Category Archives: Editorial

In France, it’s illegal for consumers to order a DNA spit kit. Activists are fighting over lifting the ban

The French ban on direct-to-consumer genetic testing is part of the country’s bioethics laws, which legislators are supposed to revise every seven years. When those discussions got under way earlier this year, some geneticists expected the National Assembly to relax the rules about commercial DNA analysis. It didn’t. Now, Jovanovic-Floricourt and the other genetics enthusiasts in her education and advocacy group, DNA Pass, are agitating more and more to get some of these tests legalized, contacting lawmakers, chatting up scientists, promising a more vociferous campaign than they’ve waged before.

Forensic science isn’t ‘reliable’ or ‘unreliable’: It depends on the questions you’re trying to answer

After recent criticism in the US and the UK, forensic science is now coming under attack in Australia. Several recent reports have detailed concerns that innocent people have been jailed because of flawed forensic techniques.
Among the various cases presented, it is surprising that the most prominent recent miscarriage of justice in Victoria did not rate a mention: the wrongful conviction of Farah Jama, who was found guilty of rape in 2008 before the verdict was overturned in 2009.

Federal funding necessary for clearing rape kit backlog

Congress has the opportunity to renew important funding for helping solve a critical issue in the U.S. — the number of untested rape kits languishing on shelves of police departments, hospitals and state crime labs.

How much should juries rely on expert testimony?

Ten years ago, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a groundbreaking study on the use of forensics in criminal trials. The study found that, in the “pattern matching” fields of forensics in particular, expert witnesses had been vastly overstating the significance and certainty of their analyses. For some fields, such as bite-mark analysis, the study found no scientific research at all to support the central claims of practitioners.

We need to fix forensics. But how?

Ten years ago, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) published a groundbreaking study on the use of forensics in criminal trials. The study found that, in the “pattern matching” fields of forensics in particular, expert witnesses had been vastly overstating the significance and certainty of their analyses. For some fields, such as bite-mark analysis, the study found no scientific research at all to support the central claims of practitioners.

The future of justice depends on fixing the forensic science crisis

UK-We are fascinated by it, and rightly so – what science enables us to detect has transformed how we reconstruct criminal events, whether using digital information like phone data and automated recognition technologies, or detecting DNA traces that often go unnoticed.
And yet the field is in trouble. Earlier this month, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee published the findings of its inquiry into forensic science, setting out in no uncertain terms that the system is in crisis.

How Much Does DNA Change Our Life Story?

Until 2016, when my father’s doctor told us he was dying of pancreatic cancer. With the internet’s capacity for ancestral research and the boom in DNA testing, my sisters and I decided it was time to give my father the gift of genomic closure.

Golden State Killer case ushers in new era of fourth-party consent

News of the apprehension of one of the most notorious serial killers in history, the Golden State Killer, was nearly upstaged by the innovative means police used to discover his identity. Through publicly available information on a genealogy website, police were able to identify suspect Joseph DeAngelo based on the DNA of the alleged killer’s family members who had used the service. But law enforcement’s move to close a painful chapter of California history has also opened a Pandora’s box of privacy concerns.

Using DNA and ancestry sites to solve crimes: Good police work or invasion of privacy?

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – More than 25 years after Lancaster County elementary teacher Christy Mirack was brutally killed, an arrest has been made using DNA evidence and a genealogy site.
The same technology led to an arrest in a 30-year-old double murder case in Seattle and also helped police identify a suspect in the Golden State Killer cases.

Adoptees turn to DNA tests for answers

DNA testing has become something revolutionary for adults who were adopted as babies or children, often without ever knowing anything about their family or background.
DNA testing can sometimes be the first concrete piece of information an adopted person has ever heard about themselves. That’s powerful.

Should Statutes of Limitations for Rape Be Abolished?

Across the country, time-limiting laws prevent scores of sexual assault cases from being prosecuted, in spite of persuasive evidence or a confession.

‘Rapid DNA Testing’ Fuels Privacy Concerns Over New Justice Technology

An automated version of DNA testing, approved by the FBI this month for use by law enforcement and backed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is sparking concerns about the growing threat to privacy posed by emerging justice technology.
One version of the so-called “Rapid DNA Analysis” system, developed by the Boston-area ANDE corporation, was the first to receive approval for use in the National DNA Index System (NDIS), the national database that contains DNA profiles from participating federal, state and local forensic labs. Fully automated, it can produce a DNA identification from a sample in just a few hours. This is much faster than standard DNA forensic testing methods, which can sometimes take days, weeks, or months.

Bad Blood

Joe Bryan, a former small-town high school principal from central Texas, is serving 99 years in prison for the brutal murder of his wife, Mickey, in 1985 — a crime he probably didn’t commit. Mr. Bryan has been locked up for about 30 years. He has no clear prospects for release other than periodic opportunities at parole, which he has been denied despite being a model prisoner and having a spotless disciplinary record. Many of the prison guards who know him best are convinced that he’s innocent.

The Justice Department is squandering progress in forensic science

Imagine this: A cop pulls you over and arrests you because you match the description of someone wanted for a heinous crime. You are innocent, but after being charged and brought to trial, you watch as experts testify with “scientific certainty” that hair and footprints at the scene match your own, and you are led from the courtroom in shackles.
This may seem like a scene straight out of a TV melodrama, but this scenario happens in real life far too often. A number of forensic techniques — including hair- and footprint-matching, mark analysis, bloodstain-pattern analysis and others — lack scientific validity and reliability yet are used frequently in our nation’s courtrooms.

Jeff Sessions’ Rejection of Science Leaves Local Prosecutors in the Dark

There’s a stack of file folders on District Attorney John Hummel’s desk that won’t stop staring at him. The folders contain the cases of defendants whose convictions were called into question when a state crime lab technician in Bend, Oregon, part of Hummel’s district, was caught tampering with evidence in 2015. The breach may have impacted more than 1,100 cases. Hummel’s office has been steadily reviewing them ever since—of the 500 cases that have been reviewed so far, 30 convictions have been vacated and those cases dismissed.