(CNN)This summer marks 30 years since one of the biggest advances in criminal investigations, DNA profiling, identified a killer.
Every cell within every living creature contains DNA material. That material carries instructions that dictate everything from how tall you’ll be to what diseases you may develop, and it’s unique to you. Forensic scientists can find it in biological material left on a crime scene or body, like hair, saliva or even skin tissue.
On Thursday, Hartford Judge Julia D. Dewey vacated the conviction of Alfred Swinton for the murder of Carla Terry in 1991 and ordered a new trial. Swinton was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
What makes the judge’s decision unusual is that it was supported by State’s Attorney Gail Hardy. The decision is the result, in part, of the increased sophistication of DNA testing in recent years. But it also reflects the willingness of prosecutors in Connecticut to undertake what amounts to a conviction integrity review when presented with substantial evidence of a possible wrongful conviction.
The trail had been cold for years when the FBI announced in 2010 that it had sent crime scene evidence from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to its lab for retesting, hoping advances in DNA analysis would identify the thieves who stole $500 million worth of masterpieces.
But behind the scenes, federal investigators searching for a break in the world’s largest art theft were stymied by another mystery. The duct tape and handcuffs that the thieves had used to restrain the museum’s two security guards — evidence that might, even 27 years after the crime, retain traces of DNA — had disappeared.