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… 🙂