criminal evidence in Las VegasEvidence collected during an investigation can come back to solve crimes years and even decades later. Such is the case in the 1983 rape and murder of 22-year-old Diana Hanson.

While Diana was home from college in 1983, she went running in the late afternoon of December 30. She never returned home. Her body was discovered several miles away. It was determined that she had been sexually assaulted and murdered.

Fast Forward to 2021

Hanson’s murder was considered a cold case until LVPD solved another rape and murder case last month of 16-year-old Kim Bryant in 1979 using new DNA technology. Through DNA evidence collected on Hanson’s body, they were able to connect both murders to now-deceased Johnny Blake Peterson. Police suggest that Peterson may have been responsible for at least five more homicides.

These are just two of the recent cold cases in Las Vegas that have been solved with very small samplings of DNA evidence using new forensic-grade genome sequencing provided by Texas lab Othram, Inc.

The Importance of Evidence in a Criminal Case

Evidence, or lack thereof, can make or break a criminal case, ultimately leading to the perpetrator in these cases or the conviction or acquittal of a defendant. Technology keeps evolving and offering new tools for analyzing old evidence. In these cases, new technology enabled evidence collected from decades ago to be evaluated and analyzed.

In order to convict a defendant of a crime, the prosecution must present enough evidence to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are many types of evidence that can be brought before the court. One is biological evidence, such as the DNA used in these recent cold cases. Biological evidence is collected and then analyzed in a laboratory setting.

Other forms of evidence includes

  • Physical evidence, including a weapon or fingerprints
  • Testimonial evidence, or witness accounts
  • Documentary evidence, or documents that support that a crime has been committed
  • Demonstrative evidence, such as models, objects, or displays used to support the facts of the case
  • Digital evidence, or anything that is retrieved digitally, such as computer hard drive data or text messages and emails

It’s a criminal defense lawyer’s job to cast reasonable doubt on the evidence brought against their client.

When the Prosecution Cannot Use Evidence

Evidence presented by the prosecution is governed by the rules of evidence, and it must be reliable and lawful in order to be admitted in court. Consequently, evidence cannot be used if

  • The prosecution obtained it in violation of the defendant’s rights
  • The defendant was not advised of their Miranda rights while in custody
  • Evidence handling and chain of custody errors were made

The Process of Discovery

Discovery is how the defense and prosecution learn what kind of evidence the other has. During discovery, the defense gets copies of all the investigation and arrest reports and any statements that have been made by any of the prosecution’s witnesses.

The defense team also has the ability to examine any of the evidence that the prosecution plans to introduce during the trial. The prosecution also has the right to examine any evidence held by the defense.

Discovery helps the defense legal team develop a strategy based on the evidence at hand. When both sides understand the evidence the other has, it can promote settlement of the matter before it gets to trial. Consequently, the majority of criminal cases are settled without ever going to trial.

A Charge is Not a Conviction

While being charged with a crime can be frightening for anyone, it doesn’t automatically mean a conviction. Evidence can be used both to the advantage or disadvantage of someone facing criminal charges. Criminal defense attorneys often spend a great deal of their time negotiating the best possible deal for their clients given the evidence at hand. While evidence may cleanly lead to a guilty verdict or acquittal, in many cases it leads to effective negotiation and a plea deal for the defendant.

If you have been charged with a crime in Las Vegas, you may have multiple options open to you. Getting the most experienced criminal defense team possible is key to your best outcome.

Contact our skilled team of Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at LV Criminal Defense at (702) 623-6362 to discuss your charges and defense options.