As an innocence project, we focus not only on reversing wrongful convictions, but also on preventing wrongful convictions in the first place. One crucial part of such prevention is promoting methods and practices that will aid law enforcement officials in identifying the real perpetrators of crimes. For every individual found to have been wrongfully convicted, the crime and the victims are not erased, and in fact their trauma may be renewed by the exoneration process. More importantly, the actual perpetrator is often still unknown and/or at large. Wrongful convictions hurt us all.
Increasingly, DNA is providing a powerful tool for law enforcement to investigate all types of crimes. In recent years, the amount of biological material needed for an identification, the cost and time for testing have gone down. An article last week by Chuck Biedka in the Vally News Dispatch provides a helpful primer on the use of DNA evidence in different kinds of investigations in the Pittsburgh area. The article focuses on the importance of finding and, especially, preserving biological evidence from crime scenes. As one expert says in the article: “At the first we needed a blood spot the size of a quarter. No[w] it’s just a speck. You often can’t see it.”
Preserving crime scene evidence is a priority for the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Having crime scene evidence carefully stored and maintained without contamination leads to convictions of the truly guilty, not the truly innocent.