When a Gilbert, Az., police detective interviewed John Watkins as a suspect in a 2003 rape investigation, his message to Watkins was clear, says the Arizona Republic. “There was DNA recovered,” the detective told Watkins. “What I'm getting at is: DNA is black and white.” It took nearly seven years for that DNA to be tested – years Watkins spent in prison.
Last month, Watkins was released in part because the test results showed the DNA did not belong to him. Police and prosecutors are not convinced they charged the wrong man, and they now insist that DNA evidence is not “black and white,” but more a shade of gray. Watkins' release, which came after his case was put under a microscope by the Arizona Justice Project, has rekindled the debate over police interrogation tactics and whether DNA testing is an infallible criminal investigative tool. The case involved a 48-year-old Gilbert woman who was raped in public while walking at night with a friend. Recent testing showed that Watkins did not contribute the male DNA recovered from the victim, said the Arizona Department of Public Safety's lab. Watkins, now 27, has registered as a sex offender as part of his lifetime probation for child-pornography materials investigators found in his parent's home. The discovery of the pornography was what led investigators to identify Watkins as a suspect in the assault, which took place in his neighborhood. There is little physical evidence left that connects Watkins with the crime.