The Crimes of Crime Labs

In November 2005, a man was convicted in New York City for a thirty-two-year-old rape. The circumstances were quite unusual, even for cold cases. The original 1974 trial had ended in a hung jury, and the defendant had jumped bail before his scheduled re-trial. He was apprehended in 2004 in Georgia on another charge, and a background check disclosed the open New York warrant. The crucial difference between the 1974 and 2005 trials was DNA evidence recovered from the underpants which the victim wore on the day of the crime, “found stuffed in the files in the Manhattan district attorney’s cold case unit.”

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