First Case of DNA Used to Convict in Murder Case Proven to have been Transferred by Mistake

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The use of DNA evidence has become so common and often effective in criminal cases that it has taken on an almost bulletproof quality. But some defense attorneys have argued that the presence of a suspect’s genetic material at a crime scene is not a sure sign of guilt.


Lukis Anderson is proof of that.


In what’s being called the first case of its kind demonstrating the fallibility of relying on DNA evidence, Anderson was freed last year after five months in jail when his lawyer proved that he did not murder Silicon Valley millionaire Raveesh “Ravi” Kumra in November 2012.


Anderson was convicted of the Monte Sereno home invasion murder after prosecutors convinced a jury that the homeless man’s DNA under Kumra’s fingernail was proof positive they had the right man for the crime. The district attorney’s office backed up its case with Anderson’s criminal record, which was nonviolent in nature, although it did include a residential burglary.


But Deputy Public Defender Kelley Kulick, who handled Anderson’s case, challenged the conviction on grounds that her client’s DNA wound up on Kumra’s body by accident.

An investigation by Kulick revealed that on the night of Kumra’s death, Anderson had been treated by paramedics after passing out from drinking too much. During his treatment, Anderson had an oxygen-monitoring probe placed on his finger. That same piece of equipment was used later that evening on Kumra when first responders showed up at his home.


Kulick eventually got her client off and in doing so, helped establish an important new precedent in criminal cases using DNA evidence. “Before, we just had hypotheticals, stuff that DAs would say was smoke and mirrors,” Kulick told the San Jose Mercury News. “Now, there is a case to support it.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Monte Sereno Murder Case Casts Doubts on DNA Evidence (by Tracey Kaplan, San Jose Mercury News)

How Innocent Man’s DNA Was Found At Killing Scene (by Henry Lee, San Francisco Chronicle)


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