India rape prosecutors bank on DNA, despite poor forensic track record

A DNA investigation of bloodstained clothes and body swabs has linked all five men and a juvenile accused in the Delhi gangrape, providing evidence the prosecution claims will be enough to convict them.

Prosecutors say their case will also hinge on cellphone records and on testimony from the dying woman and a male companion who was attacked with her on a moving bus in the Indian capital on Dec. 16.

However, the case against the men may not be open and shut in a country where shoddy forensic practices are one of the chief reasons for a low conviction rate in rape trials.

Delhi gangrape defence lawyers told Reuters they were preparing to reject the forensic findings as fabricated.

They said they would also contend that the case is unsafe because police rushed investigations after an outpouring of popular fury over the attack. Two of the four defence lawyers have said their clients were tortured in custody to make confessions that looked suspiciously similar.

"The statements all read the same. It is like somebody has dictated it to them," lawyer Manohar Lal Sharma told Reuters.

A police spokesman declined to comment on the confessions, saying it was policy not to respond to reported allegations.

"We have no comment to make on media reports. If anything has to be communicated, it will done in the appropriate court," he said. "We are not going to engage in a debate in the media."

Another official said the men had to undergo medical tests in custody and if they were beaten, it would have shown up; and if the lawyers were serious about the allegations, they should approach the court rather than air views in the media.

The defence will also argue that the men were denied legal aid for more than three weeks after their arrest and point to discrepancies in the account given by the woman's friend.

... contd.

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