Turning a Blind Eye to Misleading Scientific Testimony: Failure of Procedural Safeguards in a Capital Case


In September 1999, Robin Lovitt was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder of a pool hall manager in Arlington, Virginia. The DNA evidence that was a key part of the government’s case was presented in a misleading and unfair manner. In this case study, we first examine the way in which DNA evidence was misused. We then discuss the failure of the legal system at all levels to recognize and remedy this problem. Our goal is to explain how a system that supposedly leaves no stone unturned in capital trials managed to miss or ignore a crucial problem with the scientific evidence that supported the conviction. We argue that the Lovitt case is indicative of systemic problems with the use of scientific evidence that could affect the fairness of criminal trials nationwide and we suggest legal and institutional reforms that may help minimize the risk of similar problems in the future.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure

Date of this Version

September 2006