Copyright (c) 1995 University of Nebraska
Nebraska Law Review
Articles: DNA Evidence in Criminal Trials:
A Defense Attorney's Primer
74 Neb. L. Rev. 444
Richard A. Nakashima *
Over the last six years, forensic DNA analysis has become increasingly important in criminal trials. In early cases, defense attorneys were often overwhelmed by the technical aspects of DNA evidence. This situation was made much worse by the difficulty in finding expert witnesses willing to testify for the defense. Although the latter problem has eased somewhat, it is still the rare defendant who can afford to hire expert witnesses to testify about DNA analysis.
This Article is designed to assist those criminal defense attorneys in the unenviable position of having to challenge DNA evidence in court without the advice of a scientific expert to assist in discovery, pre-trial motions, cross-examination, and trial strategy. It covers the basic science involved in DNA analysis, the history of forensic DNA evidence in criminal proceedings, and some of the strategies used in successful challenges to the admissibility of DNA evidence. The final section provides some sample questions that might be used in attacking the weight of evidence during cross-examination.
II. SCIENTIFIC BACKGROUND
DNA is the genetic material that functions as a blueprint for the body. Whether someone will be short or tall, have blue or brown eyes, or be of Hispanic or Asian appearance is determined by their DNA, half of which is inherited from their father and half from their mother. Almost every cell in the body contains the same content of DNA. 1 For forensic purposes, this means that most tissue samples left at a crime scene, such as ...
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