely available, individuals were found guilty of rape without proper evidence to convict them. DNA should be tested in earlier rape cases, because many innocent people have spent the majority of their life in prison for a rape that they did not commit. The victim can make a false identification during a line up or the victim could be making false rape allegations. Mitochondrial DNA can also be used in rape cases. Scientists are able to find victims hypotype, and detect the suspects haplotype (Didier, 2007). One study shows 28 cases in which the defendant had been convicted and served an average of seven years in prison before being exonerated by DNA evidence (Gross, 2009).
SHOULD DNA BE TESTED IN EARLIER RAPE CASES? Another study shows nearly 90 percent of the 227 people cleared by DNA evidence since 1989 were convicted of some of the most heinous sex crimes. “Not even DNA washes away the lasting stigma that shadows once convicted sex offenders who are cleared by genetic testing and the criminal justice system that wrongly jailed them offer little help”, (Johnson, 2008). Sir Matthew Hale stated that rape “is an accusation easily to be made and hard to be proved, and harder to be defended by the party accused, tho never so innocent”, (Rumney, 2006). The following are cases that prove that DNA can prove innocence in rape cases. Sexual Assault Cases Jennifer Thompson picked Ronald Cotton as her rapist from a police line up. While in prison Cotton found another inmate bragging that he had raped Jennifer Thompson. Cotton contacted his lawyer to have a DNA test. Cotton was not a match. However the other inmate that was bragging about the rape, his DNA did match. Cotton was released in 1995 and received $105,000 from the state for his suffering (Tresniowski, 2009).
Ronald Gene Taylor was tried for a rape and found guilty. He served twelve of the sixty year sentence before being found not guilty. Taylor was a suspect because he lived less than a mile from the crime scene and was brought to participate in a line up. The victim choose Taylor as her rapist, however she also stated that she was unable to see her attacker because it was dark. The Innocence Project began investigating the case in 1998. In 2006 DNA testing was ordered in the case. The new tests found biological material to sample and proved Taylor’s innocence, the evidence pointed to another man that would never be tried. Taylor may be able to collect up to $600,000 if SHOULD DNA BE TESTED IN EARLIER RAPE CASES? he sues the police department where the line up took place (Goeke, 2008). Ricardo Rachel! was arrested in 2002 for the assault on a 8 year old boy. The child and another child witness stated that Rachel! lured the boy to an abandoned house by offering money to him for cleaning up trash. The boy was then raped at the abandoned house. DNA evidence was available at the time of the arrest, however it was never processed to be use in the trial. Rachel! was found guilty and served five years in prison, before being released. The original DNA was court ordered to be tested and the test proved Rachel! was not the criminal. Rachel! is entitled to $300,000 in state repartitions (McKinley Jr., 2008). In 1987 a women in an apartment complex reported that she had been raped. She identified Marcus Lyon as the rapist. Lyons served three years for the crime. In 2007, Lyons was given his innocence after DNA evidence was tested. Lyons is entitled to $85,0000 for his time served as an innocent man (Smith, 2008).
Willie Williams was found guilty in the 1985 rape of a Fulton county, Georgia woman. Williams was convicted on the victim’s eye witness statement. The DNA and rape kit were not tested before the trial. It was not tested until 2007, twenty-two years after Williams was arrested. The tests showed Williams was not the attacker. The DNA actual!y matched Kenneth Wicker a serial rapist. However, the woman that was attacked refused to testify again, because she stated it would be too hard on her to live through a trial again. Because of this Kenneth Wicker was never tried and walked as a free man (Torpy, 2009). Jerry Miller was convicted ofrape in 1981 and spent 24 years in prison. He finished his sentence before being found innocent. A year after his parole he was SHOULD DNA BE TESTED IN EARLIER RAPE CASES? proven innocent from DNA testing of the victim’s clothes against his. Johnny Briscoe was convicted of rape in 1982. Briscoe served 23 years in a Missouri prison.
DNA was lifted from a cigarette butt showed it was not Briscoe who committed the crime (Johnson, 2009). Marlon Pendleton spent more than 12 years in prison for a sexual assault that had taken place in 1992. He was set free in 2006 (Mills, 2008). Sadly some people are not proven innocent until after their death. Tim Cole spent thirteen years in prison before suffering a major asthma attack that killed him in 1999. In 2008, DNA testing showed another man by the name Jerry Johnson was guilty of the crime instead of Cole. Johnson even admitted to the crime in writing four years before Cole’s death. In the letter Johnson stated that he had raped Michele Mallin in 1985 on the Texas Tech campus. At the time the letter was mailed to a police department Cole was already serving a sentence for the crime. The letter was ignored, so Johnson mailed another letter to Cole’s family, but by this time Cole was already dead (Johnson, 2009). Innocence Projects Luckily there are groups of people who are trying to help the innocent who are wrongfully convicted. One of these groups are titled, “The Innocence Project”. The Innocence Project is a non-profit legal clinic affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University and created by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld in 1992. The project is dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing. As a clinic, law students handle case work while supervised by a team of attorneys and clinic staff. The Innocence project states that, “DNA testing has been a major factor in SHOULD DNA BE TESTED IN EARLIER RAPE CASES?
changing the criminal justice system. It has provided scientific proof that the system convicts and sentences innocent people and that wrongful convictions are not rare events. Most importantly, DNA testing has opened a window into wrongful convictions so that we may study the causes and propose remedies that may minimize the chances that more innocent people are convicted” (The Innocence Project, 2009). The first Innocence Project was Centurion Ministries it was founded in 1983 by a minister James McCloskey, a former executive who traded in his corporate career for a Masters of Divinity degree from Princeton University. Centurion Ministries is a non profit organization whose mission is to free from prison and clear the names of individuals who are completely innocent of crimes for which they have been convicted and imprisoned. Centurion Ministries usually takes on cases of inmates who have been sentenced to life terms or were designated for execution (Innocence Projects in the US, 2009). North Carolina became the first state to create an innocence commission, giving inmates who claim they were wrongly convicted a chance for freedom after their court appeals have failed. The panel has eight members who are empowered to subpoena records and witnesses and can consider new evidence not presented in court. Iffive of the commission members find that a claim of innocence deserves review, the case will be sent to a panel of three state Superior Court judges. Those jurists then would have to decide unanimously that an inmate was actually innocent in order for the conviction to be overturned (Weinstein, 2006). Some may oppose the testing of DNA in older rape cases.
One reason could be SHOULD DNA BE TESTED IN EARLIER RAPE CASES? that they believe the testing would question the victim’s complaint between supporting victims and protecting the rights of the accused. Other may think that testing DNA in older rape cases would cost to much money. However, would it be better for the state to have to pay millions in fees to the defendant that was found not guilty after serving time in prison? Should money really come before a person’s life? Some may think the testing will take too much time that could be spent on other current crimes. To solve this problem people need to be hired to work the older cases to insure they were properly processed. The time spent testing DNA does not compare to the time the innocent spent behind bars. A few authors and officials have suggested ways to deter people from falsely accusing rape. One way would be to charge the person who files a false rape allegation with filing a false report to the police. Another way would be to place the false allegation on their permanent record (Raphael,2008). However these steps could also cause real rape victims to be afraid to report the crime, in fear of being falsely charged themselves.
Conclusion There is an outstanding amount of evidence that proves DNA should be tested in earlier rape cases. If there is any reason for doubt the evidence should be tested or retested. It is hard to imagine how many innocent people have died in jail as an innocent person. We want a justice system we can trust, not one that the innocent has to fear. SHOULD DNA BE TESTED IN EARLIER RAPE CASES? References Goeke, K (2008). Falsely Accused: The case of Ronald Gene. Forensic Examiner. 17,86. Gross, B (2009). False rape allegations: An assault on justice. Forensic Examiner. 18,66-70. Hatsch, D (2007). A rape case solved by mitochondrial DNA mixture analysis. Journal ofForensic Science. 52, 891-894. Johnson, K (2009, January 28). Cleared by DNA tests, but still struggling to be free. USA Today, p. AI. Johnson, K (2009, February 4). Texas family fights to clear name: Wrongfully convicted man died in prison. USA Today, p. A 3. Mckinley Jr., J. C. (2008, December 13). Man, imprisoned 5 years, is cleared of sexual assault. New York Times, p. A 14. Mills, S (2008, November). The heroes of the wrongfully convicted. Chicago Tribune, p. 2.4. Raphael, J (2008, March) The Duke lacrosse case. Violence Against Women, Vol. 14, Iss.3; p. 370. Retrieved March 02, 2010, from Innocence Projects in the US Web site: https://truthinjustice.orglips.htm. Retrieved March 02, 2010, from https://www.uslegal.coml. Rumney, P(2006,March). False allegations ofrape. Cambridge Law Journal, p.128Aƒ 158. Smith, G (2008, December 20). Gov. Rod Blagojevich pardons 22 people. SHOULD DNA BE TESTED IN EARLIER RAPE CASES? McClatchy-Tribune News. The Innocence Project, The Innocence Project. Retrieved March 01, 2010, Web site: https://www.innocenceproject.org Torpy, B (2009, February 1). Final grim twist in ’85 rape case. Atlanta Journal, p. AI. Tresniowski, A (2009, March 16). She sent the wrong man to prison. People, 7I(10), 101. Weinstein, H (2006). North Carolina to weigh claims of innocence. Retrieved March 01,2010, from Truth In Justice Web site: https://truthinjustice.orgINCAƒcommission.htm.
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