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DNA Mishandling and Convictions

Mishandling of DNA led to Wrongful Conviction

The mishandling of DNA evidence has led to a change in how the forensic evidence of Nevada prisoners is handled once they enter the state’s Department of Corrections. DNA swabs are now matched against all cases whether they are solved or unsolved. Officials hope this requirement will help uncover instances in which prisoners have been sentenced due to inaccurate results from this forensic testing.

After a robbery in 2001, Dwayne Jackson and his cousin Howard Grissom were accused of participating in a robbery. Police obtained DNA from the scene and matched it against samples from the two men; however, the samples were mislabeled at the crime lab. This resulted in Jackson being arrested for the robbery. He pled guilty in order to obtain a reduced sentence later that same year.

In 2008, his cousin was arrested for kidnapping, rape, and attempted murder in the state of California. At that time, his DNA was submitted to a federal database which also included evidence from the 2001 robbery. As a result, it was discovered that Grissom was actually the perpetrator rather than Jackson. Unfortunately, Jackson had already served his sentence in full five years prior to this discovery.

Had this evidence been checked against all crimes in the system, the mistake could have been discovered much earlier. That’s because Grissom had also served time on unrelated robbery charges in Nevada before his arrest in California. Nevada prison officials now scan all DNA evidence against solved and unsolved crimes in the hopes that wrongful incarcerations can be discovered much sooner.