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DNA Experts Exonerate Wrongfully Convicted Indiana Man After 25-Years in Prison

A report by a DNA expert witness was key in clearing an innocent man wrongfully convicted of a 1989 rape allegation.  Late last month the former inmate greeted his family as a free man after spending nearly 25 years in prison for a crime he did not convict when DNA expert witness evidence finally exonerated him.

Indiana Man Freed From Prison with DNA Expert Evidence

In 1991 Darryl Pinkins, now 63 years old, was convicted of a brutal sexual assault on a woman for allegedly being part of a trio of men who bumped their car into the victim’s, pulled her inside their vehicle, and raped her for several hours.  During the trial and investigation Pinkins was identified by the victim as her assailant, and he was convicted despite his repeated claims that he was in bed with his wife on the night of the attack.  During the nearly 25 years Pinkins spent behind bars he maintained his innocence before being finally vindicated by DNA.

In late April, Pinkins was freed from prison and informed that prosecutors would not pursue his case further, meaning his quarter century ordeal is over.  Pinkins was greeted by his 24-year-old son, family, friends, and members of the Innocence Project – the legal aid organization which dedicates its efforts to using DNA to overturn wrongful convictions.  Pinkins has lost his teeth, suffers from diabetes, and developed thyroid disease during his lengthy prison stay, but expressed confidence that this day was meant to be because he knew that he was an innocent man.

The DNA evidence used to earn Pinkins’ release is new technology which is being used by prosecutors and police across the country to identify defendants as guilty parties, and this case is the first to take advantage of the software as a tool for exonerating wrongfully imprisoned individuals.

Darryl Pinkins Exonerated with True Allele DNA Expert Software

For the past 15 years members of the Indiana and Idaho Innocence Projects have worked together to obtain sufficient DNA evidence to free Darryl Pinkins, and a new DNA expert witness software finally provided the opportunity.  True Allele, which faces stiff legal challenges over its source code, is an increasingly popular tool which has refined forensic DNA science by improving the ability to parse out a single person’s DNA from potentially incomplete or mixed samples.  True Allele has gained traction in several eastern states by police and prosecutors who believe the software is uniquely qualified in providing accurate DNA matches which connect suspects to crimes in a way no other DNA analysis tool can.

Up until the Darryl Pinkins case, True Allele has not been used to exonerate wrongfully convicted defendants, but the lawyers and law students of the Indiana and Idaho Innocence Projects saw an opportunity to apply new DNA expert technology to their mission.  Two Innocence Projects DNA expert witnesses used the True Allele software to test the samples gathered from the 1991 crime scene, and prepared a report which informed prosecutors that Pinkins could not have been involved in the brutal sexual assault.  The experts were prepared to testify in a hearing on the matter, but after reading their DNA report, prosecutors decided to vacate Pinkins’ conviction and release him from prison immediately.

The True Allele technology was not available in 1991 when Pinkins was first convicted, but the spread of the tool has given prosecutors cause to utilize DNA expert witnesses to ensure the right defendants are prosecuted for crimes in order to avoid future wrongful convictions.

DNA Expert Preaches the Value of True Allele Software

Greg Hampikian, one of the two DNA expert witnesses hired by the Innocence Project to free Darryl Pinkins, praised the True Allele system for providing the opportunity to improve accuracy of criminal convictions.  Hampikian told reporters that he felt the tool should be used to review all DNA cases in which there were complex samples or inconclusive results by saying, “This technology holds the key not just to answering complex DNA problems, but the literal key to freedom for men like Daryl Pinkins.”  DNA experts like Hampikian believe the use of True Allele has the potential to affect convictions throughout the United States by providing defendants convicted without reliable DNA evidence the opportunity to challenge the legitimacy of their trials.

As True Allele becomes more common of a tool for police and prosecutors, it is not surprising that groups like the Innocence Project will take the opportunity to use the software as a tool to exonerate wrongfully convicted defendants.  While its wide-spread application will take time, the development of True Allele as a tool for exoneration is a foreseeable next step in DNA expert technology.