I'm wondering what was the first Idaho criminal court trial that admitted DNA evidence and led to defendant's conviction?

The only thing I found is the following but the defendant pleaded guilty in that case.

State of Idaho v. Horsley; May 1988; DNA evidence admitted in rape case. Defendant convicted. (LifeCodes)

Thank you!

1 Answer 1


State v. Todd Horsley, 117 Idaho 920, 792 P.2d 945 (Idaho 1990) is the first reported appellate case in Idaho involving DNA evidence (which was only a conditional plea bargain, reserving the appellate issue of the admissibility of the DNA evidence). The trial court judge was James R. Michaud in a trial in Bonner County. The conditional plea was entered sometime between February 8, 1988 and May 10, 1988, followed by an appeal to the Idaho Supreme Court argued on April 5, 1989 (the opinion contains a typo that in one instance states that the oral argument was on April 5, 1988 rather than April 5, 1989). The ruling was delayed due to the death of one of the justices who heard the oral argument and the resignation of another justice who heard to oral argument. The ruling was deferred until those two vacancies were filled and was made by the full reconstituted court on the basis of the briefing and a recording of the oral argument that was conducted on April 5, 1989.

Another early appellate case involving a plea bargain was State of Idaho v. Roy R. Garcia, 126 Idaho 836, 892 P.2d 903 (Idaho App. 1995). This case was charged as a rape case with DNA evidence, but downgraded to a battery conviction in connection with a plea bargain entered mid-trial during a trial commenced on October 12, 1993 after two previous continuances were granted on speedy trial grounds. The court of appeals held that the speed trial objection was waived by the plea bargain.

The first reported appellate case involving DNA evidence where the defendant was convicted following an evidentiary trial on the merits (in this case to a jury) was State of Idaho v. Gene Allen Faught, 127 Idaho 873, 908 P.2d 566 (Idaho 1995). The jury trial took place in March of 1994 and involved the defendant's alleged rape of his fourteen year old step-daughter (a conviction affirmed on appeal with the admission of the DNA evidence upheld as proper). The trial court judge was Judge George D. Carey presiding over a trial in Ada County.

The underlying trial in the appellate case State of Idaho v. Robert Andrew Amerson, 129 Idaho 395, 925 P.2d 399 (Idaho App. 1996), however, commenced September 13, 1993 in Lincoln County before Judge Phillip M. Becker, and resulted in a conviction for the crimes of rape and robbery. The convictions were affirmed although the sentence was modified on appeal. This conviction took place in the trial court about six months before the conviction in Fraught.

It is possible that there was an earlier case than either of these two cases in Idaho that did not result in an appeal because the defendant did not appeal the conviction. There is no good database with that kind of information, other than media reports. Unreported appellate decisions are also not always available. But given the novelty of DNA evidence at the time, the severity of the kind of charges typically proven with DNA evidence in its early days, and the right of a defendant to an appeal at state expense on a novel legal issue, it is fairly unlikely that the appellate cases listed overlook a trial court conviction following a trial that was based upon DNA evidence in Idaho.

I included the full name of the defendant in these cases and other information not customarily mentioned in a summarized case report or citation in order to assist in the search for additional media reports, even though customary citation practice is to include only the surname of the defendant in the citation. It is possible that media reports from one of these earlier cases might allude to earlier cases where there was a conviction that was not appealed.

  • 1
    Interesting fact of the day: the very first use of DNA evidence in a criminal investigation anywhere in the world was to exclude and clear a suspect despite him confessing to murder. Richard Buckland is a very fortunate (and innocent) man.
    – user35069
    Mar 14, 2022 at 21:36
  • 1
    @Rick There is a strong inference based upon the plea that the DNA evidence against Roy R. Garcia was not conclusive either.
    – ohwilleke
    Mar 14, 2022 at 21:41
  • Typo curse? "...in one instance states that the oral argument was on April 5, 1988 rather than April 5, 1988."
    – phoog
    Jun 19, 2023 at 13:21
  • @phoog Fixed. Thanks. And, yes, I am definitely a victim of the typo curse.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 19, 2023 at 14:14

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