Ethics in Forensic Science

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To describe ethics in forensic science, let me first give a definition of ethics. According to

Webster’s II New Riverside University Dictionary, ethics is defined as: 1. A principle of right or

good behavior. 2. A system of moral principles or values. 3. The study of the general nature of

morals and the specific choices an individual makes in relating to others. With that being said, is

ethics practiced when it comes to forensic science? I am pretty sure it is in most cases, but I am

not here to write about most cases; I am writing about one particular cases where clearly ethical

practices were not used.

On May 1995, Allen Coco was arrested for aggravated rape, two counts of aggravated

burglary, and one count of simple burglary. One count of aggravated burglary and the simple

burglary charge were dropped prior to his trial, along with several other charges in other cases in

which he had become a suspect. Mr. Coco’s alleged victim stated she had been raped by a man

who broke into her home after she fell asleep watching television. The attacker held a knife to

her throat during the rape and at some point she was able take the knife from the attacker, who

tried to escape through a broken window, but somehow became tangled in the blinds. Even

though the victim was able to stab him in the buttocks, the attacker subsequently escaped.

Police actually constructed a sketch of the attacker, but even though the victim found it

unsatisfactory, she continued to view it. About a month after the rape the victim was shown two

photo arrays containing both another suspect and Mr. Coco. Using the faulty sketch for

reference, the victim identified Mr. Coco as her attacker.

There was evidence in this case that should have helped Mr. Coco, but some was not

available at the time. There was a DNA sample that was taken from the victim that was too

small for testing in 1997. In 2006, the Innocence Project of New Orleans (IPNO) paid for the

DNA sample to be analyzed again. The DNA did not match Allen Coco and on October 12,

2006, Allen Coco walked out of a Lake Charles jail after serving 11 years for a rape he did not

commit. DNA testing conducted by a private laboratory had excluded him as the perpetrator in

March, however, the State of Louisiana resisted his release for seven months, despite the fact that

subsequent testing by a State crime laboratory arrived at the same conclusion in July.

As far as ethics goes in this case, there were a lot of things that were missed that could quite

possibly have changed the outcome of Mr. Coco’s life. First off let’s start with the crime

laboratories. We already know the DNA sample was too small for testing, but whose

determination was that? Since the early 1990’s DNA profiling techniques have progressed to the

point at which traces of blood, semen stains, hair, and salvia residues left behind on stamps,

cups, bite marks, and so on have made possible the individualization or near individualization

of biological evidence (Criminalistics, An Introduction to Forensic Science, 9th ed.). When the

perpetrator was trying to escape the victims home, he was stabbed in the buttocks which

produced blood that was left on the blinds. State experts testified that blood found at the scene,

including that found on the blinds, was of the same type as that of Mr. Coco. Mr. Coco’s blood

type had to be A negative because it was stated his blood type was the same as 6 percent of

African Americans and according to www.lifeshare.org 6 percent of the African American

population has blood type. I guess it’s a good thing some of the male members of my family

who are A negative weren’t in Louisiana at this time because apparently, no testing was

performed on the rape kit or the victim's clothing to make sure they had the right person.

As far...
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