Stranger Than Fiction: Using DNA Evidence to Build a Face

Scientists tell us that DNA evidence can now be used to re-create a potential suspect’s face, even without witness accounts, Attorney Peter Greenspun explains.

In the realm of truth that is stranger than fiction, the scientific community now tells us that a few cells containing genetic material, DNA evidence with sufficient genetic markers can be used to “grow” the alleged appearance of the person of interest.  Is this science, fantasy, or something out of the imagination of Rod Serling, the creator of the Twilight Zone?  (For those of you not as old as me, see this).

A Closer Look Using DNA Evidence to Build a Face

In Columbia, South Carolina, this is truth. Four years ago, a mother and her three-year-old daughter were murdered. There were no eyewitnesses, and no security cameras showing people coming or going. But about a month ago, the police released a computer-generated sketch of the suspect, based solely on DNA evidence found at the scene of the crime. This building of faces by DNA evidence is called forensic DNA phenotyping. For more information about this case, click here

While the growth of science and movement into the lifestyle of the Jetsons is something to behold, the civil and criminal justice system should be working to ensure that science equates to certainty.  Today’s claims of DNA evidence identification, when done correctly, through a forensic process that is proven, accepted in the scientific community, and accomplished with the highest degree of integrity can provide remarkable results and help prove the innocence or guilt of a suspect.

However, the problems with DNA evidence comparisons, frailty of human application of the science, and manipulated and poorly managed crime scenes can still lead to false and misleading results. DNA comparisons can free the innocent, but also imprison those who are not guilty if the “system” does not function at the highest levels.

“Building a Face from DNA” is not within the realm of what should be presented in a courtroom.  Biased manipulation of DNA evidence, placing of genetic materials by interested parties and witnesses, and careless forensic evaluation simply provide too much opportunity for wrong results.  We welcome the Jetsons flying cars and push button kitchens, but the judicial system must be people-driven.

If your DNA evidence has been found at the scene of a crime, contact the trusted Fairfax, VA lawyers at Greenspun Shapiro PC immediately.‚Äč

Peter D. Greenspun
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Virginia Criminal Law and Personal Injury Attorney
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