The Effects of Dna on Criminal Investigation Essay

The Impact of DNA on Criminal Investigations Science has become a very valuable tool for law enforcement. scientific evidence is used every day in criminal and civil courts throughout the United States; helping to Solve particularly difficult cases where all other investigative techniques have failed, provide clues where there are no witnesses, reduce the number of wrongful arrests, increase the reliability of evidence.

Link together cases that otherwise could not be connected, such as local cases ranging from breaking and entering to homicide, multijurisdictional cases such as gang crimes, serial sexual assaults or murders, and major international investigations. DNA profiling can also be used effectively to convict the guilty and exonerate the innocent. Since the introduction of DNA evidence, it has played a key role in the investigation of numerous crimes; police now rely on DNA analysis to provide intelligence that was previously unavailable.

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The compelling evidentiary value of this technology has resulted in an increased expectation of impartial scientific evidence in the courts. It has been used as a part of impartial reviews of post conviction cases, and its convincing discriminatory ability has been instrumental in demonstrating support for exonerations and convictions alike. The judicious application of forensic science early in an investigation can lead to the development of investigative information that can save money, time, and resources for police agencies.

The whole investigative process can be shortened by the influence of such analysis on the direction of an investigation, by providing information that can be used to enhance conventional interrogative strategies and by limiting the contesting of the evidence in court. In many instances, trials are shortened or the need for a trial is eliminated altogether, further saving resources that can instead be deployed elsewhere, both for the police and the broader justice system.

In instances of a guilty plea resulting from compelling evidence, the benefit is not limited to monetary savings: victims are spared the emotional burden of reliving the crime at trial. In the spring of 2003, 10-year-old Holly Jones went missing from her Toronto neighborhood. The day after her disappearance and over the next few days, parts of her dismembered body were located on the shores of Lake Ontario. These were identified by DNA typing. In addition, a foreign DNA profile potentially belonging to the perpetrator was developed from fingernail scrapings. (The

Impact of DNA on Policing: Past, Present, and Future By Raymond J. Prime and Jonathan Newman, Centre of Forensic Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) The investigation of this case was a huge challenge for the Toronto Police Service; however, lead investigators recognized that forensic science could play a crucial role. Faced with the daunting task of door-to-door canvassing of hundreds of possible sex offenders and more than 2,000 tips from the general public, the traditional police investigation was considerably assisted by information provided by the forensic science laboratory.

First, an examination of tapings of the victim by a trace evidence scientist provided the clue that the child had been in contact with a green carpet. During the door-to-door canvassing by front-line police officers armed with this information, a potential suspect was identified. After this person refused to volunteer a DNA sample, undercover police surveillance facilitated the collection of a discard DNA sample for comparison to the foreign DNA profile that had been developed. The profiles matched, the suspect was arrested, and his apartment was searched.

DNA analysis revealed traces of the victim’s blood. Faced with the evidence, the suspect confessed and entered a guilty plea. Prior to the development of DNA analysis, it was not uncommon, especially in cases of sexual assault that caused considerable anxiety to the general public, that the police, working to alleviate community concerns, would make an arrest only to find that their evidence was not sufficient to proceed to trial; in some instances this would result in suspects filing civil lawsuits against the police.

Also, when an investigation has apparently ended in the apprehension of the wrong suspect, valuable time is lost at the critical early stages of the investigation. Police now rely on DNA analysis in cases such as these and, with appropriate use of resources, it is possible to execute an arrest after the laboratory has completed the testing. It is now technologically feasible to generate DNA results in less than 48 hours, when necessary. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, one of the two types of molecules that encode genetic information.

The other is ribonucleic acid (RNA). The first proof that DNA was the substance in which hereditary traits were encoded was provided in 1944 by Oswald Avery, Maclyn McCarty, and Colin MacLeod. The double-helical structure of DNA was discovered in 1953 by James D. Watson and Francis H. C. Crick with the invaluable collaboration of X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin. Watson and Crick shared the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology with Maurice H. F. Wilkins. Sir Alec John Jeffreys, British geneticist, was educated at Oxford University, where he completed his Ph. D. n 1975. Conducting his research at the University of Leicester, he developed the technique known as genetic (or DNA) fingerprinting. In 1986 he assisted police in analyzing the DNA from two sexual assault murders and is credited with being the first to use genetic fingerprinting in a criminal case. Jeffreys was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1986, appointed as a Royal Society Research Professor in 1991, and knighted in 1994. In 1996 he was awarded the Albert Einstein World Award of Science. (Alec J. Jeffreys, “Genetic Fingerprinting,” Nature Medicine 11, no. 0 (October 2005): xiv–xviii, http://www. laskerfoundation. org/awards/naturemedicine/jeffreys_NM. pdf (accessed September 25, 2007). In the early use of DNA, crime laboratories relied primarily on Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP) testing, a technique that is very discriminating but requires a comparatively large quantity of good-quality DNA. Today, the technology has advanced, enabling quicker testing with a smaller sample using a technique known as short tandem repeats (STR) typing. Mary Jane Burton (d. 1999) was an employee of the Virginia Department of Forensic Science.

Years after her death, a simple procedure she had followed in each case would assist in exonerating persons wrongly convicted of crimes. In laboratory files, Burton would save a small sample—a cotton swab, a piece of clothing, or anything that contained the suspect’s bodily fluids—from any laboratory tests she performed. This procedure came to light in the case of Marvin Anderson, who had been convicted of rape in 1982 and was granted parole in 1997. In 2001, Anderson learned of DNA testing and, believing it would clear his name, contacted the Innocence Project, which in turn contacted the Virginia authorities.

The state forensic department pulled Anderson’s laboratory file and found a cotton swab attached to the blood work report completed by Burton. The state conducted a DNA test on the cotton swab, and the results established that Anderson was not the rapist. Marvin Anderson received a full pardon in August 2002. Other cases were reviewed later, and Burton’s standard procedure of always keeping a sample has cleared two other persons convicted of crimes( Kristen Gelineau, “Saved from the Grave,” MSNBC, October 16, 2005, http://www. msnbc. msn. om/id/9666591/ (accessed September 25, 2007), and Frank Green, “Scientist’s Legacy: Freedom for Two,” Richmond) While clearly an exciting time within the circles of forensic sciences and investigation the reality of the early days of DNA technology was that the technique could be applied only to the most serious cases. In the beginning, the availability of technical specialists was limited, the sample size needed for the RFLP analysis4 was rather large, and the length of time needed to complete the laboratory analysis narrowly restricted the application of the technique.

However, once the impressive value of this service had been demonstrated to the justice system, technology was soon developed to improve the speed and sensitivity of the testing. These advancements quickly led to the widespread application of DNA testing in criminal investigations. DNA analysis also provides police investigators with not only the ability to develop leads for current active cases but also the opportunity to return to older, unsolved investigations.

By working in partnership with scientists in the forensic science laboratory, investigators can review evidence that might have been collected for another purpose or that might have been of limited value when examined by the conventional technologies available at the time of the original investigation. According to The Stream,of January,2011, in Texas in a Dallas courtroom Cornelius Dupree, who had spent thirty years in prison on a conviction for rape, robbery, and abduction, was told that he had been exonerated.

DNA evidence had shown unequivocally that he was not the man who had committed the crime in question. The judgment came too late for Dupree, who had already served his full sentence; the court merely terminated his parole status. To its credit, the Texas legislature, taking note of the 41 exonerations produced by modern evidence since 2001, passed an act to compensate those who had been wrongfully imprisoned. Dupree will be eligible to receive $80,000 for each year he was imprisoned, plus an annuity, with a tax-free cash value of about $2. 4 million.

There have been 301 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in36 states; since 2000, there have been 234 exonerations. 18 of the 300 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row. Another 16 were charged with capital crimes but not sentenced to death. The average length of time served by exonerees is 13. 6 years. The total number of years served is approximately 4,036. The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 27.


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