Forensic DNA testing has come to the rescue of Fredrick Peacock who was convicted of rape thirty years ago, before the advent of DNA testing. Peacock is just one of several hundreds of Americans who have been exonerated from convictions of crime thanks to DNA tests. The New York Innocence project helped out Peacock by taking up his case. His plea of innocence has fallen on deaf ears for decades up until the Innocence project came to his rescue.
Peacock allegedly raped his 24 year-old neighbor in 1976, New York. He was found guilty of rape yet always maintained that he was innocent. His parole in 1982 still did not find him innocent as DNA testing was still not available and he was again found guilty of rape. Peacock has now served 6 years for rape and has been released. He is 60 years old.
There are many others whose life, just like Peacocks, has been ruined; their name tarnished and their hopes and faith in the legal justice system dashed. What this means is that investigations need to rely more fully on DNA testing practices (sometimes referred to as DNA profiling) and fully make use of any forensic DNA samples found on the crime scene; moreover, they should also keep records of any evidence collected at the crime scene for a given number of years, even if the case has been closed.
The issue remains with re-opening old cases; the process is tedious and requires a lot of work, money and time. Some states, like Kentucky or Alabama, only consent to re-opening old cases if the convict is on death row. There are other issues that would forestall the process. What about if a criminal has given his confession? Would this mean he cannot claim, at a later stage, of being innocent? Setting a time frame within which to ‘make your claim’ to innocence has been introduced in some states.
Excluding those criminals who have confessed from being eligible to make a claim to have their case re-opened has raised issues. Peacock was mentally unstable, suffering from grave mental illnesses and he confessed to the crime, a crime which was later proved he did not commit. Under the pressures of police interviews and interrogations and in light of mental illnesses, fear and confusion, it seems unfair to ban those who have confessed from having their case re-investigated. Studies have in fact been used as an argument for doing away with the law that does not allow criminals who have confessed to have their case reopened. These studies have shown confessions cannot be relied upon.
Holding DNA records and evidence used in police investigations after the case is concluded is important. The reasons for this are that if forensic DNA profiling can exculpate an innocent convicted criminal it can aid in finding who the actual crime perpetrator is. There are many criminals who have gone unpunished and innocents who have been wrongly convicted. If an innocent is incarcerated, conversely, it means a guilty one is free. DNA testing is crucial, indispensable tool in crime solving and saving DNA records is mandatory to improve the judicial system, making it more dependable and less likely to make mistakes.