Category Archives: Editorial

Rape kit testing backlog undermines justice for victims

sexual assault kitsIn Cleveland, Ohio, a serial rapist and murderer was convicted of crimes last year that will keep him in prison for the rest of his life. His case made the headlines because his neighbor was Ariel Castro, the man who kept three young women hostage as sex slaves for years. Following Castro’s high-profile arrest, investigators began re-examining Cleveland’s cold cases and processing their backlog of untested sexual assault evidence kits, known as “rape kits.” One such rape kit, collected in 1993 but not tested until 2013, helped the FBI link Castro’s neighbor, Elias Acevedo Sr., to two murders and multiple rapes.

Written in Blood review: Forensic look at the science of crime

crime sceneMIKE SILVERMAN goes after the guilty – it’s in his DNA. And it’s not just criminals who are brought to book by his finely honed forensic skills.
As one of the UK’s leading forensic scientists he has helped put murderers, rapists, armed robbers, burglars and muggers behind bars.
In this self-examination of a distinguished career Silverman also points the finger at the politicians and finds them guilty in his eyes of crimes against the justice system.

What the Supreme Court Hasn’t Told You About DNA Databases

profilesindna_frIn this article David Kaye, a professor at The Pennsylvania State University School of Law, discusses the recent US Supreme Court ruling in the case of Maryland versus King, where the constitutionality of DNA collection before conviction was challenged.

What Kind of ‘Justice System’ Refuses to Test DNA Evidence?

SOUTH KOREAN RESEARCHER TAKES DNA SAMPLES FROM SOUTH KOREAN BEEF IN SEOUL.Outrage rippled across the web earlier this week as Americans heard the story of Sharon Snyder, “a 70-year-old great-grandmother who was fired nine months before she was scheduled to retire.” Her transgression? An employee of Jackson County Circuit Court, she helped a man in prison who sought to have the DNA evidence in his case tested, but had his request rejected twice on technicalities because he hadn’t managed to properly fill out the paperwork.

High-Tech, High-Risk Forensics

DNA BacklogSAN FRANCISCO — WHEN the police arrived last November at the ransacked mansion of the millionaire investor Raveesh Kumra, outside of San Jose, Calif., they found Mr. Kumra had been blindfolded, tied and gagged. The robbers took cash, rare coins and ultimately Mr. Kumra’s life; he died at the scene, suffocated by the packaging tape used to stifle his screams. A forensics team found DNA on his fingernails that belonged to an unknown person, presumably one of the assailants. The sample was put into a DNA database and turned up a “hit” — a local man by the name of Lukis Anderson.

Peering into the Future of Forensic Science

crystall ballWhat are some of the new technologies that we can expect to see in the not-too-distant future?

Spread of DNA databases sparks ethical concerns

DNA Analysis1LONDON — You can ditch your computer and leave your cellphone at home, but you can’t escape your DNA.
It belongs uniquely to you — and, increasingly, to the authorities.

DNA Typing: Useful Tool to Solve Crimes or Invasion of Privacy?

dnaintesttubeThis year marks the tenth anniversary of the complete human genome sequence. The Human Genome Project revealed a surprising fact: Only 1% of our genome encodes proteins. This equates to a paltry 20,000–25,000 genes. The function of the other 99% of our DNA remained a mystery. Shortly after the sequencing was completed, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) launched a new research project, termed the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE), to identify DNA elements and try to find a purpose for the other 99% of our DNA. This project has contributed greatly to our understanding of the human genome, as documented in the 30 ENCODE-related papers published in Nature, Genome Research and Genome Biology in 2012 (see the Nature web site. However, the ENCODE project is being used in an unforeseen way: to support an appeal to the recent US Supreme Court decision about the constitutionality of collection and analysis of DNA from arrestees.

SCOTUS Backlash: Who Needs Fingerprints When You Have DNA?

DNA GraphicAs the Genetic Literacy Project reports, the June 3 Maryland v. King Supreme Court ruling that police can take DNA samples from people who are arrested for serious crimes is still echoing in the chambers of law and public policy.
…We have to balance the rights of the accused with the rights of victims, while embracing the most thorough and accurate investigative techniques….

Supreme Court Thinks DNA Collection Is Awesome, Worth The Invasion Of Arrestees’ Privacy

Justice and DNAThe FBI currently oversees a database with approximately 12 million people’s genetic fingerprints. The majority of those DNA samples came from people convicted of crimes, but nearly 1.5 million came from people simply charged with crimes, who may or may not have ever been convicted. In a contentious decision [pdf] Monday, a divided Supreme Court gave five thumbs up to that collection, saying it’s okay to swab the cheeks of people when they’re arrested, taking their DNA along with their photos and fingerprints.

DNA: What Have You Done for Me Lately?

WellsHuffington Post Blog from Spencer Wells-I recently turned 44. As with all of one’s birthdays, a milestone like this is a chance to gaze backward and assess, as well as an opportunity to look to the future and imagine possibilities. As I do this, though, I’m cognizant of a friend who is being celebrated for turning 60 this year. She’s been in my life since before I was born, and she will be around long after I’ve faded into distant memory. But, in the way that humans do when we describe a feature in the natural world, we’ve assigned to her a birthday based on when we first recognized how special she was. I’m talking, of course, about deoxyribonucleic acid — DNA, our blueprint, the hardware/software combination that keeps us on the straight and narrow, controlling our development as we grow from fertilized egg to adult, as well as our biological evolution as a species.

In some areas, law enforcement still resists science

Minneapolis Star Tribune
When the science concerns eyewitness identification, suspect interrogations, or more traditional, non-DNA forensic testing, law enforcement doesn’t embrace science.

DNA and the Fourth Amendment

New York Times
Earlier this year, Maryland’s highest court held that collection of DNA samples from people arrested but not yet convicted violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. Last week, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. stayed that ruling while the Supreme Court decides whether to hear Maryland’s appeal of the state court decision. The Supreme Court should take up this case, but there was no good reason for the chief justice to allow the police to continue collecting DNA while the case is on appeal.

Forensic Nightmares


Main Justice
The book about lives ruined by flawed forensic science now has another ugly chapter…

N.Y. Passes DNA Requirement For Convicted Criminals

NPR
Early on Thursday, lawmakers in New York approved a bill that will make the state the first to require DNA samples from almost all convicted criminals — and make its DNA database one of the largest in the nation.