April 25th is National DNA Day

April 25th is National DNA Day

Today is National DNA Day, which commemorates the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the discovery of DNA’s double helix in 1953. 

In honor of the special day, we are sharing some examples of how DNA testing has impacted the lives of people represented by Georgia Innocence Project, and we are seeking your help in replenishing our Forensic Testing Fund so we can continue utilizing DNA and forensic testing and working with scientists to free the wrongfully convicted in Georgia. 

Six DNA Facts About GIP and Wrongfully Convicted People in Georgia:

  • Calvin C. Johnson Jr. was exonerated with the help of the Innocence Project in 1999 becoming the first person in Georgia to be freed based on post-conviction DNA testing. His story helped inspire the formation of the independent Georgia Innocence Project. 
  • In 2004 in Dekalb County, Georgia, almost 18 years after being wrongfully convicted for sexual assault, post-conviction DNA testing revealed Clarence Harrison was innocent. Then-Dekalb County District Attorney Jeffrey Brickman moved quickly to help vacate the conviction and exonerate Harrison. Jeff now serves on GIP’s Board of Directors and he and Clarence have presented together at area schools about the causes and consequences of wrongful conviction.
Clarence Harrison and former Dekalb County District Attorney Jeff Brickman present together at Dunwoody High School for Wrongful Conviction Day in 2019.
  • In 2009, post-conviction DNA testing revealed that John White was innocent of a brutal sexual assault that he had been convicted of for 27 years. When the unknown DNA profile of the perpetrator was uploaded into CODIS – a federal DNA database that continually cross-references DNA from crime scenes with that of people convicted of serious crimes – it not only revealed the identity of the person who actually committed the crime, it also clearly revealed serious flaws in eyewitness identification procedures. It turns out that months after the crime, the actual perpetrator was by sheer coincidence in jail on unrelated charges and randomly selected by police as a filler in a lineup. The victim selected John White (the police suspect) rather than the actual assailant, even though the latter much more closely matched the victim’s original description of the assailant. 
  • Post-conviction DNA testing secured by GIP and partners revealed the actual perpetrator of crimes in EIGHT different cases. In several of those, the actual perpetrators had gone on to commit additional crimes, including sexual assaults and murders, while the wrongfully convicted person sat in custody. Lessons learned from these cases can and are being implemented by police to help prevent future wrongful convictions. 

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