Government DNA results slanted?

dna-model-black-500DNA is easily the most valuable scientific tool available to help determine the truth in the courtroom. The accuracy of DNA profiling to determine personal identification and individualization is unmatched and can help both the prosecution and the defense when used properly. The problem is that it is NOT always used properly and when this happens the results carry so much weight in the minds of jurors, it can lead to disastrous results. Both sides in any litigation need to be aware of the potential for “slanting” of results. Government DNA analysts are by definition intelligent people who understand who pays their paychecks, and it’s no secret what outcome is desired when they are asked by police to perform an analysis.

Real scientists encourage the use of “blind” testing, where the desired results are not revealed, in an attempt to minimize the tendency of the tester to favor one outcome over another. This is standard scientific method and there is no good reason to avoid the practice if one really wants the truth. But police are not in the business of trying to discover the truth. They are in the business of trying to secure convictions from suspects and it has become routine procedure in criminal cases for the government’s DNA analysts to be told in advance what the case is about and what police are trying to prove. This kind of advance telegraphing of the desired result is not likely to be forgotten by the tester and any judgment calls that could be made during testing are inevitably going to result in slanting the evidence against the suspect.

Defense lawyers need to review government DNA reports carefully and look for evidence of this actual bias. In extreme cases it may even lead to suppression of the evidence or worse, prosecution or disbarment of lawyers who deliberately manipulate the results in their effort to prevail in court. Any defense lawyer who assumes that government “scientists” are as objective as independent research scientists is fooling themselves. Don’t assume, expect bias and challenge it with your own expert’s review of the process.

For a good read on this topic, check out this Champion article.

– RP