For wrongly convicted felons, improved DNA testing has increasingly provided the means by which innocence is proved and freedom from incarceration secured. A recent study of 328 criminal cases and subsequent exonerations over the past fifteen years found that DNA evidence contributed to 145 of those exonerations, and, moreover, that DNA evidence helped free inmates in 88 percent of the rape cases in the study. Former Governor Ryan of Illinois made national headlines when he commuted the death penalty sentences of 167 inmates because new evidence revealed that many on death row were innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. DNA testing has applicability well beyond criminal law, however. Improved genetic testing is changing how we define "traditional" families. While res judicata and estoppel principles have long been used to preserve the unitary, nuclear family, some states are moving away from these doctrines in favor of biological paternal certainty. Thus, if a man is not the biological father of a child-and was either uncertain or unaware of this biological fact-he may petition to "disestablish" patemity. These disestablishment petitions represent the emergence of a new family law phenomenon-paternity fraud. Many men who have either been adjudicated fathers or who have voluntarily acknowledged their paternal legal status are now challenging the propriety of those legal determinations because genetic testing subsequently revealed their nonpaternity. A grassroots movement is underway to exonerate these innocent fathers from the "bonds of parentage." Likening newly discovered evidence of nonpaternity to DNA testing that exonerates a felon, the U.S. Citizens Against Paternity Fraud website includes the motto, "If the Genes don't fit, you must acquit."'
Melanie B. Jacobs,
When Daddy Doesn't Want to Be Daddy Anymore: An Argument Against Paternity Fraud Claims,
Yale J.L. & Feminism
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlf/vol16/iss2/3