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Better late than never? DNA may reverse criminal conviction

Over the years, as scientific advances have made DNA evidence more prevalent in determining guilt and innocence, cases that were decided years ago without its use may be subject to reexamination. One of those cases involves a man convicted of three murders, which labeled him as a serial killer when the verdict was handed down in 1989.

DNA from the crime scene was recently matched to another man who is already in prison after being convicted of rape charges. The DNA matches the second inmate's bodily fluids left at one scene as well DNA from a cigarette butt at another murder scene. The attorneys for the man currently in prison for the murders claim that there is no evidence from any of the crime scenes of the murders that matches their client’s DNA.

Prosecutors in the county where the man was originally convicted have two arguments to dispute the second man’s guilt and the first man's alleged innocence. First, they claim that there is nothing to indicate when the DNA was left at the crime scenes so they cannot prove that it was there at the time the murders occurred. Second, specifically in regard to the man that the DNA is now alleged to match, the prosecutors contend that the DNA did not necessarily come from him, but could have come from others with similar DNA, such as his relatives.

This case sheds light on several issues that commonly arise in criminal defense, whether in Florida or other states. First, evidence as purportedly reliable as DNA is not necessarily infallible. Second, evidence discovered even years after a crime can be relevant to the innocence of the accused or convicted. Third, the intricate balance of criminal law and the innocence of the accused could depend on when evidence was left at the scene or collected, and that DNA evidence can be from others who share genes, not just from a specific person.

Given these minute details, any piece of the puzzle from the investigation of the crime scene to evidence discovered decades later, can be the key to innocence. Having experienced criminal defense representation at every stage of a criminal charge from suspect to post-conviction can be crucial to a fair shot at justice and possibly avoid, or at least mitigate, long-term consequences.

Source: Huffington Post, "Could DNA Clear Convicted Serial Killer? Prosecutors Oppose Billy Glaze Retrial," Michael McLaughlin, Nov. 4, 2014

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