Accused serial killer snared using controversial technique
Professor Hank Greely, an expert on law and the biosciences, is quoted on using familial DNA evidence to solve crimes. Ashley Fantz of CNN reports:
Los Angeles police are saying they've arrested a serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper using familial DNA, or the comparison of one's unique genetic code with a relative's unique code.
Police say they found the man accused of killing 11 people -- in murders dating back to 1985 -- by comparing DNA found at some of the crime scenes with the DNA of the suspect's son, who was in a California lock-up. The son's DNA led them to the father, and police are sure they've solved the case.
Familial DNA is a controversial crime-solving method.
"That's a low number, but when you're talking about violent cases or high-profile cases, any match is a worthwhile effort," said Hank Greely, a Stanford University Law School professor. Greely is considered a national expert on the ethical implication of DNA testing.
He points to a fiery controversy concerning familial testing -- racial profiling.
The CODIS databank is disproportionately filled with African-Americans, said Greely.
"Race is a big issue; it's a legitimate question to address, and it's a troubling fact," he said. "We can talk all day long about why it is that more African-Americans are arrested, but the fact is that the database reflects that. Inevitably that means familial DNA matching will net more African-Americans than any other group of people.
"This a very hot conversation to be having," he said. "And I'm sure this Grim Sleeper case is only going to bring that on like we've never experienced it before in California."