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Society

Murderers now better watch their backs!

It was one of those lame Thursdays just before the exams, rainy, cold and the worst thing: No one wanted to go out due to exam preparations (that´s at least what they all said). So I began to zap through the TV program and stopped at CSI where the commonly-known scenes of crime flashed across the screen. DNA collected, analyzed and criminal arrested. But was it really that easy?

In fact a country has a data base with DNAs collected but they never include all DNAs of the people living there. Especially in Germany there are strict rules about the collection of DNA profiles. Every day there are 8200 DNAs collected, but 3000 deleted again.

William Harris explains that the techniques that make it possible to identify a suspect using his or her unique genetic blueprint have only been around since 1985. Since then, DNA evidence has played a bigger and bigger role in many nations’ criminal justice systems. It has been used to prove that suspects were involved in crimes and to free people who were wrongly convicted.

According to David Kaye, in 2003 a new DNA revolution took place. The so called familial searching allows to identify the “mtDNA” to search for partial matches and thereby state if people are relatives. Familial searching increasingly has made headlines in recent years, especially regarding the case about the “Grim Sleeper” in California. The Grim Sleeper was believed to be responsible for ten murders in L.A. since 1985 and the police was finally able to seek him because they occasionally found a partial match from the Grim Sleeper DNA stating that this person has to be either son or father. It got compared to the DNA of a discarded pizza slide and the “Grim Sleeper” got arrested in 2010.

Familial searching is now being performed in parts of the US and the UK. In considering whether familial searching should be implemented in your jurisdiction, it is important to recognize that a relative must already be in the database in order for the search to identify them as a potential relative of the forensic profile.  It should be noted that even if a relative is in the database, it is possible that the relative may not be included in the ranked list produced by the familial search.

Experts claim that using familial searching this could help the police in solving cases by up to 40%. Although it most possibly would, there are some issues about it.

Stephen Merser says that critics argue that the practice puts unsuspecting and law-abiding citizens under genetic surveillance and violates a constitutional right to privacy that shouldn’t be surrendered just because a relative has given up his rights by committing a crime.

And, because the current U.S. databases have a disproportionate number of African American and Hispanic samples, others argue the practice is a new form of racial profiling.

Besides, familial searching violates the right of denying statements about relatives. In court every person is told to have the right to remain silent when a statement would put burden on a relative. With familial searching you basically tell the truth, maybe without the intention to do so.

As you see, sometimes it is not THAT easy… 🙂

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Discussion

2 thoughts on “Murderers now better watch their backs!

  1. Hi Pia,
    the topic you chose is very interesting. Do you know the movie “Betty Anne Waters”? A tough topic, also dealing with the DNA techniques, that are available since 1985 as you stated, which help to prove the innocence of a convicted who had been in jail for decades.

    Imagining that giving my DNA could help to identify a criminal and that this person is a relative of mine, seems kind of creepy to me. Eventhough you helped finding the guilty one, there might be times when you prefer not to know about it.

    To make your post a little more vivid it might be helpful to bring some color into it, for instance with subheads, images or if you like, even a video. It would be also great to know about your personal opinion.

    Posted by Fernanda | January 18, 2012, 3:38 pm
  2. Hi Pia,

    sure thing that one might not want to get involved into DNA research within family. Still I think one must consider the victims and their families that were harmed by the criminal.
    If a relative is a criminal one has to deal with the situation anyways. Whether it is in a public manner or just private for yourself.
    Whether you get questioned by the police or invited to court. The DNA is just an addition which can prevent innocent people from getting convicted for a crime.
    This has happend quite often. After years in prison, wrongly convicted people were judged not guilty. Just because there was not enough evidence available at the trial. Or the court just needed to convict someone in order to finish the case.
    This can not happen if there is serious evidence like DNA involved.
    If it is about murder, and a decision to send someone to jail for a long time, every piece of secure information is crucial.
    Great post! This can seriously affect every one of us.

    Posted by nclshll | February 8, 2012, 1:59 pm

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