Letting Innocence Suffer: The Need for Defense Access to the Law Enforcement DNA Database
57 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2014 Last revised: 12 Jan 2018
Date Written: February 19, 2014
Law enforcement has gradually amassed a sizable DNA database that holds considerable promise for solving cold cases and identifying suspects. The Supreme Court has blessed this effort, allowing investigators to include profiles of arrestees as well as convicted persons in the database. At present, though, law enforcement has a near monopoly on use of the DNA database, leaving defendants at the whim of the law enforcement officials who control access to this tool. Legal scholars have alternatively praised and decried the database, but none has examined its prospects for proving defendants’ innocence post-conviction. This Article fills that void by identifying a limited due process right to defense-initiated DNA database searches. The Article argues that the database is a powerful truth-promoting tool that should be available to law enforcement and defendants alike. Because legislators have failed to promote the search for actual offenders through statutory rights of access, this Article presents the constitutional authority for defense-initiated searches to vindicate the rights of innocent defendants.
Keywords: DNA, Wrongful Convictions, Criminal Procedure, Innocence, Forensic Science
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation