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Connecticut Law Allows More Convicted Individuals to Challenge Prior Forensic Evidence

Forensic science is always evolving and now Connecticut law is evolving with it. A new law in our state authorizes convicted individuals to request a new trial based on newly discovered DNA or other forensic evidence at any time after a conviction. In the past, defendants only had three years during which they could request a new trial for this reason. The new law eliminates the time limit, acknowledging that discoveries that challenge prior forensic evidence fields and techniques can occur years after a trial.

Circumstances Warranting a New Trial

There are different ways that new evidence can lead to a new trial in Connecticut. First, if new DNA evidence or any other scientific evidence related to the crime arises, a defendant can request a new trial in order to use the newly discovered evidence in their defense. This can include evidence of mistaken identity, evidence proving an alibi, and more.

In addition, defendants can present new evidence that refutes or questions the reliability of forensic evidence used against them in the first trial. For example, if a prosecutor obtains a conviction largely based on certain scientific evidence and new research emerges proving that line of science is questionable or invalid, the defendant should have the opportunity to question the prosecutor’s evidence in front of a jury.

Why It’s Important

Forensic evidence tends to be extremely persuasive to a jury. After years of watching crime shows such as CSI that glorify forensic crime labs, some jury members expect that every prosecutor will present DNA, fingerprint, or similar evidence. If a prosecutor does so, many jury members will be inclined to believe it. After all, it is science, right? The major problem with this viewpoint of juries is that science is always changing and is not always as reliable as they are led to believe.

Take blood spatter evidence, for example. Starting in the 1950s, certain people began declaring themselves as experts in examining how blood spattered at a crime scene and interpreting what that blood spatter proved. Courts allowed the testimony of many such “experts,” some of whom only attended a one-week workshop on the subject.  Juries have convicted many people based on blood spatter evidence and related expert testimony. One after another, both federal and state appellate courts ruled that this type of evidence was admissible, despite very little scientific support of its reliability. Finally, in 2009, the National Academy of Sciences released a study that identified major deficiencies in forensic science practices, including the “enormous” uncertainty regarding blood spatter evidence. Similarly, the science behind bite-mark evidence has also been seriously questioned, despite prosecutors relying on such evidence to obtain many convictions.

The new law in Connecticut means that a defendant can request a retrial if new science comes out that refutes evidence used against them, even if it’s decades later. This is highly important to overturn wrongful convictions that juries may have based on flawed science.

Our Experienced New Haven Criminal Defense Lawyers Can Help You

If you’re facing criminal charges in Connecticut, the legal team at Duffy Law is here to assist you. We are experienced in challenging the use of forensic evidence at trial and we defend clients against all types of criminal charges at the state and federal level. Call us at 203-946-2000 or contact us online to schedule your case evaluation today.

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Felice Duffy
Attorney at Duffy Law
Attorney Felice Duffy served as an Assistant United States Attorney for ten years after beginning her legal career at two prestigious firms (one in CT and one in NY) and then clerking for two federal judges. A life-long Title IX advocate, she brought a legal action under the then-new Title IX statute against UCONN while an undergraduate to compel the creation of its women’s varsity soccer program. She went on to become a first-team Division I All-American, was selected to be on the first U.S. National Women’s Team, and spent 10 years as Head Coach of the Yale women's soccer team. Attorney Duffy has Ph.D. in Education/Sports Psychology and has spoken to, and conducted trainings for, over 50 schools and organizations on a wide range of topics involving athletics, the law, and social justice. You can reach Felice at (203) 946-2000.
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