The dire consequences of sloppy forensic work

Experienced defense attorneys look at a number of things in assessing the prosecution's case against a criminal law defendant and client.

In fact, they closely scrutinize every strand in a criminal complaint filed against an individual who is justifiably relying upon them for impassioned and diligent representation. Probable cause might reasonably be a material issue in a case -- maybe police officers lacked a legal right to even interact with an alleged criminal suspect in the first place. Eyewitness testimony might be sketchy or flatly fabricated. Prosecutors might have overcharged a matter.

And evidence might somehow be flawed.

In fact, evidentiary issues often come into play in criminal law matters, with egregious mistakes sometimes being made that open up individuals unfairly to liability and great personal detriment.

Consider a story that has gained traction recently in national news outlets.

Here are the relevant details, in a nutshell: A man was charged with felony rape following a finding from police lab technicians that DNA evidence taken from a rape kit matched his genetic profile, as determined through samples also taken from cigarettes he had smoked at a party.

There was only one problem with that conclusion, namely this: the crime lab investigators had totally botched their work by mixing up DNA samples they had collected from the party and tested. Subsequent testing confirmed that.

It also resulted in the release of the man from jail -- but only after he had been sitting behind bars falsely charged for more than two months.

He understandably left the jail house with a bit of attendant ire, as evidenced by federal litigation he recently filed against the lab techs who falsely implicated him in a crime he had nothing to do with. He seeks money damages, including a punitive award, as well as an apology.

It's hard to imagine any jury that would not sympathize with him and the unjust ordeal he went through.

Mistakes in the criminal law realm can yield stark downsides. In worst-case examples, they can put innocent people behind bars for decades, or even on death row.

Proven defense attorneys know that, and routinely work hard to employ strategies that result in case dismissals or sentencing outcomes that mitigate adverse effects to the fullest extent possible.

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