Remember earlier this year when the National Academy of Sciences released a scathing report on the state of forensic science in this country? Recall that, as traditionally relied upon, but scientifically dubious, techniques like fingerprint analysis, ballistics, and bite mark examinations were pilloried, one technique was held out as a shining example of getting it right – DNA comparisons. But the good times couldn’t last:
Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases.I’m a little concerned about the cavalier response from back in the US:
The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.
John M. Butler, leader of the human identity testing project at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said he was 'impressed at how well they were able to fabricate the fake DNA profiles.' However, he added, 'I think your average criminal wouldn’t be able to do something like that.'If only it were the “average criminal” that was the concern. In the wake of things like the Fred Zain scandal in West Virginia and others, it’s abundantly clear that the scientists doing the testing aren’t beyond fabricating evidence to help convict the “right” guy. That doesn’t mean DNA is worthless, only that it should be subject to the same scrutiny and skepticism by a jury as any other piece of evidence.