WNYT.com

Ceremony to mark anniversary of DNA milestone

Posted at: 07/01/2013 5:45 PM
Updated at: 07/01/2013 6:09 PM
By: John McLoughlin



ALBANY COUNTY - These days, the use of DNA is commonplace in criminal cases, especially murder cases.

But few people realize that it all began in Albany County 25 years ago this month, and later this month, a ceremony will be held to mark the anniversary. 

In July of 1988, for the very first time in the state and in the nation, the use of DNA evidence was approved in a murder case and then upheld by the appellate courts, paving the way for what is now routine criminal procedure.

At the time, the cops convinced the prosecutor to try to get DNA from accused murderer George Wesley admitted into evidence.

Wesley was charged with the vicious murder of an elderly and developmentally disabled Albany woman.

The hearings lasted for months, expert witnesses testified, including a Nobel Prize winner, and the late judge Joseph Harris, for the first time, allowed the DNA.

Wesley was convicted and sentenced to 38 years in prison

Sol Greenberg, the DA back then, understood how DNA would change criminal justice, the way fingerprints had once changed it.

While DNA has put away George Wesley and thousands more like him.

Thanks to Judge Harris' ruling, 309 wrongly convicted inmates have been freed so far, thanks to the science.

Later this month, a plaque goes up outside Judge Harris' old courtroom, marking the landmark decision.