Although DNA has proven to be a great tool in both fighting crime and getting people who are innocent released from prison – there is, as always, a dark side to its use.
As we see from this story from the BBC:
Police in Germany have admitted that a woman they have been hunting for more than 15 years may never have existed.
Dubbed the “phantom of Heilbronn”, the woman was described by police as the country’s most dangerous woman.
Investigators had connected her to six murders and an unsolved death based on DNA traces found at the scene.
Police are now acknowledging that swabs used to collect DNA samples may have been contaminated by an innocent woman – possibly during manufacture.
We all, I am sure, would love the police to have a tool or technology that would almost instantaneously say that a person was guilty or innocent – and so much in the detection in crime has been laid at the feet of the use of DNA.
Yet, as you should know, if DNA is not taken correctly – and stored correctly it can become contaminated – and therefore useless.
Police suspicions were based on traces of identical female DNA they found at 40 crime scenes across southern Germany and Austria.
After finding her DNA at the scene of the murder of a 22-year policewoman from Heilbronn in 2007, police offered a 300,000 euro reward for information leading to her arrest.
However, police did not come any closer to identifying their most-sought suspect.
CSI and other programs such as that do a great job of entertaining the public. But do the general public think that it is as easy as it is on a cop show to find and prosecute a criminal, I would hope that knew and do know that it is fiction – and only fiction.
The justice minister for the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Ulrich Goll, believes the case is now closed. He thinks the DNA found at the scene of the crimes is probably due to contamination at the factory.
“It shouldn’t have happened,” he told a regional radio stationsaid.
“The investigators are not to blame. They can’t tell if a cotton bud has DNA sticking to it.”
And that can lead to a miscarriage of justice.