Over the past 50 years, advances in forensic science have made it possible for police to solve crimes that would have previously gone cold without the help of things like DNA testing, hair analysis, entomology, and other methods. It’s also brought light to cases that were unsolved for years, including cases that date back to the Civil War. But for all the successful crime fighting forensic science has enabled, it’s also encouraged certain evildoers to commit crimes using inventive new methods — sometimes even recruiting the help of forensics to wield the science as a weapon.
1. Dr. Schneeberger
A South African doctor who couldn’t resist the urge to rape two women, one of which was a family member, used his knowledge of forensics to avoid conviction for almost ten years. Dr. Schneeberger, trained to help and heal his patients, drugged and raped one of them instead. Although the woman was conscious during the unwanted sex, she was immobile. It didn’t help that Schneeberger foiled the DNA test by inserting a tube of someone else’s blood inside of his arm, making sure that the technician was drawing blood from the exact spot in which he had placed it. When the samples didn’t match up, her case was dismissed. Suspicions were raised again, however, when Schneeberger’s own stepdaughter reported that he had raped her multiple times in their family’s home. This time, DNA was taken from Schneeberger’s mouth, blood, and hair. He was convicted but only sentenced to six years in prison.
2. The Potential of Good to be Evil
Through a successful experiment, scientists have discovered that a person with the right knowledge and equipment can completely sidetrack the quest to solve crimes using forensic evidence. Professional equipment was used to extract one DNA profile from a blood sample and plant a completely different one within the same sample, fooling scientists who study DNA during American trials for crimes such as murder. Although a person committing this type of DNA fraud would need access to large and costly equipment in order to successfully switch out one set of DNA for another, it opens up a scary world of possibilities for potential murderers who keep professional jobs in the medical or scientific fields. Even if the criminal doesn’t have access to state-of-the-art technology, planting cigarette butts, cups with saliva on the rim, hair, or other types of DNA evidence at the crime scene can cause grave miscarriages of justice.
3. O.J. Simpson
Although 99% of the world believes OJ Simpson to be guilty of murdering his ex-wife and her friend, one question surrounding the case remains a complete mystery: did two police plant DNA evidence at the scene to try and create a slam-dunk case? Detective Furman, who was ousted as a violent racist during the trials, was accused of planting OJ’s glove at the scene. Additionally, it was proven that Simpson’s blood sample was brought to the crime scene by a police evidence technician, and it was later discovered that the tube of blood only contained 6cc of blood when 8cc had been extracted. Simpson’s blood at the crime scene reflected DNA that had been mixed with EDTA, a substance added to blood taken for DNA testing. Furman pleased no contest to charges against his person regarding this OJ ‘conspiracy’ and is now a convicted felon.
4. Wrongful Conviction is a Crime, Too
Forensic science is critical to solving thousands of crimes, but it’s far from perfect. Just ten years ago, methods of forensic science paled in comparison to the its abilities today. Because of this, many people have been wrongfully convicted and served time for crimes they did not commit. Partial DNA profiles, improperly read DNA and contaminants in DNA samples can all wrongly point to a person’s guilt. Sometimes, the fault doesn’t lie with the technology, but with the technician handling the job. Across the country, there exist medical labs which are backed up with DNA samples and rape kits. Some are understaffed, unable to properly handle the demand for DNA testing. Some places have simply proved inadequate, like the HPD crime lab in Houston, which facilitated the conviction of an innocent man for rape. Although the victim identified her two rapists, a man named Josiah Sutton was the only one brought to trial and ultimately convicted of the rape. The crime lab had incorrectly identified his DNA in a semen sample, and testimony from one technician stated that Sutton was most certainly the attacker based on an ‘exact DNA match.’ Re-testing later completely ruled out Sutton as a suspect. He had served almost five years in prison and was one of thousands of people convicted with evidence from the HPD crime lab, which consequently shut down.
5. CSI Chief Convicted of Planting DNA Evidence
A person of authority and power, CSI director David Kofoed was responsible for carefully collecting DNA evidence which would convince multiple juries beyond a reasonable doubt. With a task as important as that, how could one be so careless as to accidentally contaminate the property of innocent people with ‘evidence’ which would point to their guilt? That’s exactly what Kofoed claimed happened when he planted blood samples in the car of a murder victim’s relative; the use of a contaminated testing kit was likely the reason that Kofoed had haphazardly placed blood in an innocent person’s vehicle, or so his defense claimed. The jury disagreed, and Kofoed was convicted of tampering with evidence. The two victims, a couple who had been shot down, had DNA matching blood found in their nephew’s car. However, this was the only evidence attaching their nephew to the crime and contradicted the rest of the details surrounding the case. Although Kofoed was successfully convicted, the prosecutor’s statement to the media was less than reassuring:
“You might be able to get away with it once or maybe twice or maybe more, but ultimately, the truth will out, as it did in this particular case,” he said.
Twice or more? Those aren’t exactly the words people want to hear when looking to the evidence depended on to decide the fate of a person’s entire life.