The Nevada ACLU was shocked to hear that the Las Vegas Metro Police Department (LVMPD) has released a video in which they admit to a DNA sample error which led to the wrongful conviction and 4 year incarceration of a Las Vegas man.

The video, which includes interviews with LVMPD Sheriff Doug Gillespie and the Executive Director of Metro’s forensics lab, Linda Krueger, explains how a “sample switch” led to the wrongful conviction of Dwayne Jackson of robbery in 2001. In short, two DNA samples were collected from two suspects, and these two samples were switched, sending the innocent man to prison and allowing the guilty man to remain free.

This case is a perfect example of why post-conviction DNA analysis is so important. The state of Nevada made a good step in this direction with Assembly Bill 179 during the 2009 legislative session, but Nevada has a long way to go to ensure that timely relief is made reasonably available to any individual convicted based on DNA evidence.

This very serious misstep by LVMPD is also indicative of why the ACLU of Nevada worked so hard during the 2011 session against Assembly Bill 552, a bill which would have mandated DNA collection from felony arrestees before they were even charged with a crime. In addition to its violation of Fourth Amendment standards of privacy, one of our primary practical arguments against AB552 was that the increased amount of DNA collection would come with the increased possibility of human error. Through its own admission, LVMPD has shown that our concerns were founded.

Although AB552 was not passed by the 2011 Nevada legislature, this wrongful conviction case is the type of distorted "exoneration" story that proponent's of DNA collection use to argue the "worthiness" of DNA collection and of the CODIS system as a whole. In fact, proponents of AB552 gave the example of a man who was being held and being prosecuted for a crime until someone else’s DNA was linked to the evidence. But this is fuzzy logic.

"The notion that you need an arrestee database to exonerate someone is complete bunk,” Michael Risher, our colleague from the ACLU of Northern California (and the lead attorney on the ACLU’s case against a similar law in California) recently told the Nevada News Channel. “Exoneration should occur when the crime scene sample is compared to a sample taken from someone claiming he’s innocent, and they don’t match,” Risher said.

We couldn’t have said it better. ACLU members in all states should remain vigilant and actively engaged against these types of DNA collection bills, especially in the wake of a wrongful conviction story such as this.