Evidence

Innocent man jailed 2 months in rape case; DA blames DNA label 'clerical error'

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An innocent man was charged and jailed for two months in a sexual assault case because of a “clerical error” in labeling a DNA sample from a rape kit, the Colorado district attorney’s office in charge of prosecuting the case says.

However, “the district attorney wants to make clear that this wasn’t a DNA error. There’s nothing wrong with the database,” spokeswoman Lynn Kimbrough of the Denver district attorney’s office tells the Denver Post. “The integrity still stands. The science behind the DNA evidence still stands. For lack of a better term, this was the result of a clerical error.”

After Shawnnon Hale was arrested on Dec. 5, another DNA sample was taken from the 24-year-old for confirmation. On Feb. 3, the test result showed that it did not match the DNA sample, labeled as Hale’s, from the victim’s rape kit, Kimbrough explained. It is not clear from the Denver Post article whether an earlier sample of Hale’s actual DNA was incorrectly labeled as being part of the rape kit, or whether an actual rape kit DNA sample that didn’t match Hale’s was incorrectly labeled as being his DNA.

The day after the test result from the “confirmation” DNA sample was available, the DNA’s office was notified and “we immediately had him released,” Kimbrough said, adding: “As far as we know, this was just a one-time occurrence that was thankfully identified so that an innocent man could go free.”

Hale, who insisted he was innocent from the outset of the case, spent two months in jail before the mistake was discovered. He said Wednesday that he plans to sue, the newspaper reports.

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