Even if you haven’t watched that many CSI shows, you probably already know that DNA evidence is already in common use as a tool of modern forensic investigation. The success rate of methods utilizing DNA evidence has been increasing over the years, and its application has resulted in many a conviction or resolution of usually tricky and difficult cases.
Some of the more celebrated cases of bad guys caught with DNA evidence include Colin Pitchfork, in 1988 found guilty of a double murder (Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth) and was the first murder conviction using DNA evidence. Check out BBC’s article on Pitchfork’s case along with other murderers caught with DNA.
Apart from catching the bad guys, DNA has also helped exonorate the good guys. Jerry Miller spent 25 years languishing in prison for a rape conviction in 1981 before new DNA evidence cleared him of the charges. Miller’s case marked the 200th exonoration using DNA.
The Innocence Project assists and tracks cases where DNA evidence could help exonorate inmates and, as Kate Carter reports, has been quite successful in pushing for DNA evidence to clear individuals.
Despite the triumphs of DNA in helping to deliver justice, at least one person isn’t sold onto the idea:
Russell Kaemmerling, who was convicted of conspiring to commit wire fraud and is being held in a federal prison in Texas, sued to block the BOP from collecting his DNA on the grounds that it amounted to a defilement of “God’s temple” and was “tantamount to laying the foundation for the rise of the anti-Christ.”
By law, the BOP is required to collect DNA samples from prisoners, typically via a blood sample or a mouth swab to collect saliva. The Justice Department recently expanded its DNA collection to include citizens arrested in connection with federal crimes and many immigrants detained by federal authorities.
Kaemmerling, an evangelical Christian, argued that collection of his DNA information could result in his unwilling participation in activities against his religion, including cloning experiments and stem cell research.
Although in Kaemmerling’s case, the D.C. court ruled that DNA collection does not limit religious freedom, and Kaemmerling may have a debatable point about the use of his DNA for other activities, apart from religious inclinations did he waive his right to his genetic code by commiting a crime?
And in the context of the above, are the benefits of DNA evidence enough reason to impose on the rights of people on their genetic material?
Can we please check again?