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The Power of DNA

In 1990, Shellenberger, then a young prosecutor, had Dr. Rudiger Breitenecker’s slides from a rape exam tested for DNA for the first time. The case involved a victim of a brutal rape who had identified the perpetrator as her ex-boyfriend. The ex-boyfriend was arrested and charged and sitting in jail. He insisted on his innocence and pointed to another suspect who looked just like him. 

“Yeah, right,” Shellenberger said he thought at the time. But he agreed to try out the new DNA technology and sent the evidence to the FBI for testing.

The results shocked him; they proved the ex-boyfriend right. The DNA Breitenecker saved from the victim matched the sample taken from the lookalike man, who was also an acquaintance of the victim. Such was the power of the first DNA test in the country to both free the innocent and convict the guilty. 

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