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Withheld forensic evidence leads to overturned conviction

On Behalf of | Dec 10, 2019 | Post-conviction Relief |

During an Oregon criminal trial, the prosecutor may use forensic evidence against the defendant. Many cases rely on what facts police crime labs can find. But as a recent story shows, people can also face conviction when relevant evidence doesn’t surface.

An Oregon man recently had his conviction overturned due to unreported forensic evidence. The ruling will give the man a new trial with the revealed findings.

Analysts did not report trace amounts of DNA

In 2011, a jury convicted the man of manslaughter. Prosecutors accused him of killing his girlfriend in 2000. The girlfriend’s shoes alerted police to her disappearance. But when they found her body, it was too decomposed to offer them much evidence around her death.

In a forensic test of her shoes, crime lab analysts found trace amounts of a different man’s DNA. But when they presented their evidence to the court, they did not make prosecutors aware of the findings. An advocate group reexamining the evidence eventually discovered the unreported DNA. Because of what they revealed, a judge did a post-conviction relief review and overturned the conviction.

Missing evidence can lead to an unfair trial

While the evidence presented in court can lead to a conviction, withheld evidence can also work against a defendant. If a jury only sees a part of the story, they may not be able to make a fair decision. And an unfair decision can lead to an innocent person facing years in jail.

While a court can’t give someone back time spent in prison, post-conviction relief can let people convicted of a crime introduce new evidence.