As a member of this community and reader of the Anchorage Daily News, I have been consistently disappointed with our paper’s reporting on law, politics, and crime. The lead article above the fold in yesterday’s paper was an article about a man charged with murder in a house fire that killed three people. The death of three people, particularly if it may have been intentionally or recklessly caused by someone else, is a tragedy and important news in our community. These events should be reported.
But our paper should aspire to more. For instance, I was in San Francisco last month and had a chance to read the San Francisco Chronicle for a number of days. Rather than restricting itself to local tragedy, the Chronicle also addressed a number of important ongoing conversations in our country about the intersections among law, crime, and politics. An article titled, “How Did innocent person’s DNA get on body?”, is a wonderful example. In that article, the paper described how the DNA of an innocent man was found on a murder victim. The innocent man spent approximately 3 months in jail before the police and local crime lab discovered their mistake and he was let free. The man was actually drunk and unconscious at the time the person was murdered. How could this have happened?
The answer lies in improper sanitation techniques and accidental transference of DNA to another person. Apparently, the paramedics who treated the man at the hospital were also present at the homicide scene. Because they did not properly sanitize themselves after treating the man they took to the hospital they transferred his DNA to the man who was murdered. The innocent man, consequently, was arrested, charged with murder, and spent 3 months in jail. This can have a devastating impact on any person’s life, particularly loss of reputation and employment.
This article raises a number of concerns that our community should address. First, police officers often swab DNA from the inside of someone’s mouth regardless of whether they are a suspect. This DNA is then placed in a database in perpetuity with little or no oversight. This is a concern for at least one obvious reason, that our DNA can be placed at a crime scene through no fault of our own and we can then be charged when we are completely innocent. There is also the concern about implementing policies and regulations that ensure proper cleansing techniques so that DNA or other evidence is not contaminated or transferred from one place to another.
These are issues are just an example of issues other papers are addressing, and issues that the Anchorage Daily News should aspire to address. Perhaps yesterday’s article on arson could have addressed the forensics of how arson works and how experts attempt to reconstruct how the arson was committed and the potential errors that happen when experts try do this? This is just one idea.
If you have been charged with a crime, state or federal, you should contact an Anchorage criminal defense attorney. Criminal convictions affect job applications and can substance abuse treatment. If you have been charged with a drug, theft or other crime, contact the Law Office of Ben Crittenden at 907-771-9002 for a consultation. We will vigorously defend your rights. You can visit our frequently asked questions page or this Blog for more information.