Dec 8, 2009

Doubts on DNA evidence let convicted rapist walk free

EVEN at his lowest point, when he was locked in his cell at Victoria's Loddon Prison, trying to take his mind off the next six years he would be spending there, Farah Jama always believed the truth would clear his name.

The then 21-year-old had gone from finishing his Year 12 exams at a school in the northern suburbs of Melbourne to being charged, convicted and sentenced, solely on DNA evidence, for the rape of a 40-year-old woman found unconscious at a nightclub.

"I knew that the truth always will come out one day, everybody will see that I am innocent," he said yesterday after being freed on bail two weeks ago. "I used to work out, . . . trying to keep my mind busy but sometimes, you know, you always going to think I haven't done this, why I am here."

Yesterday the Court of Appeal quashed his rape conviction, after he spent 18 months in jail, after prosecutors admitted forensic officers had bungled his DNA sample and they could not "exclude the possibility" of contamination.

This case is the latest in a string of examples where DNA testing by authorities has been proven to be flawed, leading to chief crown prosecutor Jeremy Rapke last month ordering all criminal cases involving DNA in the last five years to be re-examined.

The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine yesterday announced it had launched a investigation into the case, hiring retired Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent, but still maintained "the contribution of any particular factor to the wrongful conviction is a matter of speculation at this point".

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