Jury Deliberating in Cold-Case Rape Trial

DNA led to the arrest of a California man after a sexual assault had gone cold for the past twenty years. DNA collected from the scene was matched to a Lenny Ray Friou who was subsequently arrested in San Francisco and then extradited to West Palm Beach where the rape allegedly occurred. No bail was set for Friou who allegedly raped the 18-year-old woman in 1998. Friou has pleaded not guilty to the charges and a jury will return the verdict sometime next week.

The project to investigate rape kits began in 2015 as police went through a backlog of over 1500 evidence boxes that ostensibly led to rapists.

Does DNA Evidence Sometimes Get it Wrong?

The endless barrage of procedural police shows leads us to believe that DNA is an irrefutable piece of scientific evidence that connects a perpetrator to a crime. But it isn’t. The evidence is only as good as those who are doing the interpreting. While Friou may very well be guilty of the crime he is accused of committing, that isn’t true for all those behind bars. And DNA evidence may be to blame for their false incarceration.

One of the largest public forensic laboratories in Texas, The Houston Police Department Crime Laboratory handles around 500 cases a year. The majority of these cases are rapes and murders. Evidence collected subsequent to a rape is placed into a rape evidence kit where it can be later used to run searches. These searches have a database of DNA markers in them and if they return a match, it triggers a hit in the computer. That is how Lenny Ray Friou was found.

Let’s look at a similar situation, however. Let’s say that DNA is found at a crime scene or in a rape evidence kit and then compared against a sample that is recovered from a suspect. A survey of analyses on DNA evidence showed that Houston lab techs consistently bungled the process and produced false results that never seemed to fail to benefit the prosecution.

In one case, a woman accused a 16- and a 19-year-old of abducting her from a parking lot and then driving her around the city. The pair, she claimed, had taken turns raping her. When she saw two men who fit the profile walking down the street, she reported it was those two men precisely who had perpetrated the crime. DNA evidence corroborated that claim. This was despite the fact that both young men had alibis and that they did not match the victim’s original description.

Based on the DNA evidence, however, the two were found guilty and sent to prison for the crimes of forcible rape, kidnapping, and more. In these cases, the laboratory tech tasked with determining that there was a match ruled that because the samples were close, they matched. But DNA samples are supposed to be identical—not close.

Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney

If you’ve been accused of a serious crime and DNA evidence is presented, you need an attorney who understands the correct process of testing DNA and get faulty evidence thrown out. Talk to the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at the Skier Law Firm today.

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