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Familial DNA Merits Careful Use

Publication Date: 
April 08, 2011
Source: 
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN)

Professor Hank Greely is quoted in the Star Tribune on the use of familial DNA, and the additional safeguards needed to ensure individuals' confidentiality.

California's "Grim Sleeper" serial killer evaded authorities for three decades until last summer.

That's when investigators turned to a controversial new type of DNA analysis -- a technique that merits careful use in Minnesota. Using familial DNA doesn't pinpoint the perpetrator, but it can generate new leads by potentially identifying the criminal's family members.

Lonnie Franklin Jr., a Los Angeles man in his late 50s, is suspected of at least 10 murders and is now awaiting trial. Officials trying to crack the cold case knew that DNA found at crime scenes did not directly match anything in law enforcement criminal databases.

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Hank Greely, a law professor at Stanford University and the lead author of the law journal article, said it's not clear how many states use familial DNA, though California and Colorado have been at the forefront.

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Stanford's Greely said additional safeguards are needed to ensure individuals' confidentiality. Having county attorneys sign off on this technique's use -- a provision that was in the bill at one time -- also should be reconsidered.