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DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications.

DNA DNA: see nucleic acid.
 or deoxyribonucleic acid

One of two types of nucleic acid (the other is RNA); a complex organic compound found in all living cells and many viruses. It is the chemical substance of genes.
: Forensic and Legal Applications by Lawrence Kobilinsky, Thomas F. Liotti, and Jamel Oeser-Sweat Jamel Oeser-Sweat, Esq. is an attorney in New York. He practices in several areas of the law including civil and criminal litigation, intellectual property (Copyrights, Patents, Trademarks & Entertainment), immigration, corporate planning, commercial real estate, contract , Wiley-Interscience, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey Hoboken is a city in Hudson County, New Jersey, United States. Geography

Hoboken is located at 40°44'41" North, 74°1'59" West (40.744851, -74.032941).GR1
, 2005.

No subject is as conceptually complex, operationally technical, and professionally necessary to understand today than deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). It has radically changed the way the criminal justice system works; its collection and analysis leads to convictions of previously unknown criminals and to the exoneration The removal of a burden, charge, responsibility, duty, or blame imposed by law. The right of a party who is secondarily liable for a debt, such as a surety, to be reimbursed by the party with primary liability for payment of an obligation that should have been paid by the first party.  of the innocent accused. Almost every criminal law practitioner can testify to the impact of the DNA revolution, especially to the expectations of jurors and other laypersons on what the effects of forensic science The application of scientific knowledge and methodology to legal problems and criminal investigations.

Sometimes called simply forensics, forensic science encompasses many different fields of science, including anthropology, biology, chemistry, engineering, genetics,
 should be in solving criminal cases, partly because of glamorization glam·or·ize also glam·our·ize  
tr.v. glam·or·ized, glam·or·iz·ing, glam·or·iz·es
1. To make glamorous: tried to glamorize the bathroom with expensive fixtures.

 by the plethora of forensic investigation programs on television. Therefore, prosecutors should understand the science of DNA analysis DNA analysis Any technique used to analyze genes and DNA. See Chromosome walking, DNA fingerprinting, Footprinting, In situ hybridization, Jeffries' probe, Jumping libraries, PCR, RFLP analysis, Southern blot hybridization.  as thoroughly as possible to counter objections from the defense and to begin to meet or forestall the expectations of jurors.

An appropriate beginning text for this purpose is DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications. The authors approach the subject starting from the most basic understanding of the scientific background of DNA analysis and expanding to the actual methodology used in the various testing processes. They also discuss general principles of forensic science and data collection/crime scene investigation, including the strengths and weaknesses of each of the currently used DNA analyses. Particularly helpful is the insight gained from viewing each process on a theoretical and conceptual basis (i.e., understanding what is being tested and compared in each testing method), rather than just reading a lab report where a technician used a certain method that provided a particular result. Indeed, knowing the strengths and limitations of each technique can explain why others were not used, as well as to better point out the valuable information gained by using one process, rather than another.

Prosecutors, in particular, may want to pay close attention to the authors' emphasis on the importance of statistical matters and population genetics Population genetics

The study of both experimental and theoretical consequences of mendelian heredity on the population level, in contradistinction to classical genetics which deals with the offspring of specified parents on the familial level.
 in DNA analysis. DNA evidence Among the many new tools that science has provided for the analysis of forensic evidence is the powerful and controversial analysis of deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, the material that makes up the genetic code of most organisms. , for example, can show that the sample collected from a rape victim cannot be excluded as having come from a defendant or suspect because to get a random match as tested would occur only once in billions or trillions of tests. Thorough comprehension of the ideas that make DNA evidence so remarkably probative Having the effect of proof, tending to prove, or actually proving.

When a legal controversy goes to trial, the parties seek to prove their cases by the introduction of evidence.
 in court will prepare counsel to present the material to the jury in an understandable and persuasive way. In addition, the sections dealing with mixed samples (containing multiple sources of DNA) and the methods used to manage such results are helpful, especially in rape cases where mixed DNA samples may occur.

The authors expend some effort discussing the legal history of admitting DNA and other scientific or technical evidence, including the Frye and Daubert decisions and their progeny. This material is not only of historical value but of practical importance because the science of DNA testing DNA testing
Analysis of DNA (the genetic component of cells) in order to determine changes in genes that may indicate a specific disorder.

Mentioned in: Acoustic Neuroma, Retinoblastoma, Von Willebrand Disease
 continues to change and new methods of analysis eventually will have to pass one of these standards to be admissible in court.

Whole sections of the book contain discussions and exemplars of how to conduct voir dire voir dire

(Anglo-French; “to speak the truth”)

In law, the act or process of questioning prospective jurors to determine whether they are qualified and suitable for service on a jury.
, question experts, make objections, and close effectively in DNA cases. That much of this material is written from a defense perspective matters not at all for prosecutors because anticipating where their opposition might occur often proves as important as determining what strategy they will use to present their own cases.

Chapters dealing with scientific materials each contain a healthy reference bibliography for further study or collaboration with a DNA expert. The work closes with appendices detailing further bibliographical sources, state and federal court cases addressing the admissibility of various DNA testing methods, contact information for innocence projects, defense DNA discovery request suggestions, and a glossary.

DNA: Forensic and Legal Applications is a valuable resource for criminal practitioners, particularly prosecutors, in dealing with progressively more common and relied-upon DNA evidence. This fairly short text (364 pages, including bibliographic materials, appendices, and an index) will help them gain a more foundational and in-depth understanding of the mechanics of DNA testing and the theory behind it that gives meaning to the science and makes it so relevant in court, as well as provide them with the impetus for sparking ideas about how better to present a DNA case before judge and jury.

Robert E. Stephens, Jr.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney

34th Judicial Circuit

Williamsburg, Kentucky
COPYRIGHT 2007 Federal Bureau of Investigation
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007, Gale Group. All rights reserved.

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Author:Stephens, Robert E., Jr.
Publication:The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin
Date:Jul 1, 2007
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