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DNA - A Prosecutor’s Practice Notebook Inventory

A Potential Juror's Background with DNA

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Prosecutors must carefully consider whether to seat a potential juror whose familiarity with DNA stems from hearing or reading about exonerations of wrongfully convicted individuals being publicized by the national Innocence Project offices. A potential juror may have one of two perspectives: He or she may view DNA evidence favorably and believe that if it is strong enough to exonerate, then it is also strong enough to convict. Conversely, he or she may have unresolved questions regarding the criminal justice system as a whole and, therefore, not trust the DNA evidence to be reliable.

It is very important, in light of highly publicized exonerations, the impact of the CSI effect on potential jurors, and the ongoing problems plaguing crime labs nationally, that a prosecutor pose voir dire questions so as to elicit whether a potential juror is knowledgeable about the aforementioned issues and what their feelings are about them. It is unfortunate, but some prosecutors are losing cases, not for lack of evidence, but as a result of poor empanelling.

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