Remarkable statement by the originator of DNA profiling

Remarkable statement by the originator of DNA profiling

Postby Guy Hibbins » Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:02 pm

Yesterday I was listening to a radio program to mark the 30th anniversary of DNA profiling. Sir Alec Jeffreys of the University of Leicester, the originator of DNA profiling and a leading world expert, was interviewed for the segment.
See http://www.dw.de/from-paternity-to-crim ... a-17911987

He made what seemed to me to be a remarkable statement. But DNA evidence is not enough on its own - as Sir Alec says, DNA "has context."
"For example, I could shake your hand, leave my DNA on you. You could then visit a crime scene and leave my DNA, and I've never been anywhere near it. So there are ways of transferring DNA [with] innocent explanations, which at face value look like a pretty damning bit of guilty evidence. DNA says nothing about guilt or innocence. It only seeks to establish whether sample A came from person B, or not. It can do that with exquisite accuracy. But it's up to the court to decide innocence or guilt on all the evidence, not simply on DNA."

The program then interviewed Professor Allen Jamieson, who is the former head of the police forensic science laboratory of Scotland.
He said that deciding innocence or guilt is not as simple as going on gut feeling. There are significant factors that need to be considered in conjunction with DNA fingerprinting, or any evidence, for that matter.
He stated, "Even if someone says the finding is 'consistent with' someone touching this gun, for example...That phrase 'consistent with' can be very misleading. If I take a pathologist, for example, who says the wound is consistent with a 6 inch knife because it's a 6 inch deep wound, it would also be consistent with a 12 inch knife which has gone half the way in, or an 18 inch knife which has only gone a third of the way in. So people need to remember it really means 'this is one possible explanation' - and with DNA, there are many, many explanations as to how DNA can come to be on an item."

What he is essentially saying then is that if you or I had visited Perugia before the murder and shaken hands with Meredith Kercher for some reason, then our DNA might have been found on her bra strap. This hardly seems like a solid basis for a murder conviction. Yet largely on the basis of the DNA, Amanda Knox, who seems like quite a sweet innocent person to me, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 28 and a half years in prison. Her sentence was actually longer than the 21 years given to Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer and fanatical terrorist bomber who killed 77 people and wounded 319 in Norway in 2011. Moreover, Breivik is eligible for parole after just 10 years.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anders_Behring_Breivik

It does not seem to me that justice was served in Perugia.
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Re: Remarkable statement by the originator of DNA profiling

Postby Annella » Wed Sep 10, 2014 8:24 pm

Thanks for this piece Guy!!
'The Italian concept of judicial truth does not trouble itself with reality; it controls the narrative by controlling the past"
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Re: Remarkable statement by the originator of DNA profiling

Postby KayPea » Thu Sep 11, 2014 7:37 pm

Thank you for this, very interesting and enlightening.
“If it is not right do not do it; if it is not true do not say it.”-- Marcus Aurelius
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Re: Remarkable statement by the originator of DNA profiling

Postby Grayhawker » Fri Sep 12, 2014 7:55 am

This group contains some pretty amazing people.

The nuggets of gold they find. The untangling of confounding laws (US and Italian). The insights to forensic science. The list goes on and on. I feel privelaged to be a lurker among this group.

OK, butt kissing done. Y'll keep on fighting the good fight against wrongful convictions.
Paolo Micheli stated with regard to Amanda and Raffaele: "We do not need evidence, common sense and logic tell us that they dated each other to commit this crime."
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Re: Remarkable statement by the originator of DNA profiling

Postby Chris_Halkides » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:51 pm

Nature 318, 577 - 579 (12 December 1985); doi:10.1038/318577a0
Forensic application of DNA ‘fingerprints’
PETER GILL*, ALEC J. JEFFREYS† & DAVID J. WERRETT*
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Re: Remarkable statement by the originator of DNA profiling

Postby Bill Williams » Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:43 pm

To bump this to the top.

Guy Hibbins wrote:Yesterday I was listening to a radio program to mark the 30th anniversary of DNA profiling. Sir Alec Jeffreys of the University of Leicester, the originator of DNA profiling and a leading world expert, was interviewed for the segment.
See http://www.dw.de/from-paternity-to-crim ... a-17911987

He made what seemed to me to be a remarkable statement. But DNA evidence is not enough on its own - as Sir Alec says, DNA "has context."
"For example, I could shake your hand, leave my DNA on you. You could then visit a crime scene and leave my DNA, and I've never been anywhere near it. So there are ways of transferring DNA [with] innocent explanations, which at face value look like a pretty damning bit of guilty evidence. DNA says nothing about guilt or innocence. It only seeks to establish whether sample A came from person B, or not. It can do that with exquisite accuracy. But it's up to the court to decide innocence or guilt on all the evidence, not simply on DNA."

The program then interviewed Professor Allen Jamieson, who is the former head of the police forensic science laboratory of Scotland.
He said that deciding innocence or guilt is not as simple as going on gut feeling. There are significant factors that need to be considered in conjunction with DNA fingerprinting, or any evidence, for that matter.
He stated, "Even if someone says the finding is 'consistent with' someone touching this gun, for example...That phrase 'consistent with' can be very misleading. If I take a pathologist, for example, who says the wound is consistent with a 6 inch knife because it's a 6 inch deep wound, it would also be consistent with a 12 inch knife which has gone half the way in, or an 18 inch knife which has only gone a third of the way in. So people need to remember it really means 'this is one possible explanation' - and with DNA, there are many, many explanations as to how DNA can come to be on an item."

What he is essentially saying then is that if you or I had visited Perugia before the murder and shaken hands with Meredith Kercher for some reason, then our DNA might have been found on her bra strap. This hardly seems like a solid basis for a murder conviction. Yet largely on the basis of the DNA, Amanda Knox, who seems like quite a sweet innocent person to me, was convicted of murder and sentenced to 28 and a half years in prison. Her sentence was actually longer than the 21 years given to Anders Breivik, the Norwegian mass murderer and fanatical terrorist bomber who killed 77 people and wounded 319 in Norway in 2011. Moreover, Breivik is eligible for parole after just 10 years.
See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anders_Behring_Breivik

It does not seem to me that justice was served in Perugia.
    “The only way I can pay back for what fate and society have handed me is to try, in minor totally useless ways, to make an angry sound against injustice.”
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