DNA Collection in the Forensic Science Community and its Effects on Solving Crimes
Once a crime has been committed the most important item to recover is any type of evidence left at the scene. If the suspect left any Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) at the crime scene, he could then be linked to the crime and eventually charged. A suspect’s DNA can be recovered if the suspect leaves a sample of his or her DNA at the crime scene. However, this method was not always used to track down a suspect. Not too long ago, detectives used to use bite marks, blood stain detection, blood grouping as the primary tool to identify a suspect. DNA can be left or collected from the hair, saliva, blood, mucus, semen, urine, fecal matter, and even the bones. DNA analysis has been the most recent technique employed by the forensic science community to identify a suspect or victim since the use of fingerprinting. Moreover, since the introduction of this new technique it has been a large number of individuals released or convicted of crimes based on DNA left at the crime scene. The use of this technique has played a critical role in the investigation of crimes. This paper examines Carrell et al’s research along with three other scholarly research articles to better understand the effects that the DNA recovered from a crime scene has on a particular case and the forensic science community. In McClure, Weisburd and Wilson (2008) summary article arguing that in addition to bench science, field experimentation involving forensic methods is key to assess the utility of various methods to solve crimes. The study reflected that there is a need for more research into many aspects of forensic science, criticizing the strength of scientific evidence that’s collected at a crime scene and interpretations of most forensic methods while omitting DNA testing. McClure et al’s (2008) explains that in sexual cases and homicides, the presence of DNA evidence actually increased the likelihood of prosecution and a conviction. According to the article “…the case of convictions, the odds-ratio for the presence of DNA evidence was 33.1 for sexual offenses and 23.1 for homicides” (McClure et al., 2008). Subsequently, the research shows that there was a consistent gradual decline in the national homicide rates that began in the 1900s and continued through into the 21st century. The decline of homicides in the US has dropped by from more than 90% in the 1960s to 62% in 2003. Even though this significant drop has occurred during the introduction of the new DNA testing era, researchers still believe that the decline is the result of an increase in stranger-on-stranger homicides related to guns and drugs, a decline in domestic homicides, and the administrative pressures and police agency restraints. However, we should keep in mind that DNA technology includes forensic assay that has the potential to enormously discriminate and create sensitivity within the development based on that assay. In Cole (2007) reviewed the impact of DNA technology on the race, class, and gender differences that are noticed facets of the criminal justice system. Cole (2007) research examined two main consequences of the development of DNA technology: the increasing of the modest reliance of DNA recovered at the scene that’s used to investigate crimes, and the rise of huge criminal databases based on genetic profile. When examining the high-profile case of the 27-year old African-American female Durham, North Carolina student that accused the Duke University men’s lacrosse team of rape, it echoed a similar claim as another rape accusation case. The 1987 Tawana Brawley case was another high-profile case that highlights the problem of race, class, and gender inequality, showing that they serve as a prism that creates a broader question about the impact of the criminal justice systems technologies on inequality in the American criminal justice system (Cole, 2007). Then again, some scholars are divided in the issues of inequality in the criminal justice system and discrimination. Cole also argues that the litigation process is inherently unequal because the criminal law in the US is made to appease to litigants whom are mostly financially able to attain access to competent counsel. Therefore recognizing between crime and inequality is clearly cyclical (2007). Some conclude that there is slight discrimination with an important exception on drug crimes. On the other hand, other scholars are less convinced that the evidence of discrimination is not as significant as some believe. In the article titled DNA Typing: A Most Useful Forensic Tool, written by Palermo (2006), the research recognizes the ongoing scrutiny regarding the methods of trial when presenting DNA analyses. Palermo explains the “…means of impeding the presentation of sloppy scientific evidence is found Federal Rule of Evidence 403 that gives judges the discretion to admit or to exclude from trial evidence, including scientific, deemed to prejudicial, confusing, or misleading to jurors” (2006). The article then explains that the technical terms used in the trial court while presenting the DNA analyses, is many times too complex for the individuals sitting on the jury. Ultimately, these same jurors are still inclined to reject or accept the facts presented even if they don’t understand the information presented. Palermo also commented on the necessity for better training on the individuals that come in close contact with the collection of DNA evidence, because it’s imperative, as is the training of DNA analysts and others involved with the handling of evidence. The collection of evidence plays a viable role in the process of DNA examination because if evidence isn’t collected properly the evidence could easily be contaminated with other elements from the crime scene. The other elements that may contaminate the crime scene may include but isn’t limited to: officers responding to the crime scene, paramedics, and other emergency personnel that come in contact with important evidence. Coincidentally, in an article written by Carrell et al, the article recognized the Daubert trilogy and that it may present potential problems for every part of forensic identification testimony, and that the research does exist examining the scientific underpinning of forensic identification testimony and that the research that currently exits isn’t favorable (2008). This same article examines the history of DNA evidence and acknowledges that when evidence was first introduced to the courts that the new type of identification was initially accepted without any challenges, however, critics quickly contended that DNA tests were problematic because of the reliability and the validity of probative value of the evidence. For example, DNA exoneration cases suggest that errors in forensic identification led to a high number of wrongful convictions and concerns that media coverage portrayals of forensic science evidence on popular television shows leads jurors to unfairly weigh DNA evidence while making their decision about the facts of a trial (Carrell, 2008). Moreover, in recent DNA exoneration cases the courts and jurors had difficulty analyzing the testimony of the experts on forensic identification evidence. According to the article, in 86 DNA exoneration cases, forensic science testing errors were the second leading cause of wrongful conviction, falling behind wrongful eyewitness misidentification (Carrell, 2008).
McClure et al, the article reviewed that in addition to bench science, field experimentation involving forensic methods is key to assess the utility of various methods to solve crimes. (2008). The research reflected the need for better interpretations of the DNA results found. McClure and others scholars aforementioned notes the decline of homicides in the U.S. since the 1960s. However, Cole (2007) research reflected that there is an evident inequality in the criminal justice system with regards to race, class and gender differences. In addition, to the inequality, methods of presenting DNA data is sometimes sloppy and has the scrutiny of being dismissed on the grounds of misleading or confusing evidence. Also, the errors in the forensic science community play a role in the high number of exoneration cases because of false identification. Since DNA technology has been used there has been a high number of individuals convicted, linked or found innocent of a crimes. This technology has helped law enforcement catch suspects that may have never been found without the use of this technology. However, the research reflected that there is a need for clearer interpretations of the DNA results, better equality provided for all regardless of race or class and that errors should be reduced to prevent having cases that need to be exonerated