Accountability In DNA Testing

DNA evidence is a fundamental component of our judicial system and any allegations about officers of the law regarding corrupt practices related to this matter should be investigated swiftly...
Photo credit to Micah Baldwin via flickr

DNA evidence is a fundamental component of our judicial system and any allegations about officers of the law regarding corrupt practices related to this matter should be investigated swiftly and thoroughly. Although one might assume that most reasonable people would agree with the latter statement, here we have a context in which such corrupt practices have gone unaddressed. According to the article the scientist’s attorney John Bailey made the following statement, “There are people that are very pro-prosecution. They were putting pressure on scientists to reach conclusions that were not scientifically valid. That’s what my clients were objecting to.” I believe the least we could do in this situation is spread awareness of our findings and engage in critical thought in order to combat a similar situation occurring sometime in the future.

The idea that the New York Police Department would treat other people, men and women, as mere statistics to be manipulated for profit is a very alarming notion. This is an organization that has the authority to decide the fate of other human beings, even whether they will live or die, as in the case of capital punishment.

According to the article “the department was working to implement a computerized DNA analysis system called TrueAllele which would guarantee results of the tests are correct. But because of pressure from the police to get more convictions, the use of the system was scrapped.” The scientists who are suing the New York Police Department claim that after they criticized the system that had been implemented by the Department they were sought out in an “internal investigation” and silenced by way of transfers and firings.

According to a podcast titled New Questions about the Use of Forensic DNA in which Daniele Podini, professor of forensic science at George Washington University, informed his audience of the nature of DNA lab certification, “Crime labs are accredited by the Association of Crime Lab Directors DNA Analysis Board, which is made up of forensic scientists. And they have petitioners that validate, that inspect laboratories periodically to determine whether they’re following the guidelines that they should follow.” In a response to the previous statement Erin Murphy, professor of law at NYU, said the following:
That is true. I think we still see that there’s major shortcomings. That accreditation body has been accrediting every single lab that’s gone through a major scandal. So we know it’s not working the way it should. And I’ll just give some comparison. The clinical laboratories have to follow a federal statute that requires that they are inspected, you know, the inspection happens quarterly, it could happen, you know, twice a year, if it’s a very complex process. Their certifications only last two years… The DNA database, the national database requires accreditation, but they just defer to these organizations. They don’t do their own independent audit. Those organizations aren’t rigorous. They’re coming in, they’re giving notice, it’s not a spot check. They usually just ask for the, you know, entity to produce files. They do a paper review. There’s no reanalysis. There’s not the kind of spontaneous, unexpected inspection that really would recover flaws. And in New York, for instance, we have 24,000 restaurants. You know how we make sure our sandwiches aren’t corroded? We do unannounced spot checks. And that’s how we know the roaches really aren’t there or the mice really aren’t there. And I think anyone will tell you, you make your house nicer when you know someone’s coming over.”

With these major flaws entrenched in the core of our DNA testing facilities being pointed out by prestigious and extremely qualified individuals, we must ask ourselves, “What are we to do about it?” A more rigorous and spontaneous system of checks and balances needs to be implemented in wake of these recent scandals, and situations such as the one that occurred in New York need to be brought to light and carefully scrutinized by the corporate media.

Ethics Alerts (Op-Ed)
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