Thursday, June 09, 2005

Siblings as Suspects

The day before yesterday, USA Today featured a front-page article on a new application for forensic DNA testing. Using the existing DNA database of convicted felons, crime investigators are now able to use near matches of DNA testing to pinpoint possible suspects -- siblings of people currently in the DNA database. Privacy and civil liberty alarm bells immediately went off in my mind, but surprisingly, I haven't been able to make up my mind on this issue. If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know that I am against sex offender legislation, vehemently against the Patriot Act, and fervently pro-personal freedom. Here's a situation, however, in which the DNA match alone does not convict a person. I'm uncomfortable with the idea that if my sister were to commit a crime, I would immediately from here-on out be a suspect for any crime in which investigators resort to DNA screening, since I could theoretically be pinpointed as a possible match in their searches -- without ever having consented to giving up my DNA. False positives are a serious issue with DNA testing -- although several allelic matches are required to conclude a person's guilt, because of the limitations of genetic variation within a species, completely unrelated people may have a few matching alleles. And yet, this DNA testing puts detectives on the right track to solving crimes in which the perpetrator might otherwise go free. The article cites at least one case in which familial searches freed a wrongly convicted man. I'm probably working my way towards being against this kind of testing because it violates basic rights to privacy, but I feel as if the Constitution hasn't quite caught up to the times. Right now, we might be willing to compromise the rights of those who've committed a crime, but we're but a stone's throw away from compromising the rights of the innocent, indeed of all citizens, the minute the Constitution is no longer universally applied. Holes in a sweater tend to unravel. Nonetheless, I'm interested to hear what all (two?) of my readers have to say on this...


Anonymous Shelly said...

hey jen -- i'm with you on not knowing where to come down on this DNA issue. I'm all about privacy just like you, but this one's a wierd twist. I guess i'll ultimately be against it... b/c i'm all about avoiding the slippery slope -- and i'm not trying to give even an INCH in privacy legislation battles right now. It'll be intersting to see if anyone important (y'know besides us... :)) has anything to say about it. keep on bloggin'.

6/09/2005 02:25:00 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

thanks shelly, for posting and puttingin your two cents! yeah... like you, i know there's definitely something messed up about the whole thing as far as privacy goes... but then again...

maybe it's just because a question like this has less exposure. i've had the chance to really think about and hear all the sides of the debate of the sex offender registration stuff.

6/09/2005 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Karlos said...

My position on the issue depends on how far into the family the matches extend.

My sister, the Stanford-educated lawyer, will be able to rape and mug people the legal way, so I don't need to worry about her (as long as I stay on her good side... and if I don't, it'll take more than the constitution to save me). My cousin, on the other hand, could land me in jail...

6/13/2005 11:51:00 AM  

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