25 New Eng. J. on Crim. & Civ. Confinement 311 (1999)
Commonwealth v. Joseph O'Dell: Truth and Justice or Confuse the Courts--The DNA Controversy

handle is hein.journals/nejccc25 and id is 317 raw text is: OPINION
Commonwealth v. Joseph O'Dell: Truth
and Justice or Confuse the Courts?
The DNA Controversy
Lori Urs*
In criminal trials, advances in Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technol-
ogy have been instrumental in convicting the guilty and exonerating the
innocent. DNA technology in most states has advanced to meet the Frye
standard of general acceptance in the scientific community.' Neverthe-
less, the testing procedures utilized are still being challenged on a case by
case basis.2 Due to the lack of uniformity in testing procedures and proto-
col, laboratories around the country are using their own procedures and
techniques, coupled with independent criteria, for declaring a DNA
match. A report by the National Research Council [hereinafter NRC] in
* Lori Urs is a third-year law student who worked as a paralegal and investi-
gator on the O'Dell case. Through her experience with the case, she gained exten-
sive knowledge of the facts, evidence, and procedural history that are discussed
within this article. Ms. Urs married Joseph O'Dell prior to his execution and as a
result was able to obtain the necessary evidence in order to continue DNA testing.
In the absence of citation to specific documents, the reader should infer that state-
ments are based on Ms. Urs' own experience and knowledge of the case.
1. See Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 (D.C. 1923). The Frye test has since
been superseded by the Daubert standard. See Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharama-
ceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1992) (establishing that Federal Rule of Evidence
702-which states: [i]f scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will
assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a
witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or educa-
tion, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise-supercedes the
Frye general acceptance standard). A number of jurisdictions, however, still
adhere to the Frye test. See Michael Kowalski, Applying the Two Schools of
Thought Doctrine to the Repressed Memory Controversy, 19 J. LEGAL MED. 503,
504 (1998).
2. See Denise A. Filocoma, Comment, Unravelling the DNA Controversy: Peo-
ple v. Wesley, A Step in the Right Direction, 3 J.L. & POL'Y 537, 551-58 (1995).

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