But...before you start thinking that DNA,
particularly in the area of suspect identification, is
going to be some kind of magic bullet, take a step
back and focus in on the real world.  While the
science itself is indeed impressive, you've got to
factor in people when you apply forensic science, or
any kind of high technology, to law enforcement.  

There's some fantastic computer information
technology available to police departments that are
still struggling to utilize even a fraction of its
potential.  Sadly, they don't do a great job of even
utilizing that fraction.  When it comes to DNA
technology, you've got the same people
determining the acquisition, use and maintenance of
DNA technology.

This may not be immediately obvious to you, but
the biggest, and most important, benefit of DNA
identification is its ability to protect innocent people
from being wrongly convicted and imprisoned for
crimes they did not commit.  As long as you
maintain high ethical standards throughout your
career, you won't even need DNA to tell you when
you don't have a case.  Unfortunately, there are
some police officers and prosecutors who have
infinite faith in their ability to interrupt evidence any
way they like...if some facts don't fit, ignore
them...if some facts need a little creative
manipulation, that's okay too.
The three young men named as suspects in this
case were fortunate enough to come from families
who could afford to hire "real" attorneys who were
willing to expose the corruption of one in their own
profession. Ironically, the only reason DA Nifong
arbitrarily targeted the three men was because they
came from what many would consider a position of
social privilege.  The proof of this was in the fact
that these hapless "suspects" had none of the
usual civil rights activists and organizations coming
to their support.

...DNA saved them

It's a scary thought to think about what could have
happened if this case had ever gone to trial.  It's
not a leap to believe that this prosecutor would
have attempted to permanently conceal the true
DNA results as inconclusive.  Fortunately, that did
not happen, and the DNA saved them.

While DNA identification can be applied to many
different types of crimes, you'll find that rape and
sexual assault investigations will routinely rely on
the benefits of DNA identification for obvious
reasons.  However, keep in mind that while the DNA
identification is a very important part of the
investigation, it is only one part, and it can be

In the example of the Duke Rape Case, it's obvious
that the alleged victim had experienced recent
vaginal intercourse with four different men.  DNA
testing can establish that intercourse occurred, but
it cannot determine if the intercourse was the result
of rape...that's what a police investigation must
determine through a comprehensive and competent
investigation.  In the Duke Rape Case,
comprehensive and competent were never parts of
the equation.

When you begin your police career, you should
soon observe that evidence comes in many forms.  
In most instances, forensic evidence, e.g. DNA;
firearms, fingerprints, etc., will only confirm or
support conclusions already derived from other
aspects of your investigation.  When the forensic
evidence refutes a conclusion, it gives you the
opportunity to change or expand the direction of
your investigation.  At some point, when all the
parts fit together, you've solved your crime, and
you'll be prosecuting the right person(s).
In 2006 Michael Nifong, the Durham, NC, District
Attorney, for his own political gain at the expense
of three totally innocent young men.  The national
media's attention was initially drawn to the case,
because three white Duke University Lacrosse
players were accused of violently raping and
sodomizing a young African American exotic dancer
at an off campus party.

After a quick Grand Jury Indictment was obtained,
where interestingly no transcription of the
proceeding was recorded, the District Attorney's
case almost immediately began to fall apart.  To the
media's credit, it stuck with the story.  Of course, it
was too good to pass up.  About three months into
the drama, the District Attorney's totally
manipulated photo identification of the suspects
was revealed.  While the judges in Durham sat on
their hands, calls went out to the State Attorney
General to enter the prosecution which the District
Attorney was determined to take to trial.

For a very long time the TV prosecutor pundits
extolled the virtues of the criminal justice system
insisting that the prosecutor must have something
everyone was missing, and everything would be
sorted out at trial.  It was obvious none of them
had ever faced a wrongful prosecution where sex,
race, rape and politics would be merged into one big
activist agenda sitting like the 800 pound gorilla in
that court room.

Early on everybody talked about DNA.  I don't think
anyone will ever know exactly when the District
Attorney knew the DNA results would exonerate the
suspects.  When the DA's attempts to conceal the
results from defense lawyers were revealed, he
simply dropped the rape charges leaving charges of
kidnapping and other sexual assaults intact.  He
knew that DNA from four different men were inside
the alleged victim; however, the DNA did not match
the suspects or any of the other 43 young men at
the party.

Finally, after nine months of this absurd
non-investigation and prosecution, the State
Attorney General set the best and brightest from
his office to the task of saving the North Carolina
Criminal Justice System.  After another three
months, the Attorney General announced that the
suspects were "innocent."  The pundits fell all over
themselves at the pronouncement, because a
declaration of innocence from a prosecutor was
unprecedented.  But...what choice did he have?  
The Attorney General was already about six months
behind the curve, before he acted.  DA Nifong's
absurd and outrageous prosecutorial misconduct
had made the "innocent" pronouncement, versus
the standard "insufficient evidence" tag, a matter of
politics rather than justice.  It worked well...the use
the innocent label prevented continuing criticism,
and the Attorney General received praise despite his
office's long period of inaction.

The North Carolina Bar Association even saw the
wisdom in dumping one of their own, and they
acted quickly to disbar their rogue brother.  Of
course, neither the Attorney General, nor the Bar
Association, saw any need in identifying and
disciplining any of DA Nifong's deputies who aided
their boss either overtly or by negligently ignoring
his misconduct.  To be sure, the Durham Police
Department was part of the problem, but, in this
case, you couldn't have gotten to any bad cops
without first going through some more bad lawyers.
Deoxyribonucleic Acid
Every police academy in the nation should include in
its curriculum an in depth examination of the Duke
Lacrosse Rape Case:
"When the forensic evidence refutes a
conclusion, it gives you the opportunity to
change or expand the direction of your
investigation." ~ Barry M. Baker
The implications of DNA evidence processes and
techniques on law enforcement cannot be
overstated.   The speed with which scientific and
technological advancements are occurring is mind
boggling.  There's no question that we're living in a
time like no other.
Copyright © 2019  Barry M. Baker