Criminal Justice

Man sues after DNA sample mix-up put him in jail for 61 days

  • Print

DNA helix

A Denver man has filed a federal suit against Denver crime lab investigators for allegedly mislabeling or mishandling DNA samples in a rape investigation, leading to false accusations against him and a 61-day pretrial stint in jail.

The suit filed by Shawnnon Hale on Dec. 5 claims the misidentification occurred months after he attended a July 2014 party on the rape victim’s rooftop. The woman had passed out during the party and awoke the next morning with her panties off, vaginal pain and no recollection of what happened, the suit says. The Washington Post and the Denver Post covered the suit (PDF).

Hale said he and his friends went to the party at the invitation of the woman, who had joined the group at a bar and extended the invitation. The group went to the woman’s rooftop to watch July 4 fireworks.

When Hale was arrested, crime lab analysts had claimed DNA found on the victim was the same as DNA identified through a criminal database, and it identified Hale. In reality, the suit says, Hale’s DNA matched that on a cigarette butt on the rooftop, but did not match DNA found on the victim.

See also:

ABAJournal: “Innocent man jailed 2 months in rape case; DA blames DNA label ‘clerical error’”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.