As the years ticked by, few listened as Brown proclaimed his innocence from his cell in the Elmira Correctional Facility. Then Brown got an unusual lucky break. His stepfather’s house burned down, taking with it all of his records from the trial. To replace his documents, Brown submitted an open records request to the county. The sheriff who processed Brown’s request mistakenly sent him the entire investigative file. It revealed another suspect: Barry Bench, the firefighter who discovered Kulakowski’s body. Bench’s brother had dated Kulakowski up until two months before the murder and Bench was reportedly upset that she continued to live in the family farmhouse. On the day before Christmas in 2003, Brown sent a letter to Bench letting him know he was seeking DNA testing. “Juries can make mistakes,” he wrote. But, “DNA is God’s creation, and God makes no mistakes.” Soon after receiving the message, Bench committed suicide by jumping in front of an Amtrak train. DNA tests confirmed that Bench was guilty of Kulakowski’s murder, and Brown was set free.
A 2006 study by the University of Southampton in England asked six veteran fingerprint examiners to study prints taken from actual criminal cases. The experts were not told that they had previously examined the same prints. The researchers’ goal was to determine if contextual information—for example, some prints included a notation that the suspect had already confessed—would affect the results. But the experiment revealed a far more serious problem: The analyses of fingerprint examiners were often inconsistent regardless of context. Only two of the six experts reached the same conclusions on second examination as they had on the first.
A corollary to all this is the notion that an accused rapist can be exonerated years after the fact with a DNA test of the rape kit that was not available at the time. This is nonsense. First, just because the semen doesn't match does not mean the convicted did not rape her. It means that she had sex with someone else (consensual or not) and that there is no evidence that he did not rape her.
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