What can you do when you are bombarded with DNA talk everyday?
The key to DNA evidence lies in comparing the DNA from the scene of a crime with a suspect’s DNA. To do this, investigators have to do three things:
- Collect DNA at the crime scene and from the suspect (see How CSI Works)
- Analyze the DNA to create a DNA profile
- Compare the profiles to each other
Authorities can extract DNA from almost any tissue, including hair, fingernails, bones, teeth and bodily fluids. Sometimes, investigators have DNA evidence but no suspects. In that case, law enforcement officials can compare crime scene DNA to profiles stored in a database. The most commonly used database in the United States is called CODIS, which stands for Combined DNA Index System. CODIS is maintained by the FBI. By law, authorities in all 50 states must collect DNA samples from convicted sex offenders for inclusion in CODIS. Some states also require all convicted felons to submit DNA.
This is complicated.
The importance of the role forensic DNA evidence plays in solving sexual assault and homicide cases cannot be overstated. DNA evidence is a crucial tool used in effective police work to solve violent crimes. For those who have been wrongly accused, sentenced, and imprisoned—sometimes for many years—for a crime they did not commit, DNA evidence exonerates the innocent and alerts law enforcement to pursue the true offender. By convicting the guilty and freeing the innocent, DNA evidence truly serves the interests of justice.
Although DNA is a powerful tool, it is useless to the criminal justice system if not properly collected, preserved, and tested. Members of the criminal justice community must be trained to identify DNA evidence, to understand its significance, and to counsel victims on how valuable it is in apprehending and convicting offenders.
The context in which the "science" is applied is equally important. Fascinating speech by a judge.
The "CSI Effect" is an interesting insight …
The theory of the “CSI Effect” is based on the notion that television influences a viewer’s understanding of the topic it portrays. Simply stated, television affects our perception of reality. Specifically, television programs influence our perceptions of crime and the legal system. The television is a staple of the American home and serves as a powerful educator. The majority of Americans watch at least twenty-five hours of television per week, allowing television to become our “primary story-teller, telling most of the stories to most of the people, most of the time.” Thus, television shapes the way that non-lawyers understand the legal system.
Because the majority of Americans are not attorneys, and have never entered a courtroom, “these pop culture representations obtain an enhanced authority. As these stories of law take root in our psyches, they help to construct our understanding of law and justice.”
This is technical but reminds us of the subjective dimension in all so called "objective" scientific endeavors.
After all that chemical magic, the final DNA profile is the subjective interpretation of those blips by two or more human operators. Their ‘expert’ opinions are based on an awful lot of assumptions about an indirectly glimpsed, invisible exhibit. No other form of physical evidence is presented so obliquely, is subjected to such a complex fabrication process or requires so much trust in its integrity.
Science it may be, but smoke and mirrors are not excluded.
This is the post which will surely generate controversy sent me checking out what on earth DNA evidence is all about. Of course, one wonders what kind of the unseen DNA of RPK which makes him say things like this:
The ‘evidence’ against Anwar is no good. They now need to look for another way to ‘prove’ that Anwar sodomised Saiful. In the meantime, let us see if the AG will be making another police report against me and whether the IGP is going to arrest me and charge me in court for sedition and criminal defamation for this latest allegation of mine.
Hey, I already face four charges of sedition and criminal defamation. What are another two or three charges? The important thing is not whether I get sent to jail or not. What is important is that the world is told that they are attempting, yet again, to fabricate evidence against Anwar Ibrahim. And that is worth going to jail for.