Appellant’s conviction was reversed by military appellate court because of the government’s failure to connect the DNA evidence to the appellant!

DNA evidence can make or break a case.  In a recent unpublished case, United States v. Hinojos, the Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals (N-MCCA) reversed an appellant’s court-martial conviction and authorized a rehearing because the military judge erred in allowing unauthenticated DNA evidence to be presented by the government.  This court-martial was based on sexual assault charges.  The government in this court-martial had an expert witness testify that the DNA evidence found on a buccal swab matched the DNA evidence found in the alleged victim’s underwear.  However, the government failed to link the DNA evidence to the appellant.  In other words, the government never presented evidence to show that the buccal swab contained appellant’s DNA.  The N-MCCA held that the military judge erred when he allowed the expert witness to testify about the DNA evidence when the government had failed to lay the foundation to show that it was connected to the appellant.  This may seem obvious to many readers, but in a complex trial, it may not be obvious.  In fact, it is highly important that a defense counsel recognize that an objection must be made at the court-martial level in circumstances like these in order to preserve this issue for appeal later.  If the defense counsel had not objected at the right times during this appellant’s court-martial, this issue may have been waived and not preserved for appeal.  DNA evidence is complicated and you need the right advocate by your side to understand its significance and to be ready to object at the appropriate moments during your court-martial.  Additionally, if you want to appeal an issue relating to DNA from your past court-martial, you need an advocate who has a lot of experience with military appeals.  I have that experience.  If you or your loved one is facing a court-martial or wants to appeal his court-martial, call now and we will talk through the evidence together.  To speak to an experienced court-martial and military defense attorney, call Bill Cassara at 706-860-5769 for a free consultation.

William E. Cassara- Military Law Attorney

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