Wednesday, August 6, 2003

The battle for your DNA

DNA technology helping police solve missing persons cases?

Advances in technology are helping police solve missing person's cases in New South Wales. Police say there have been 11 cases to date where police have identified human remains from mitochondrial DNA.

But the news story posted on ABC Online 4 Aug 03 is deceptive for a couple of reasons.

GKCNN interviewed Mr Michael Strutt from the prisoners action group Justice Action,

Is there any other reason why police would want to validate DNA for a good cause? Does this validate DNA? Is this just a propaganda tool?

"Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) decomposes more slowly than nuclear DNA and can be extracted from bone fragments and hair shafts which would not yield enough nuclear DNA for reliable testing." Michael Strutt.

See more below:

New South Wales is the only state in Australia which has a mitochondrial DNA database, introduced two years ago. In launching the annual Missing Persons Week, Inspector Jeff Emery said the program was achieving results.

"We're looking to increase that type of service," Inspector Emery said. "We're considering other options with this mitochondrial DNA testing. "Can I say that it's a very rare type of testing of DNA and very limited people can do it."

MICHAEL: "Barring rare mutations, mitochondrial DNA is passed down the female line of descent unchanged. So your mtDNA is identical to that of all of your brothers and sisters, your mothers, your grandmother, your maternal aunts and uncles, etc. The upshot is that many people, often even very distant relatives, have exactly the same mitochondrial DNA."

"As surnames are not passed down the female line of descent, often people with the same mtDNA will have no idea that they are related."

"So when police say they have 'identified' human remains using mtDNA they are being less than accurate. Unless other identifying material, such as personal possessions or recorded dental work, is found with the human remains all they can say is that they came from either the missing person or a relative of the missing person. As there is no reliable data available on how mtDNA is distributed in Australia, police can't even say how likely the remains are to match the missing person."

"NSW police may have found 11 mtDNA matches between human remains and the families of missing people, but they have NOT done this using the NSW mtDNA database.

Testing of mitochondrial DNA is more expensive than usual forensic DNA testing and, to the best of my knowledge, there are still no Australian labs accredited to perform such tests.

On the rare occasions police have thought it justified using mtDNA it is because they have already found human remains, which they suspected, was from a particular person and were trying to confirm it.

They did not try to 'match' it by running it against a database for 'cold hits', but rather to family members of the missing person they had taken samples from for that specific purpose. In most cases, the samples were then sent to the FBI or US Armed Forces laboratories overseas for testing."

"The article gives the impression that NSW police have been reuniting bereaved relatives with the remains of their deceased loved ones using mtDNA to clear up missing person cases. Generally this is not true.

Police usually use mtDNA testing in difficult murder investigations. Examples include the failed attempt to match hairs found in the boot of Bruce Burrell's car to missing Sydney housewife, Kerry Whelan and the prosecution of Thomas Keir for the murder of his wife Jean after bone fragments with mtDNA matching hers were found under the Keir family home."

"As mtDNA testing is expensive and usually carried out overseas it is very hard for defendants to get independent testing done, when police claim to have linked them to a crime using mtDNA.

The FBI only performs mtDNA tests requested by other law enforcement agencies, not by suspects. Bruce Burrell was unable to obtain independent tests on the hair found in his car (which fortunately did not match Mrs Whelan anyway) and Ivan Milat has been unable to get hairs found in the hand of one of the Belangalo forest victims tested using mtDNA.

The NSW Innocence Panel has not authorised any mtDNA tests on behalf of prisoners."

"But the most pernicious aspect of the NSW police missing persons DNA database is that it is used to try to link missing persons and their family members to unsolved crimes.

So if an anxious family volunteers samples in the hope of assisting police to locate a missing daughter or identify remains recovered from the Bali bombing they may instead have one of their sons arrested in connection with an unsolved burglary." He said.

Updated 2009:

Corrupt police planting DNA evidence at crime scenes

Others have raised concerns about corrupt police planting DNA evidence at crime scenes.

Military lawyers await probe on DNA tampering

The Army's Criminal Investigation Command said nearly 500 forensic test results from all services dating back 10 years are under review after one of its examiners allegedly faked results. About 119 of those cases pertain to the Navy and Marine Corps.

Murder charge first for DNA data bank link, but not the same as solving the murder

As long as the the prisoners DNA wasn't planted at the crime scene. It is one thing to force prisoners to hand over their DNA and another thing to exploit it.

DNA Evidence of Bipartisanship

Last week the U.S. Congress passed the Justice for All Act, which includes provisions of the Innocence Protection Act. As of this posting, the legislation has not yet been signed by President Bush. Attached is an analysis of the legislation prepared by the Justice Project.

By Mitochondrial DNA 6 August 03

GENESES!: Do you have the two DNA mental genes? If you're tested for these genes and they're present in you, then you're mental or you're more likely than not to go mental. I guess some people will be Mental as Anything? Incidentally, if you have these genes you won't be trusted ever.

The battle for your DNA

The power of genetic research on large populations is impressive, and more will be carried out on other groups isolated by geography, cultural heritage, family lineage, and as yet unimagined categories. The value of such research is the knowledge it yields for individuals, groups and societies who can benefit from it. But knowledge can be harmful if applied carelessly, and will be worthless unless it is shared.

These Campaigns Require Your Urgent Support

The issues and problems of criminal justice and prisons in New South Wales are ever-present. They emerge or disappear with changes of government or through the efforts of the community and activists committed to reform and change.

All too often, a particular issue emerges that demands an immediate response. We are all then presented with a moment of opportunity, a time when the support of many individuals and organisations, taken together, can make the fundamental difference in the outcome.


DNA yours or mine?
Now they have isolated two genes that they say tells you if you're more likely to be depressed. What does that mean? It could mean that you should stay in jail because you are more likely than not to continue your offending behaviour according to a Department of Corrective Services Forensic Psychiatrist.

JUST BEAT IT! Govt lauds crime-solving technology?
If you can't prove where you were when the crime was committed then you'll have to prove you weren't at the crime scene. They take DNA and match it or they already have your profile DNA and match it. Now you have to prove it doesn't match the crime scene.

DNA = Do Not Assume - DNA Controversies!
The national DNA database of all known offenders proposed by Prime Minister Tony Blair could mean that innocent people will be accused of crimes they did not commit.

Murder charge first for DNA data bank link, but not the same as solving the murder As long as the the prisoners DNA wasn't planted at the crime scene. It is one thing to force prisoners to hand over their DNA and another thing to exploit it.