Will jails empty and CSI stop filling TV slots because scientists say that DNA evidence can be falsified?

The term “beyond a shadow of a doubt” became a bit more confusing this week when Dan Frumkin and his team of Israeli forensic specialists reported that DNA evidence can be fabricated and planted at crime scenes.
Frumkin wrote in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics that DNA evidence is key to the conviction or exoneration of suspects of various types of crime, from theft to rape and murder.

illustration by bsc dec.au

illustration by bsc dec.au

But he and his colleagues cautioned that the disturbing possibility that DNA evidence can be faked has been overlooked.
Any undergrad with basic lab equipment and a bit of know-how can crank out “practically unlimited amounts” of artificial DNA, which can then be used to salt a real crime scene with someone else’s genetic profile, said Frumkin.

Does this mean that anguish and worry fill the offices of criminal prosecutors around the globe and in jails and prisons everywhere cheers and joy fill the cellblocks.
Well, maybe not.

According to papers in the UK and U.S., forensic specialists question whether the falsification is as easy as Frumkin claims.
The Daily Mail in London cited British experts who said that while the science was possible, it was highly unlikely any criminal would go to such lengths.

Dr. Gill Tully, of the British government-funded Forensic Science Service, told the newspaper: ‘’You would need a full molecular biology lab, thousands of pounds worth of equipment and a fully competent molecular biology scientist or technician.’’

Frumkin’s company, perhaps not coincidentally, sells a kit that he insists can distinguish real DNA samples from fake ones.

Here is a link to the abstract of Frumkin’s journal article and the much longer story by the Daily Mail.


Comments

Will jails empty and CSI stop filling TV slots because scientists say that DNA evidence can be falsified? — 2 Comments

  1. >The Daily Mail in London cited British experts who said that while >the science was possible, it was highly unlikely any criminal would >go to such lengths.

    >Dr. Gill Tully, of the British government-funded Forensic Science >Service, told the newspaper: ‘’You would need a full molecular >biology lab, thousands of pounds worth of equipment and a fully >competent molecular biology scientist or technician.’’

    That said, is anyone REALLY worried about CRIMINALS manipulating DNA?

  2. While I agree that it is unlikely that the average criminal would have the ability to forge DNA, I am concerned about the absolute reliance on DNA evidence by the criminal justice system.

    Theoretically, anyone with a personal vendetta against someone, and willing to pay the price, would be able to frame his enemy for a crime which they didn’t do. Under the current system, the person would then be left absolutely defenseless. Even with a hundred witnesses testifying that the defendant was at different location at the time of the crime, the Holy Grail of DNA evidence would override the defense, and it be presumed that the witnesses are false.

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