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Law and Contemporary Problems

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Unwarranted constraints on the admissibility of genetics evidence in death penalty cases can undercut some defendants' efforts to fight their executions. For example, genetics evidence can help validate some traditionally accepted mitigating factors (such as certain psychiatric or behavioral disorders) that can otherwise be difficult for defendants to prove. By imposing unreasonable limitations on genetics arguments, the criminal justice system may be undermining the very principles and progressive thinking the cap on genetics evidence was originally intended to achieve. Part II of this article briefly reviews the facts and legal arguments in Mobley v. State. Part III addresses the primary issues that concerned the court in Mobley, noting that many of the original reasons for the controversy over the potential use of genetics evidence remain the same as they did in 1994. Part IV discusses the twenty-seven key genetics and crime cases occurring between 1994 and 2004, since Mobley spurred the topical dispute. Part V concludes that, contrary to some commentators' warnings during the first Mobley trial, the last decade has not revealed a legally irresponsible application of genetics factors in criminal cases. Rather, courts continue to regard genetics variables skeptically, and society still embraces the same political and moral concerns over the role of such information. At the same time, courts have failed to provide sound and conceptually consistent reasons for denying defendants' offers of genetics evidence.