Recently in — Other Areas of the Law

The DNA Evidence Was Conclusive. But So Was His Alibi.

I recently came across a fascinating article about DNA evidence.  Advances in technology have allowed investigators to scour a crime scene for these invisible identifiers.  The presence of DNA is then presented in court as evidence of the person’s involvement or appearance at the crime scene.  But is the science sound?

In the article by Osagie K. Obasogie, professor of law at the University of California, Hastings, and a senior fellow at the Center for Genetics and Society, the scenario of Mr. Lukis Anderson is presented.  After a wealthy California man was bound, robbed, and left to suffocate to death, investigators looked for DNA evidence under his fingernails.  DNA matching Mr. Anderson’s was found, and he was arrested and charged with murder.  However, Mr. Anderson had been transported by paramedics to a local hospital and was admitted during the time the crime occurred.  With the hospital records, his alibi was airtight.  So how did his DNA wind up at the crime scene?  It was discovered that the paramedics who transported Mr. Anderson earlier in the day were the same ones who responded to the crime scene, and they may have unknowingly transferred Mr. Anderson’s DNA onto the victim.

A similarly bizarre incident occurred in Germany in the late 2000s.  Police there searched for years for a woman whose DNA was found at numerous crime scenes, including on cookies, syringes, stolen cars, and at six murder scenes.  This mystery woman became known as the Phantom of Heilbronn.   A series of inconsistencies in the pattern and nature of the crimes led police to declare in March of 2009 that the Phantom did not exist, and that the DNA likely came from a female factory worker who packaged the cotton swabs used to collect the DNA.

This theory is known as “transference” and is still under investigation.  As the science surrounding criminal investigations continues to evolve, it seems that juries in this country should not find someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based on DNA evidence alone.


Tennessee Lemon Law Questions

Are you having problems with a car that seems to be in the shop more often than not?  You may have heard of such a car being referred to as a “lemon.”  Many states, including Tennessee, have a statute that protects owners of such cars called the Lemon Law (Tenn. Code Ann. 55-24-101 et al).

How do you determine if the Tennessee Lemon Law applies to your vehicle?  First, see if any of the following points apply in your situation:

  • The Lemon Law only applies to new cars.  If your vehicle was purchased used, you may still have certain protections available to you under the terms of a warranty.
  • The car has manufacturing defects that appear during the first year that you own the car.
  • The defects are reported to the manufacturer (or the dealership that sold the car), and they have had three opportunities to repair the defects.
  • The defects have caused your car to be out of service for 30 or more days.
  • The defects substantially impaired your use of the car.  Per the statute, this means that the car was “unreliable or unsafe for normal operation” or has a reduced resale value.

If you believe you have a case under Tennessee’s Lemon Law, contact an attorney to discuss your options.  You cannot file a lawsuit immediately – you have to follow certain steps, including sending notification to the manufacturer, keeping copies of your repair orders, and participating in arbitration.


CALMing Down

Today, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act goes into effect.  Passed by Congress and signed into law in 2010, the law is aimed at preventing those jolting, annoying commercials that can ruin a good nap and force you to scramble to hit the Mute button.

According to the FCC’s website, the new rules requires television stations, cable providers, and satellite providers to limit the average volume of a commercial to that of the program it accompanies.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss), who introduced the legislation, said today on his website that “(t)his is a common sense approach to a problem that plagues individuals across the nation and will create a more enjoyable television experience.”  I suspect this will be good for advertisers, too, because now viewers may actually sit through the commercial in its entirety rather than change the channel.

Instances of suspected noncompliance can be reported to the FCC through an online link.