MadSci Network: Genetics

Re: Sould DNA fingerprinting be used to convict or acquit someone of a crime?

Date: Tue Mar 22 06:11:50 2005
Posted By: Dale L. Laux, Staff, Serology/DNA, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification
Area of science: Genetics
ID: 1109541251.Ge

Dear Cassey,

There's actually a book entitled "Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by 
Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence 
After Trial" published by the US Department of Justice.  So it would 
appear that one-half of your question has been answered.

Cassey, I believe your question is a little more complex that requires 
more than a simple yes or no.  There's no question that DNA technology has 
revolutionized forensic science.  The technology is extremely sensitive 
and exact; in theory it should be foolproof.  But what does it tell us?  
It tells us that a person left his or her DNA at a crime scene, on a 
victim, or took away some of the victim's DNA on his or her person.  It's 
a piece of the puzzle that police, prosecutors and juries must consider in 
solving crimes.  Perhaps there exist other explanations as to why someones 
DNA is at a crime scene.  Perhaps the victim and suspect knew each other 
and had contact with one another before the crime was committed.

Forensic science is a science and there are no absolutes.  That's why it 
is so important that juries here all the testimony and see all the 
evidence to render a verdict.  DNA can be an extremely valuable piece of 
evidence, but I hope that the day never comes when the genetic analyzer 
instrument spits out a report that states "guilty" or "innocent".

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