Dna Use in Death Penalty Decisions

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The death penalty is a punishment that has been in use by many countries and societies for centuries. This seemingly primitive style of punishment is still in use in the United States by many states, although it is not a punishment handed out lightly. Unfortunately, wrongful convictions do happen and if that person ends up on death row, they enter a race to prove their innocence. In the mid 1980’s DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) was introduced as a way to positively identify people and it made its first appearance in a forensic investigation in short order. DNA gave investigators, prosecutors, and defendants another tool to help prove guilt or innocence. Death penalty cases are special in the sense that another human beings life is actually on the line, and the importance to get things right is of the utmost importance. DNA, when it is applicable, is a very valuable tool when compared to a known source, which can place a specific person at the scene of a crime to secure a conviction. On the other side of the spectrum, DNA evidence can be used to exonerate a person that has already been convicted. So far with the use of DNA evidence, 314 people have been exonerated after conviction, 18 of those were people who served time on death row (Innocence Project Fact Sheet, 2014). The purpose of this paper is to discuss the ethics behind the use of DNA in death penalty cases, starting with a brief history on the death penalty, and then a history on DNA. King Hammaurabi of Babylon established the first documented case of the death penalty in the 18th Century B.C. During that time, the death penalty listed 25 different crimes that were then punishable by death. (Introduction to the Death Penalty, 2014) Although this marks the first known time period where crimes were punishable by death, the establishment only marked the beginning. The death sentence was the
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