Instructor: Michelle Garza
December 6, 2010
Argumentative Essay on DNA Analysis
Crimes occur every day from; burglary, to killings, kidnapping, stealing, and many more. The people that commit such crimes, need to be caught so that they can pay their consequences which should help them realize the crime they committed was wrong. Catching a criminal is not easy so what are the most effective ways to catch a criminal? The forensic community plays an important role in helping out with this situation. Forensic scientist help law enforcements get a lead and solve a case. Forensic scientists use different devices such as; urine testing, DNA testing, DNA markers, and many more devices to help get a lead in a case in order to come to the decision of convicting the right person. Forensics technology has improved dramatically over time, but it still seems that the most reliable resource among many discussions, ideas, and perspectives have been researched on why and how DNA is the most effective way of finding a solution. There is a lack of agreement if this device is the most effective tool in this community. So the question remains: Is DNA analysis the most effective in identifying an individual involved in a crime? I will focus on arguing and supporting the fact that DNA analysis is the most effective tool in the forensic community.
There are many people that oppose the fact that DNA analysis is the most effective tool used. For example, there have been such statements about how there have been wrong convictions of innocent suspects, which is a good point. In many cases there have been men convicted of raping or murdering an individual when they really didn't. These individuals spend lots of time and years in prison for a crime they didn't even commit. Others feel that when the biological evidence is collected at the crime scene some of the extraneous DNA will be included in the samples found, resulting in a bad sample. This leads to convicting the innocents, making it another valid point. Also some may argue that DNA analysis test results are inconclusive, but I will explain in greater detail how all of these issues can be avoided. Humans make many mistakes and when applying scientific techniques mistakes are known to happen as Harris explains, �Science is unbiased, but humans make mistakes when applying scientific techniques� (9). Everyone makes mistakes and technology can also make mistakes, so saying that DNA analysis is no the most effective basing it off of some mistakes that can be fixed is not valid reasoning. Due to the large amount of crimes, the result of massive amounts of DNA samples get sent to the crime scene laboratories, but do all these samples get tested? This is another issue suggested from the opposing side.
First in response to the wrong conviction issue, each individual has a different set of chromosomes that contain our genetic makeup so why wouldn't DNA analysis be the most effective source? When a sample for instance blood is collected at a crime scene, the sample is sent to the labs and then test are ran over and over again to narrow down the possible suspects. Different size markers, which are the locations on the chromosome pairs, are used to help narrow down the possibilities. Since there are so many different variations between each individuals genes it is impossible for any individuals to have the same genetic makeup. So how can faults occur with this device? As described by Daniel Drell of the U.S. DOE Human Genome Program, � DNA identification ca be quite effective if used intelligently� (1). This is a valid point because most of the occurring problems that occur have to do with human error. Also another reason that this particular problems occurs is due to the fact that forensic scientist do not get specific enough in order to narrow down the possible suspects. For example, if blood samples found at a crime scene was sent to the crime labs and the results showed it was blood type O, there are so many individuals with this blood type so it does not necessarily help the process of accusing the right person. The more specific the better because the rarer the results the better, as explained by Daniel Drell, � With DNA, the same kind of thinking is used; you can look for matches... at many different locations on the person's genome; one or two (even three) aren't enough to be confident that the suspect is the right one, but thirteen sites [will help]. A match at all thirteen is rare enough that you... can be very confident... that the right person is accused (1). The techniques of identifying a suspect from his or her genetic makeup has developed over the years. Each individual has their own unique genetic blueprint. DNA is made of only four nucleotides: Adenine, Cytosine, Guanine, and Thymine. These nucleotides match up with one another; Adenine matching up with Thymine and Cytosine matching up with Guanine, always. These base pairs are patterned differently and vary from person to person. There are many different combination's that can be made from the four base pairs as mentioned earlier. William Harris explains in greater detail by stating, � It's almost impossible for someone to have DNA that is identical to [someone else]� (1). Also another statement supports this claim, �The high probability of finding different patterns in different individuals means a large chance of excluding a falsely accused individual and a small chance of coincidental match between a DNA profile of a suspect and that in evidentiary sample� (Chakraborty Ranajit and Kidd K Kenneth, 2). This is supporting the fact that everyone has a different genetic makeup so the chance of having a match up between two individuals is very small. In this case I feel that if biological evidence was found at a crime scene a DNA analysis test would be the most effective way to identify a suspect. As stated by William Harris, � DNA evidence is now as important as fingerprints in convicting criminals and freeing innocent suspects� (5). DNA has come a long way over the years and is now becoming the most important toolkit for forensic scientist and law enforcement for solving a case.
In most court cases biological evidence is the main reason a suspect can be convicted by the number of clues the evidence gives the forensic scientist. For example, in the most publicized criminal trial of O.J. Simpson the prosecutors thought they had a lead to proving he was guilty when a bloody glove was found at the crime scene ( the back of Nicole Brown Simpson's house). These gloves were said to be O.J. Simpson's as explained, � Nicole Brown Simpson, his former wife and murder victim, had bought him two pair of these Aris Isotoner Lights, size extra large gloves... What makes these gloves even more significant is the fact that there were only about 200 pairs sold that year by Bloomingdales's department store� (Kobilinsky, Liotti, and Oeser-Sweat, 3). In cases like this when there are biological evidence found it would seem other factors would interfere with the test results, but even though it seems that extraneous DNA would be included in biological evidence found, there are ways to prevent its from happening. A professor of Statistics and Genetics known as William Neal Reynolds interviewed Dr. Bruce S. Weir, who is an expert witness for the prosecution of the O.J. Simpson case, about the methods of DNA evidence. This interview with Dr. Bruce gives a view from an insider perspective. As explained by Dr. Bruce Weir, � The methods used in forensic DNA are not much concerned with excluding extraneous DNA as in identification of human DNA. The probes used are very specific for human DNA� (1). This explains the fact that the DNA analysis is strictly for human identification and everything else will not be included. So this clarifies how other materials do not affect the testing of DNA analysis. Other material do not interfere with the biological evidence because the tool only specifies in identifying human evidence. Knowing this helps resolve the problem of those who feel extraneous DNA would affect the effectiveness of DNA analysis.
It is possible that DNA analysis can have inconclusive results and this can lead to wrongful convictions. Most of the time these inconclusive results are due to human error. Humans are known for making mistakes and it happens quite frequently, but even though it has been proven that DNA analysis has wrongfully convicted the innocent it also has been the one to uncover wrong convictions. In, � The Justice Project�, it describes the facts about Texas DNA exoneration and explains that, � twelve countries in Texas has uncovered wrong convictions� (1). Most of the inconclusive results occur from mistaken eyewitnesses identification. Eighty- five percent of eye witness mistakes have wrongfully convicted the innocent. There are also other factors that have wrongfully convicted the innocent like; false forensic testimony, false confessions, guilty pleas, and misconduct (1). Many people have been wrongly convicted and have spent many years in prison for murder, rape, and other charges that they did not convict. Darby Tillis and Perry Cobb are two men who was sentenced to death for murder and, �were tried five times before being exonerated in 1987� (1). DNA analysis was the key to releasing those who were wrongly convicted. Those people who spent those years in prison will never get there life back, so to make sure these mistakes do not happen again it is best to continue using DNA analysis for answers to solve a crime. As quoted, � Any wrongful conviction is a tragedy because it leaves the guilty unpunished and condemns the innocent to prison, or death� (Wallace B. Jefferson, chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court).
A study of the factors leading to wrongful convictions have provided statistics that show DNA erroneous has the lowest percentage for wrongful convictions. The one factor that is the highest for wrongful convictions is mistaken witnesses. Having bad defensive lawyers is also a a factor which is in the middle range percentage for causing wrong convictions. So for those who oppose the ideas that DNA analysis is not effective for having inconclusive results and for wrongfully convicting the innocent, they should look at the statistics in the book, � Actual Innocence: The Justice System Confronts Wrongful Convictions�, by Steve Leben, before judging. DNA analysis is the device that helps solve the problems of those who have spent time in prison for years for committing crimes they didn't do. For example a current situation that just happened on August 27, 2010 two men that were innocent were released from prison. One man, Allen Wayne Porter, was released on July 23, after DNA testing and other new evidence proved he did not commit the 1990 rape fro which he was sent to prison 19 years ago. To relate to this, another case happened where a man Glen Dale Woodall was convicted of the Huntington Mall Rapes of 1987... he was cleared of all charges by the help of DNA sampling and was paid 1,000,000 by West Virginia, for his wrongful imprisonment. Now every convicted felon must submit to DNA sampling. Even though he was paid off, it does not make up for the lost time. Imagine how he felt spending all that time in prison for something he didn't do.
Finally, law enforcement officers and forensic scientist routinely collect biological evidence every time they arrive at a crime scene. When the biological evidence is collected it is then sent to the crime laboratories for analyzing and profiling. Known substances are compared to the evidence found at the crime scene. The opposing side states, � The increasing number of samples... have generated oppressive caseloads for already understaffed crime labs. In response, the labs have had to relegate the analysis of DNA evidence from property offenses... to a back seat in favor of more pressing, high profile cases. �Untested DNA samples from property and other crime scenes are creating a massive backlog of untested samples� (Mary B. Murphy and Edwin Zedlewski, 1). Due to the massive back load of biological samples some solutions have been discussed by Edwin Zedlewski and Mary B. Murphy. One solution is to improve the DNA analysis capacity of public crime laboratories. Secondly, support training and education for forensic scientists to increase the pool of available DNA analysis (1). Thirdly, support the development of improved DNA technologies (1). All of these solutions are valid. Once the problems are addressed by these solutions then the DNA analysis will be able to remain the most effective too.
Although there remains different perspectives on the issue of DNA analysis being the most effective tool for law enforcement, most researchers agree on the fact that DNA analysis is effective and helps detectives and law enforcers not only get a lead in a case, but it can also help those who have been wrongly convicted of a crime. For those who fail to agree there are suggested solutions that will solve problems with the device. Technology can always be improved and if DNA analysis was improved to where human error would not effect the results then this could help those who oppose this issue now, later agree that it is the most effective tool. Most of these problems are minor problems and can be fixed with an inexpensive cost. So with these problems being fixed the people that feel DNA analysis is the most effective tool will remain with their side and those who disagreed will eventually realize that DNA analysis is the most effective compared to the other resources such as; eye witnesses, faulty pleas, poor defensive lawyers, false confession, informant, misconduct, and mistake ID. Research has helped develop a greater understanding of how DNA analysis is helpful in most cases and can help law enforcement make the right convictions.