Va. Forensic Department Will Study Controversial DNA Testing Technique | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

: News

Va. Forensic Department Will Study Controversial DNA Testing Technique

Play associated audio

By Jonathan Wilson

Virginia's Forensic Science Board has decided to study, but not yet implement, familial DNA testing, a technique that can identify relatives of a criminal suspect.

It's a controversial practice, currently used in only two other states.

Familial DNA testing lets law enforcement narrow investigations by using partial DNA matches to identify relatives of a possible suspect within the criminal database.

The technique has been used successfully in Colorado and in California, where authorities used it to find a suspect in the "Grim Sleeper" serial killings last month.

Mitch Morrissey is the district attorney for Denver, Colorado, and says familial DNA testing could help solve the case of the "East Coast Rapist," a man police believe has been attacking women for at least the past 13 years, many in Northern Virginia.

"And of the states this man has attacked, 19 different victims, 4 different states: Virginia is the state that has the largest database," says Morrissey.

Stephen Mercer is an attorney with the Maryland Public Defender's office. He says just because a technique can help solve crimes doesn't mean police should use it.

"Warrant-less searches of houses would solve many crimes, serious crimes included," he says.

Maryland is the only state to explicitly outlaw familial DNA testing, legislators cite privacy concerns.

NPR

How To Sell Diverse Books: A Bookstore Owner's Advice

It's not news that the publishing world isn't very diverse. But over on the other side of the industry, how do owners of neighborhood bookstores try to sell books for or about people of color?
NPR

Can Quinoa Take Root On The 'Roof Of The World'?

Quinoa, once a homebody crop, crossed the Atlantic for the first time this century. Now the Food and Agriculture Organization has a hunch it can thrive in Central and Southwest Asia.
NPR

North Carolina Senate Race Shapes Up As Unpopularity Contest

One of the most expensive Senate races this year is in North Carolina, where Democratic incumbent Kay Hagen is trying to keep her job. Her approval numbers are dismal, but so are those for her GOP opponent, North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis.
NPR

Islamic State Uses Online Strategies To Get Its Message Out

Experts say the videotaped killing of journalist James Foley is part of a broader propaganda strategy by Islamist militants. The group, the Islamic State, has become a master of the video medium.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.