Criminal Records Checks | Are Our Juries Used As A Substitute For Evidence?
How do I get convicted for something I haven't done
If you get arrested in the UK and in many parts of the USA too, then you will almost certainly have to submit to your DNA being taken and entered onto the database. You don't have to be charged with anything for this to happen and it doesn't matter what you were arrested for either. Once your DNA profile is on the database it will be searched for matches and if one turns up then you are in a lot of trouble whether you committed a crime or not. Remember that the police only need "probable cause" to lawfully arrest you and that can mean that they don't have much more than suspicion.
Throw the rapists and murderers into prison
I would like to think that all of the convictions obtained in this way have been sound and we can all sit back and look on this as a job well done with more criminals behind bars. There is one recent case however, involving a friend of mine, that has given me cause to doubt this. It has in fact terrified me because it demonstrates just how easy it is for any one of us to get convicted and sent to prison for something that you did not do.
I'm sure that there are now many more bad people in prison as a result of these new technologies. You often hear of cases where the defendant had a string of prior offenses similar to the one they are currently accused of or where eye witnesses remember the person. There are also cases where factual evidence and motive lead you to believe that the guilty verdict is the right one.
But what if there is no evidence?
What if the only evidence in say a rape case, is a DNA match? At best, a DNA match proves that sex took place within 72 hours of the sample being taken. What if the defendant has no prior convictions for any offence and convincingly argues that he has no memory of committing an offence?
What if the police have already destroyed all the other evidence, including the alleged victim's clothing and hair from bushes. Destroyed to save space in the evidence store would you believe?
What if the defendant has never been identified as the attacker by anyone and all the prosecution witnesses contradict the alleged victim on most of her account of the event? The alleged victim was an alcoholic and a drug addict. Not the most reliable of witnesses.
What would you do if you were the prosecution?
If you were responsible for the prosecution case in this instance what would you do? Would you accept that there is no evidence to suggest that the defendant is guilty of any crime? Indeed there was no real evidence that a crime was committed at all by anyone so would you drop the case or would you take it to court and expect an unqualified jury to decide? Decide on what You might ask. If there is no evidence then what is the jury supposed to do?
This could happen to you
This story might seem absurd and unbelievable to you as it did to me but this is exactly what happened to a friend of mine. The same thing could happen to you or I just as easily. He has no memory of the event which happened 16 years earlier and is quite sure that he would have remembered committing such a crime.
All 12 jurors in this case decided that he was guilty of the crime beyond all reasonable doubt. How can that happen when there is no evidence? Perhaps they assumed that if there was absolutely no proof whatsoever and the police still believe that he did it then they must know something that the jury could not be told for some legal reason. Just a theory, what do you think?
How do I avoid giving up my DNA?
My friend was forced to give up his DNA when he was arrested for a misdemeanor where no charges were brought. Regularly checking for arrest warrants is one way that you can reduce your chances of getting arrested and having your DNA sampled. You can do this inexpensively using a public records web site. If you have an outstanding arrest warrant and you give yourself in voluntarily then you are much less likely to be arrested and find yourself on the DNA register.
Author: Steve Gee