TV shows such as CSI make DNA evidence seem unimpeachable. But factor in human error and the results can land a long distance from justice. Just ask Shawnnon Hale, who's just spent the past two months behind bars on a sex-assault charge of which he's wholly innocent, all due to a DNA snafu -- and Denver Police Department admits it. Photos, video and details below.
A DPD notice entitled "Man Released From Jail After Error Found" doesn't name Hale. However, the 24-year-old went public after being freed, speaking to multiple media outlets, including 7News.
The gaffe has been months in the making. According to the DPD, a sexual assault took place on the 1800 block of Arapahoe Street back on July 5, 2014.
The specifics of the crime aren't spelled out, but Hale says he and a group of friends attended a July 4 party at a woman's apartment in that area before leaving together.
As part of the investigation, police ran DNA samples found at the scene -- and Hale scored a hit.
Hence, his arrest on December 5. He says he was taken into custody at his grandmother's house.
Hale remained in stir over the holidays, with weeks stretching into months. Meanwhile, the Denver Police Department notes, a "confirmatory DNA sample was obtained" -- something described as standard procedure. Shortly thereafter, the cops determined that Hale's DNA had been "improperly identified by the Lab Tech;" it had been found at the scene, but it didn't implicate him in the sexual assault.
This discovery triggered a motion-to-dismiss action by the Denver District Attorney's Office. In the end, Hale walked out of the Denver Detention Center 61 days after he took up residence there.
"The Denver Police Department is in the process of a thorough audit to determine how and why this occurred to ensure it does not happen again," the DPD stresses -- and Hale is in the process of helping reinforce this message: 7News points out that he "plans to get an attorney and seek justice."
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We're guessing it won't be a matter of if Hale is ultimately offered a settlement, but how much it'll be. Here's the station's report.
Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.