Ms. Hillary Kessler wrote an exceptional, intriguing and well written paper for Professor Birdsong’s Criminal Justice Administration Seminar last semester. She proposes that there be a Constitutional Amendment to ensure that DNA evidence be allowed at trial to solidify the rights of those accused of crimes.
Read and learn:
How Available DNA Evidence Solidifies the Rights of the Accused: A Constitutional Approach
Hillary Kessler © 2013
In the past twenty-four years, there have been a total of 311 post-conviction exoneration cases that have occurred through the use of DNA evidence in criminal trials. DNA evidence is a relatively new forensic discipline utilized by the criminal justice system. Despite being a newer method of obtaining evidence for or against a criminal defendant, DNA testing has become one of the primary factors used in an attempt to reform our justice system. It has provided scientific evidence that our criminal justice system not only sentences and convicts innocent people, but has also shown that wrongful convictions are not rare or isolated events. This leads me to my purpose in writing this piece in the first place: to illustrate the notion that our nation’s criminal justice system is fundamentally flawed. I aim to propose a constitutional amendment solidifying the rights of the accused by allowing for the use of DNA evidence in post-conviction exoneration criminal trials where its probative value is outweighed by the cost and burden it places on the court.
Our criminal justice system is supposed to take an adversarial approach where people are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 311 wrongfully convicted individuals have proven that our criminal justice system has begun to stray away from this approach. In a nation where governmental structure and laws are supposed to provide stability and comfort to the people; we find we are at a point where we are beginning to lose faith in the capabilities of our leadership. As more exonerations occur, the need for a more legitimate reform proposal is inevitable. Without reform, faith may never be restored in our nation’s criminal justice system.
My position is to propose a constitutional amendment solidifying the rights of the accused by allowing for the use of DNA evidence in post-conviction exoneration criminal trials where its probative value is outweighed by the burden and cost that DNA testing places on the courts. As of right now, it is clear that current legislation does not provide enough of a safeguard to protect those charged in criminal trials from being falsely accused and convicted of a crime they did not commit. I am specifically focusing on post-conviction exoneration cases in order to show the effect that a lack of a uniform and sufficient system of testing DNA can have on the judicial system. In proposing a constitutional amendment solidifying the rights of the accused by allowing for the use of DNA evidence in every post-conviction exoneration criminal trial where its probative value is outweighed by the burden and cost that DNA testing places on the court, the shortcomings of our justice system may be curtailed, possibly indefinitely. I will discuss seven separate causes that contribute to the need for DNA evidence in all post-conviction criminal trials: (1) Improper Identification Of Assailant; (2) Improper Use Of Forensic Evidence; (3) Coerced Confessions; (4) Overzealous Prosecutors; (5) Informants With An Incentive To Testify; (6) Overworked Defense Counsel; and (7) Misuse of the Federal Rules of Evidence.