DNA Evidence Pioneer

In his 20 years of working for New York City’s criminal justice system, Judge Alvin Yearwood ’83 has seen his
air share of cretins and crime fighters. But, he considers his volunteer duty with the Bronx County District Attorney’s Office some of his most important work. He prosecuted rapists and child abusers in the Domestic Violence/Sex Crimes Bureau and helped pioneer the use of DNA evidence.

“The use of DNA was in its infancy in New York, but we did a lot of cases using DNA evidence,” Yearwood says. “For instance, a case prosecuted in New York involved a person known as the Citywide Rapist. Over a nine-year period, he robbed and raped women in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Westchester. The only evidence that we had linking him to all the crimes was DNA. This guy was on a nine- or ten-year-long crime spree after having been released from prison for robbery in 1990.”

Yearwood was appointed New York City Criminal Court Judge in 2003 and is now acting justice in the Bronx County Supreme Court Criminal Division. He uses some of his discretion to help inner-city youth avoid punishment that could lead to a life of crime. His experience growing up as an African American in Brooklyn gives him insight into this at-risk population.

“There are times when I have young defendants come in front of me who do not have a criminal record. They did something stupid,” he says, explaining that he works with the defendant’s lawyer and the prosecuting DA to fashion a remedy such as community service that will help them avoid jail.