Partial DNA Match for Nailing Criminals

Partial DNA Match for Nailing Criminals

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted May 25, 2007 in DNA and the Law

prison 1If a member of your family has committed a crime and been made to submit a DNA sample to CODIS, the FBI-run Combined DNA Index System, you’d better stay out of trouble yourself. Even if your DNA profile is not in the database, a partial match between a crime scene sample and your relative’s could still lead investigators to you.

Partial DNA match can also be used to exonerate wrongly convicted people. Darryl Hunt spent 19 years behind bars for rape and murder before a partial match was made to a felon named Anthony Brown. This match then led to Brown’s older brother, Willard.

Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has been working to have every state in the U.S. approve partial DNA matches for investigating crime. Already common in the UK, the approach is called “familial DNA.” The practice has drawn media attention lately because critics believe it could be an invasion of privacy.

Stephen Mercer, a Maryland attorney, said in a 60 Minutes report – A Not So Perfect Match:

Now you’re subjecting a whole new class of innocent people to genetic surveillance by the government.

With this new technology, no one has ever considered, ‘Well, if my brother’s DNA ends up in the database, and he’s forfeited his privacy rights by becoming a convicted felon, has he also forfeited my privacy rights, as well, as a wholly innocent family member.” That puts me under lifelong genetic surveillance.

Should we be afraid of partial match even if we have never committed and have no intention of ever commiting a crime?

NB: You can also watch the video version of Lesley Stahl’s 60 Minutes report.

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Comment by NPs Save Lives

That’s pretty scary to think that by a partial match that one could be convicted of a crime. I would hope that it catches more wrongdoers than innocents though. I will update my sidebar with your new site link!

Comment by Hsien

Thanks for coming by, NP! I have great hope that DNA technology will do a lot of good for society but also a little trepidation that in the wrong hands, genetic data will be badly abused. Keep your eyes open!

Comment by pat

partial dna evidence does not work. take it from me who has personal experience. my dna was taken for a motoring offence in 2005, 9 months later i was arrested for a crime that was commited 200 miles away from my home and held for 8 hours. the person who left his dna at the scene, according to eye-witnesses, was thin, 30 and had short hair. i am described as fat, 40 and follicly forgotten. police knew this but hey why let the facts get in the way of a “good” arrest. had i resembled this guy i would be in jail right now. forensic science services said there was strong evidence in the partial dna evidence to suggest it was me. i have been severely disabled for two and half years and need walking aids.

Comment by Hsien

Wow, Pat. Thanks for sharing your story. All the best. I hope your disability isn’t associated with the mistaken arrest.


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