Rochester, New York: Frederick Peacock is a free man after 30 years of having been convicted thanks to forensic DNA profiling. Peacock spent 6 years in prison for a crime he did not commit and declared his innocence over and over during his time in prison and after. DNA testing has proved he really was innocent. Peacock is just one of the many hundreds of criminals who have been exculpated from crimes they were originally convicted of.
The Innocence Project, a non-profit litigation and public policy organization based in New York, where the ones who took up Peacocks case and helped to give him back his life as a free man with a clear name. Back in 1976, Peacock was sentenced to prison for rape. His parole 9 years later still found him guilty. The injustice he suffered at the mercy of the legal system means his life has been irrevocably overturned and Peacock is, sadly, just one of many. His name was tarnished for 33 years of his life. DNA testing is today an indispensable tool that must be used in criminal investigations and moreover, forensic DNA evidence used in investigations should be kept in archives for a given period of time.
Unfortunately, DNA forensic testing is not standard in all police investigations. Moreover, forensic DNA sample collection may sometimes shoddy and there are not always the right laws in place. There need to be some legal reforms regarding Forensic DNA collection and DNA tests during investigations. In the US different states apply different laws. 47 states allow the chance for cases to be reopened but variations from state to state sometimes make it difficult or unfair on the convicted criminal.
Some states do not make it possible for criminals who have confessed to their crimes to have their cases re-open. They claim the one cannot go back on their deceleration of guilt. In Peacock’s case this would clearly be unjust. Peacock was mentally unstable and his confession is thus unreliable. Moreover, studies have shown that confessions are not entirely reliable. People may be mentally unstable and not know what they are confessing to, moreover, given the strain most people feel when being interrogated, unreliable confessions should be no surprise. Other states, like Kentucky, allow only criminals on death row to have the case reopened and others apply deadlines within which to ‘make your plea’ of innocence.
DNA testing is a relatively recent advancement in today’s world. DNA profiling and DNA testing to assist criminal investigations need to become a standard when there are cases of rape, murder and other crimes. Moreover, it is important that evidence gathered, including DNA samples, be stored for a given number of years even after the case is apparently concluded. Californian laws dictate that all evidence be kept throughout the entire prison sentence and this should be applied across states.
This step is an important one and should be considered by the judiciary systems in other western countries, even outside the US. DNA testing used as forensic evidence and all material that was used to convict a criminal should be archived by governments. If one person has been wrongly convicted of a crime, the effects are manifold. Not only has one person’s life been ruined, like Frederick Peacock’s, but another person guilty of the crime has been free to live their life.