Criminal justice organizations in Texas are looking at thousands of criminal cases that used an outdated method for projecting the chances that DNA left at a crime scene belonged to a particular suspect. Guidelines for calculating those odds were revised nationally several years ago, and Texas lawyers and labs are now starting to review their own cases.
The state already led the nation in exonerating individuals who were wrongly convicted of crimes, and the new guidelines may send those numbers even higher. State courts currently are notifying defendants whose trials may have been affected by the outdated DNA methodology. Individuals who feel their trials may be affected should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney.
The Role of “Mixture DNA”
Mixture DNA includes crime scene evidence that law enforcement officers collect when the DNA of more than one person is present. Bodily fluids and swabs of surfaces can be among mixture DNA collected at a scene. By definition, such DNA includes material from more than one individual.
The change in DNA guidelines relates to calculating the odds that specific DNA belongs to a specific person rather than completely throwing out or re-collecting DNA evidence. In 2010, the national group that formulates guidelines for DNA forensic labs introduced a new method for calculating that probability. According to the new guidelines, crime labs should ensure that data meets certain thresholds before finding it to be conclusive. However, some labs did not change their procedures right away.
Scope of the Current Review
Texas has begun re-testing results from mixture DNA in pending cases and cases in which an individual was convicted of a crime. As a result, a number of cases — possibly tens of thousands — will be up for review. In Tarrant County alone, just one crime lab of the five that are used has identified 3,400 samples that may need to be reanalyzed. Among those cases, charges have been filed in 300 cases. So far, 13 of those defendants have been notified that their cases may be reviewed.
Does your Case Warrant Review?
If you’re involved in a pending criminal case or have been convicted of a crime and believe that your case should be reviewed, it’s wise to work with a qualified criminal defense attorney. To consult with the experienced legal team at the Hill Law Firm today, call (713) 623-8312 or contact us online.