April 2011 Archives

April 14, 2011

Maryland's Long History of Proving Innocence by DNA Testing

dna.jpg The Maryland Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion in Blake v. State reemphasizing the requirements for the State in responding to post-conviction requests for DNA testing. The Court held that in entertaining a petition, a Circuit Court must "(1) identif[y] the most likely places where the evidence might be found, (2) require[] a thorough search of each place that should be searched, and (3) provide[] for an "on-the-record" determination of whether the search conformed to the requirements" of the Maryland Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article.

Although the Court's opinion addresses access to DNA evidence in a post-conviction setting, the appropriate use of DNA evidence - or the exclusion of DNA evidence - is vital in the pre-trial stage, as well as while a criminal trial is ongoing. A Maryland criminal defense attorney experienced with the use of DNA evidence can be the difference between a conviction or an acquittal in cases where DNA evidence is central to the prosecution's case.

DNA evidence can take on a number of identities in the legal system. DNA evidence can be a sword for the prosecution, because a positive DNA match to a criminal defendant is extremely effective in convincing a jury of that defendant's guilt. DNA evidence can also be a shield in certain circumstances, however, using the same force it carries with a jury to show a defendant's innocence. In other circumstances, DNA testing results can be inconclusive, a result that can also act as a tool in a defense attorney's arsenal.

Maryland has long been at the center of the use of DNA evidence to prove an accused's innocence. Kirk Bloodsworth, convicted of rape and murder of a young girl in Rosedale, Maryland, was sentenced to death row in 1985, and served nearly nine years in prison. In 1993, Bloodsworth obtained his release after petitioning for DNA testing, a then-novel science, to prove that he was not the perpetrator of the crime for which he was convicted. Since that time, DNA testing has shown that hundreds of individuals have been improperly convicted, and the proper use of DNA testing at trial has prevented the wrongful conviction of many more.

State's Attorneys are well-versed in the use of DNA evidence to convict defendants charged with crimes in Maryland. An experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney can fight to exclude DNA evidence that should not be permitted, and can fight to obtain DNA evidence where testing will exonerate the defendant. In other words, having a defense attorney that knows the ins and outs of this complicated science can be the difference between a conviction and an acquittal.