A general rule holds that there should be as few persons handling the evidence as possible. Those who have had custody of evidence must be identified. Because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, the chain of custody may be broken or vulnerable to attack. This is especially true if the evidence has been damaged, tampered with, or found to be missing during any period of time which cannot be accounted for.
DNA testing technology has undergone dramatic improvements in recent years. Physical evidence in older cases can be retested using modern techniques to detect DNA evidence. However, evidence is frequently discarded in old cases or the chain of custody is less rigorously protected after the normal appeals process is complete.
Please respond to all of the following prompts in the class discussion section of your online course:
- Do you think that chain of custody issues should be ignored if a convicted felon asks for DNA testing with techniques unavailable at the time of the initial trial?
- Why or why not?
Some district attorneys refuse to pay for new exculpatory DNA testing due to the expense and speculative nature of performing this additional investigation so many years after the original crime was committed.
- Do you think that district attorneys should be compelled to conduct such tests?
- Why or why not?
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