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DNA in the Courtroom
        One of the most recent developments in criminal investigation is the
use of DNA as evidence while solving cases.  Those who love and those who detest
this new piece of evidence have also come along with it.  Although this  evidence
may be controversial, it should definitely not be allowed to be used in courtrooms
just yet.  DNA is not yet reliable enough to be used in the courtroom because the
techniques that are used now are too risky to be used.
        DNA is present and unique in all living organisms.  However, human DNA is
the same in 99.9 percent of the base pairs and is only different in certain
regions.  Alec Jeffries was the first person to find a reliable way to locate
these "hypervariable regions" of which five are used to determine whose DNA it
is. The number of these regions may seem small but when they are combined the
chances of people having the same exact base pairs in all of these regions would
be about one in two hundred thousand.  This DNA fingerprint can be compared to
DNA from the suspect.  If they do not match, then the suspect could not have
committed the crime.  However, if the do match, it does not necessarily mean that
the DNA belongs to the suspect because there is a  possibility that other people
share this DNA profile.  This is because the  same ethnic group share more of the
same DNA and would be more likely to have the same DNA profile than other people
outside these ethnic groups.  This is how DNA is used to discover who committed
the crime or who did not.
        One of the main questions that people have about DNA and bring up many
times during trials is whether the testing is reliable enough to be used.
"Unlike labs that test for alcohol or drugs, DNA labs are not required to meet
any standards.  And the complicated science offers many chances to botch the jobs"
During proficiency tests done in these labs, errors occurred in two of one hundred
and fifty samples.  This test was done in 1989 and the amount of errors was very
small.  With new procedures and equipment, labs say that the error rate is now
much less.  There will always be mistakes.  It is impossible for there to be a
perfect form of evidence that can not be ruined in some way.  The most famous
case where this was questioned was the O.J. Simpson murder trial.  His defense was
able to show that errors happened and that the results of the test were wrong
enabling him to be declared not guilty.  However, "Within the next  few years, the
cost of DNA typing will drop.  Lab procedures will be tight, and the standards for
the use of DNA typing will be developed."
Contamination of the DNA also can be a problem.  This happens when people
do not follow proper procedures.  "Proponents agree that contamination
can be a problem if people collecting and storing DNA evidence do not follow proper
procedures.  But they point out that contaminated DNA will lead to false exclusions
-not false matches."   Since there is other evidence besides DNA, false exclusions
should not be a problem.  The other evidence should be enough to find and convict
the offender.  One example of where this was done was a case where Ricky C. Hammond
was convicted of kidnapping and raping a 34 year old insurance underwriter even
though DNA tests supported his claim of innocence.  We do not know whether the DNA
samples were contaminated or not, but this shows a clear case where other evidence,
besides DNA, came into play.  If the tests were done correctly then there is a
problem because it shows that people do not trust science.
        However, DNA has helped more people than it has not as it did in the
previous case.  Kerry Kotler was convicted of rape in 1981.  After eleven years in
prison, new ways of proving guilt have been discovered and he was able to show that
the semen presented as evidence during his trial could not possibly have belonged
to him through a process called DNA typing.  "Kotler is one of at least a dozen
men to be freed from prison in the lasts eighteen months based on a comparison that
didn't match-perhaps the start of a flurry of such cases."  The first case where DNA
was used took place in Leicestershire, England in 1983.  A fifteen year old girl was
raped and murdered.  There was a huge investigation, but with the small amount of
evidence, they were unable to find the criminal.  After the commotion died down,
another fifteen year old girl was raped and murdered in 1986.  However, Alec
Jeffries was now able to use DNA tests to determine that the same person had c
ommitted both crimes.  The investigators decided to do something super incredible.
They decided to test every male in the area between the age fifteen and thirty.
People who refused to take the test were investigated by the police.  Members of the
investigation later said that they had to have blind faith in genetic fingerprinting.
The man responsible for the crime was able to avoid the testing by having someone
take his place.  He was eventually caught when the man who took his place began
bragging about his feat in a local pub.  When Colin Pitchfork was arrested in 1987,
his DNA matched that taken from blood samples taken at the crime scene.
	"Since it was first used in the United States in 1987, some 24,000 cases
have involved DNA evidence.  In thirty percent it has cleared people mistakenly
suspected of crimes…and helped bring guilty verdicts or pleas in thousands of other
cases."   This was written in 1994, so the number of cases where it was used is
probably a lot bigger.  This clearly shows that DNA has been a welcome addition to
the court system.
	One example of where DNA was used by the defense was in a case where three
teenagers from New York (Santanna, Antron McCray, and Yusef Salaam).  They were
charged with attempted murder, rape, sexual abuse, assault, robbery, and riot after
they attacked a jogger in Central Park.  An FBI expert testified that the semen
samples taken from the body and clothes of the jogger did not match up with samples
provided by the three defendants.  This permitted the defense to argue that the
three teenagers had nothing to do with the ordeal.
	As in most defense cases, the DNA tests are done to show that the accused
could not possibly be the person who committed the crime by showing that someone
else's DNA was the one present at the site.  Prosecutors also use DNA to their
advantage.  An example of this was when Kandi Smith had a baby and had drowned it
in the toilet.  Originally, she claimed the baby was not hers.  However, after the
DNA tests came back which said that there was a 99.9 percent probability that she
was the mother of the baby, she changed her story and was later found guilty.
Prosecutors have a more difficult time using DNA evidence than defense teams do.
This is because there is the possibility that two people share the same DNA
profile.  However, when combined with other evidence, it becomes very strong and
sometimes overwhelming evidence.
	Another case where prosecutors used DNA to their advantage, was a case
where Jesse Timmendequas was on trial for the murder of seven year old Megan Kanka.
They used DNA samples from his carpet to match those from the girl to prove that
she was killed in his apartment.  It was testified that the tests were more than
ninety nine percent accurate.  The defense team tried to argue that the evidence
had been tampered with, but they were not able to get very far with that argument.
This case shows that the defense can not just claim the evidence was corrupt in
some way and the defendant will go free as was the case in the O.J. Simpson trial.
The conviction also shows a general trust in DNA and those who analyze it.  Another
technique which prosecutors have done involves using a relative rather than the
suspect.  If there is not enough evidence to force the person to give a blood
sample than the relatives can be asked.  Since DNA is hereditary the relatives will
have some of the same DNA links.  This new evidence can sometimes be enough to get
a warrant for the arrest of a suspect, who will then undergo a blood test to see
if he is the actual criminal.   This is a great advantage to law enforcers.
Previously, there was no way to link suspects to the crime through relatives.
Fingerprints vary from person to person and blood could be totally different in a
	One idea which is not yet even possible to do, but is still under debate,
is that of identifying a person who is genetically predisposed to displaying criminal
behavior.  This would allow for counseling and treatment at an early age for those in
this position.  It also would allow police to look at a certain suspects closer
than others if that one has this predisposition.  The people against this say
that there would be severe bias and discrimination against anyone who is thought
to carry a gene for criminal behavior when the carriers may actually be productive
members of society.  There was already an example of this occurring, although it
did not happen in this fashion.  An unknown man fathered an abnormal child and a
study was done to find out why.  It turned out that he had an extra Y chromosome.
On December 25, 1965, the British Journal Nature published a report entitled
"Aggressive behavior, Mental Subnormality and how the XYY Male."  The article
described a survey of 197 patients in a mental hospital.  Seven of these men
in the hospital turned out to have the XYY genotype.  There was a small craze
where people wondered what they could do to protect their communities from the
possible dangers of these free roaming hoards of "chromosomal defectives" .
These people already were prejudice against people who probably had nothing
seriously wrong.  The reaction would be much greater if genetic testing were
done to identify a criminal.  Labeling someone as being predisposed to
commit crime can destroy their life.
	Another DNA related issue is that of mass testing as was done in
England in the late 1980's.  "Legally in the United States, if the police
have probably cause, they can get a judge to issue an order forcing an
individual to give a sample of body fluids."  "But voluntary mass testing,
as conducted by police in the English villages, is probably legal here
unless authorities intimidate reluctant volunteers."   Some people believe
that DNA typing combined with powerful databases could be the perfect form
of universal identification.  This is under debate because collecting
people's DNA goes against constitutional rights.  "Legal challenges to
blood tests based on the Fourth Amendment rights to search and seizure were
denied in the same manner that refusal to give fingerprint evidence was
denied."   Despite this, a recent annotation to Connecticut statutes make
DNA analysis upon conviction of certain sex offenders a requirement.  This
information will be used to identify the characteristics specific to this
person.  Mass screening such as this would vastly improve law and
order.  If there was a database with everyone's DNA on it then the person
who committed a crime would be caught every time.  There would be no false
accusations and innocent people would always go free. Whether or not
hundreds of thousands of people in the United States would volunteer for a
mass blood draw is another question, and the answer is probably no, given
how inured we have become to violent crime and litigious we are in defending
constitutional rights.  There is precedent for large-scale testing in
criminal cases, but the level of cooperation shown by the people of the
Narborough area in England would probably not happen here.
      Some new cases are also appearing where DNA is used to connect suspects
through plant or animal DNA rather than their own.  DNA from seed pods
have been traced back to specific trees rather than types of trees enabling
investigators to place suspects at the scene of the crime. 
     The use of DNA as evidence has not done anything to improve the court
system.  This is the not first time where there is a marker unique to each
individual which can be found on almost any piece of evidence.  There is
always the more reliable blood-protein test.  This process speeds up the
entire hearing process.  If there is positive proof that somebody committed
the crime, then the trial will be short because there will either be a
guilty plea or an easy verdict.  If there is positive proof that somebody
did not commit the crime, then we can be sure that we are not imprisoning
the wrong person and there will not be a lengthy trial because charges will
not be pressed.  Attorney Brendan Sharkey sees the use of DNA evidence in
criminal law leading to a quicker trial process. "Eventually defendants
will realize that they are faced with a type of almost indisputable
evidence.  This will lead to more plea bargains and possibly a speeding
up of the court system."   This will not happen if there are mistakes as
in the O.J. Simpson trial.  The question of whether DNA is reliable enough
to be used in courtroom has been answered.  It is too risky to use because
too many people can be harmed and sent to jail if there isn't the correct
procedures followed.  Its everyday use in the courtroom makes a mockery of
the entire judicial system.
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