DECONSTRUCTING THE CSI EFFECT: FORENSIC SCIENCE AND THE MEDIA

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1 DECONSTRUCTING THE CSI EFFECT: FORENSIC SCIENCE AND THE MEDIA By Emily Fisher Department of Science, Technology & Society The University of Pennsylvania Thesis Advisor: Dr. John Tresch, Department of Science, Technology & Society

2 Acknowledgements Writing this paper is by far, one of the most arduous tasks that I have undertaken during my years of higher education. The discipline, responsibility and motivation required to complete such a project are learned skills that I have had the opportunity to sharpen over the past year. However, this final product could not have come to fruition without the help of several important individuals. I would like to begin by thanking the Department of Science, Technology and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. The honors program for this major provided me with the opportunity and the resources necessary to construct my thesis. Within the department, I want to thank my advisor, Dr. John Tresch. Dr. Tresch, you have been with me since the start. From the infantile stages of determining my topic to the final draft of the paper, you have critiqued my argument, guided my research, and taught me how to construct a scholarly publication of this magnitude. Thank you for everything. Lastly, I would like to thank my family. Mom, Dad, Jamie, thank you so much for your love, support and opinions throughout this process. Your insights and intellect and objectivity were critical in helping me craft this paper. I cannot tell you enough how much I value and appreciate your input. As an aside, I would also like to thank you for letting me hog the TV over school vacations. I told you I was doing research! I love you. 1

3 I. INTRODUCTION The entertainment value of television is a cultural norm in our society. According to a 2012 study published by Nielsen Statistics and the New York Times, the average American over the age of two spends more than thirty- seven hours a week watching television. 1 These findings quantitatively represent our society s shift from printed media to visual literacy. 2 Of the hundreds of different shows available to channel surfers, police procedurals and other crime- related television shows are by far a fan favorite. Logically this makes sense; television franchises such as NCIS and its spin off NCIS: Los Angeles, Law and Order (as well as its subsequent spin offs), Bones, Dexter, and all of the CSIs are successful multi- season investments that have accrued a loyal fan base over the years. Their immense popularity has prompted networks to re- air these shows in syndication, or extend their rights to the show so as to allow for live streaming on computers, ipads and other technologies. As a result, legal institutions such as the Supreme Court and the American Bar Association have begun to examine the relationship between television s portrayal and the public s understanding of the law. 3 Their findings have yielded empirical evidence to suggest that most people learn about law and forensics from television. 4 Yet, in an article published by The Wall Street Journal, it was estimated that approximately 40% of the forensic science in the television 1 David Hinckley, Americans Spend 34 Hours a Week Watching TV, According to Nielsen Numbers, New York Daily News, Sept. 12, 2012, (accessed 27 Feb. 2013). 2 Kimberlianne Podlas, "The CSE Effect: Exposing the Media Myth," Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal, 16, no. 2 (2005): , Ibid., Ibid.,444. 2

4 show CSI [alone] does not exist, and most of the rest is performed in ways that crime lab personnel can only dream about. 5 In other words, those critical experiments performed by Abby Sciuto on NCIS, or by the scientists at the Jeffersonian in Bones are most likely fictionalized, and the as seen on TV slogan is rapidly moving in the opposite direction from reality. 6 Observers of this phenomenon have dubbed it the CSI Effect, and have devoted numerous resources and time in an attempt to ascertain the reach of influence these television shows have over jury verdicts. I however, propose that by investigating this theory, researchers are amassing misleading information that does not depict an accurate representation as to how the media influences jury verdicts. In order to prove so, I will systematically attack the claims proposed by the CSI Effect. By invalidating the current research paradigm, scholars researching this topic will be motivated to reexamine their line of inquiry as they attempt to determine the relationship between the media and society s implementation of law and order. II. THE REALITY FORENSIC SCIENCE COMPARED TO ITS PORTRAYAL BY THE MEDIA Scientifically ascertaining the identity of a perpetrator of a crime is the number one goal of a criminal investigation. This end game allows for society to render the punishment it feels is necessary in order to achieve the semblance of justice and restore order. Over the past century we have experienced an Information Revolution that is responsible for the development of technologies with 5 Simon Cole and Rachel Dioso, Law and the Lab: Do TV Shows Really Affect How Juries Vote? Let s Look at the Evidence, Wall Street Journal, May 13, 2005, 6 N.J. Schweitzer and Michael J. Saks, The CSI Effect: Popular Fiction About Forensic Science Affects the Public s Expectations About Real Forensic Science, 47 Jurimetrics J (2007),

5 unprecedented capabilities. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) machines a device capable of making an exponential number of copies of DNA in a matter of hours and computer algorithms and online databases are just some of the examples of new technologies that are changing the ways in which criminal investigations are conducted. 7 As a result, modern day crime labs have the potential to extract valuable information from seemingly innocuous and oftentimes microscopic objects. A drop of blood can provide an investigator with information about a suspect such as his gender, medical history, and a number of other personal details. This process of a criminal investigation is broken down into two phases: identification and comparison. 8 These headings provide the barometer by which forensic scientists measure their success during a criminal investigation without successful identifications and accurate comparisons, any pursuit of justice by law enforcement officials is severely limited. The three major mediums by which forensic scientists assist law enforcement officials in ascertaining the identity of a suspect are through fingerprint, DNA, and ballistic analysis. Unsurprisingly, these three forensic fields are frequently used in television shows to further an episode s plot and mark an important occurrence of where television and the media do not accurately convey the realities of these sciences. By analyzing the science behind these forensic procedures and comparing their realities to their representations on TV, the premise on which the CSI Effect was constructed becomes visible and understandable. 7 S.C. Mittal, "Computer Related Crimes, In Society, Crime, and Prosecution, V. N. Sehgal, (Delhi: Kamla-Raj Enterprises, 2005), Print. 8 V. N. Sehgal, and Nath Surinder, "Role of Physical Evidence in Forensic Explorations, In Society, Crime, and Prosecution, V. N. Sehgal, (Delhi: Kamla-Raj Enterprises, 2005), Print. 4

6 A. Fingerprint Analysis Fingerprint analysis is a forensic technique that is frequently used by television crime shows. The detectives and crime scene investigators of NCIS, Law and Order, CSI and Bones have taken fingerprint samples in countless episodes in an attempt to ascertain the identity not only of the victim, but also of suspects. Whether Dr. Temperance Brennan rehydrates a mummified hand to scan and match against the FBI fingerprint database (see Figure 1), or Special Agent Timothy McGee uses his handheld fingerprint scanner to get an immediate identification at a crime scene (Figure 2), 9 the good guys always get a match that invigorates the momentum of the case. In realty, the science of fingerprints is nowhere near as consistently informative as it is on TV. 1. The Science Behind Fingerprints During embryo development, undifferentiated cells develop into the three tissue layers that comprise the human body: the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm. The endoderm will go on to create lung, pancreatic and gastrointestinal cells, while the mesoderm will form muscle, cardiac and red blood cells. Ectoderm germ layer cells develop into the body s outermost cell layers including the epidermis and dermis. Between the dermis and epidermis lies a layer of cells known as the dermal papillae. These cells, which are configured into a series of ridges, function to supply blood and nutrients to the skin, and remain unchanged throughout an individual s life. 10 Fingerprints are the results of an impression made by these ridges. When a medium from the skin such as body oils, blood, or 9 NCIS, Patriot Down, CBS, May 18, 2010, written by Gary Glasberg, Television. 10 Richard Saferstein, Fingerprints, in Criminalistics, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2011),

7 sweat touches a surface, 11 the print pattern is transferred and can then be observed and documented. There are currently two different types of fingerprint collection: the ten- print identification system, which consists of inking (or with today s technology, scanning) all ten fingers and placing them on a surface from which a comparison can be made, or by collecting latent prints which are usually not visible to the naked eye. 12 Although the latter type of fingerprint retrieval is usually more frequent during criminal investigations, it is less than ideal because the prints obtained are often distorted and may contain foreign particles, which interfere with comparison techniques. Fingerprints as a mechanism for identification is based on the theory that each person s fingerprints are unique. The average fingerprint has approximately 150 individual ridge characteristics bifurcations, ridge endings, enclosures and other ridge details (Figure 3) 13 of which a number must match between two samples in order for a common identity to be established. However, the admissibility of this science as proof of identification, although long accepted, is now being called into question. Currently, no comprehensive study has been conducted to prove (or disprove) that no two fingerprints are the same, 14 nor has there been a study to determine how frequently different ridge characteristics appear at a given 11 Jane Campbell Moriarty and Michael J. Saks, Forensic Science: Grand Goals, Tragic Flaws, and Judicial Gatekeeping, Judges Journal 44, No.4, (2005): Simon A. Cole, "History of Fingerprint Pattern Recognition," In Automatic Fingerprint Recognition Systems, Nalini K. Ratha and Ruud Bolle, (New York: Springer, 2004), Print. 13 Stephanie Rankin, "Forensic Science Glossary." Forensic Science Central, 14 Jonathan Jones, "Forensic Tools: What's Reliable and What's Not-So-Scientific," Frontline, April 17, 2012, (accessed April 14, 2013). 6

8 location on a finger. 15 As expected, none of these realities are discussed or mentioned on television. 2. Crime Scene Fingerprint Detection Although it is not within the scope of this paper to discuss the myriad of techniques available to crime scene investigators for latent fingerprint retrieval, it is important to have a general sense of the process in order to garner a comprehensive knowledge of forensic fingerprint identification. Visible fingerprints are rarely found at a well- executed crime scene. Consequently, forensic technicians and detectives rely heavily on scientific and technological advances in order to visualize latent prints inadvertently left by their owner. When determining what method of retrieval to use, crime scene investigators must classify the surface that they are examining as either hard and non- absorbent (such as glass and tile) or soft and porous (paper, cardboard, cloth etc.) 16. After this determination, the technician has a number of different solvents and detection methods at his disposal. Powders can be sprinkled onto the surface in question, and using either a special brush or a magnet, the chemical compounds will adhere to the bodily secretions that comprise the latent fingerprint, turning it into a visible image. Additionally, some crime scene analysts will opt to use liquid or gaseous sprays in order to reveal latent prints. Super Glue, iodine crystals, ninhydrin, D.F.O. crystals, and physical developers are all examples of products available to latent print retrieval specialists, and these, like the powders, come in a variety of chemical compounds and react with bodily fluids on fingerprints to form 15 Saferstein, Fingerprints. 16 Ibid. 7

9 different colored deposits. 17,18 High quality photographs are then taken from a number of angles and sent to the forensics laboratory where a specialist will work to try and identify the individual to whom the print(s) belong. 3. Automated Fingerprint Identification The FBI first began to use computers to match fingerprints in October of 1980, and by July of 1999, the FBI had launched their Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). IAFIS is the United States national fingerprint database that can be accessed by law enforcement agencies across the country. 19 Prior to this application of technology, fingerprint identification and cataloging was done manually and often took weeks or even months to process. Now, as of 2010, IAFIS contains the profiles including photo identification, physical characteristics, criminal records and of course, fingerprints for more than 70 million criminals as well as over 34 million civilians and military personnel. 20 In addition to IAFIS, there are also independent fingerprint databases that exist for more localized levels of law enforcement including regional, county, city and state. Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems work by scanning and digitally encoding fingerprints. The technician begins by entering preliminary classificatory data including whether the print is a loop, arch or whorl in addition to of the information regarding its retrieval. Next, the computer algorithm will begin to code for recognizable properties of the print. Among the traits of interest are ridge ends 17 Ibid. 18 Chris Lennard, "The Detection and Enhancement of Latent Fingerprints," Proc. of 13th INTERPOL Forensic Science Symposium, (Lyon, France, Oct ), 19 U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, (accessed Mar. 23, 2013). 20 Ibid. 8

10 and bifurcations, as well as the orientation and directionality of these ridge characteristics. When investigators search for a match for a print, the computer algorithm compares these marked characteristics and produces a list of possible matches based on the frequency of similarities. 21 However, as previously mentioned, latent fingerprints lifted from a crime scene are usually laden with background noise and other extraneous information that can interfere with AFIS processing of the print. Before the computer can begin coding the fingerprint, the technician must use a digital enhancing program on the fingerprint to remove any environmental elements interfering with the computer program s ability to recognize minute details. As the chief of the FBI Laboratory's Latent Print Support Unit notes, failure to carefully edit the image by removing everything that isn t really a fingerprint, such as dirt and digital noise will reduce the accuracy of this process by about thirty percent. 22 Finally, after several hours of searching, the system provides a list of the most likely matches. 23 Yet even though AFIS did all of the manual labor, ultimately it is the examiner who must compare the prints and use his or her expertise to determine whether or not a match has been made. 24 On television, these realities are grossly misrepresented (see figure 4). 4. Television Exaggerations In addition to the aforementioned inconsistencies, there are several other aspects of fingerprinting that are erroneously portrayed by the media. On the 21 Saferstein, Fingerprints. 22 Lamont Wood, "The Reality of Fingerprinting Not Like TV Crime Labs," Live Science, Feb. 24, 2008, (accessed Feb 18, 2013). 23 Ibid. 24 Moriarty and Saks, Forensic Science: Grand Goals, Tragic Flaws, and Judicial Gatekeeping, 19. 9

11 episode of Law and Order SVU entitled Night (Figure 5), Detectives Benson and Stabler are tasked with identifying a rapist and murderer who leaves stacks of hundred dollar bills on his victims corpses which he leaves abandoned on street corners in New York City. As would only happen on TV, after one of his killings, the perpetrator used a stack of newly minted bills from which the crime lab technician was able to extract fingerprints from three individuals. Approximately 36 seconds from the time the dollar bills were sprayed with Ninhydrin, the latent prints were visible, photographed, scanned into the computer, run through IAFIS and two positive identifications were made. Despite the accuracy of using Ninhydrin as a compound to detect latent prints, the remaining forensic elements in this scene are dramatized and unrealistically depicted. Viewers are left with the perception that the evidence did not require any manipulation or purification before it was entered into the computer and analyzed. Additionally, two out of the three individuals whose fingerprints were on the money were unequivocally identified, and the presence of their prints was neatly consistent with the detectives theory of the crime. In reality, even though IAFIS provides a list of most likely matches, there must always be a specialist who makes a determination of common origin from the computer- generated list. 25 Moreover, only about 26 percent of the cases in which fingerprints are found yield identification. Even if the prints are in the system, they cannot 25 Wood, "The Reality of Fingerprinting Not Like TV Crime Labs." 10

12 always be matched to the evidence print 26 because they are too blurred, smeared or fragmented for a sufficient number of similarity points. Although the scenes from this episode alone are not responsible for shaping society s perception of latent fingerprint analysis, religious viewers of Law and Order SVU have learned to be able to count on Ryan O'Halloran and the other forensic technicians to come up with miracles and discover the evidence needed to close Benson and Stablers case. When you consider the number of other forensic TV dramas, all episodes of which inevitably have the same neat and tidy endings, it is possible to understand how the CSI Effect is a substantial, yet perhaps subconscious, threat to our legal system. B. DNA Evidence Blood, saliva, semen, hair fibers, mucus, and sweat are just some of the many samples of evidence that perpetrators often unintentionally leave behind at crime scenes. What all of these specimens have in common is the presence of the DNA, a microscopic biological entity that has the potential to irrevocably tie an individual to an act of deviance. To introduce their paper entitled Encoded Evidence: DNA in Forensic Analysis, Mark Jobling and Peter Gill quote Sherlock Holmes who said, [i]t has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important. 27 Little did Sir Arthur Conan Doyle know that less than a century later, 26 Ibid. 27 Mark A. Jobling and Peter Gill, Encoded Evidence: DNA in Forensic Analysis, Nature Reviews, 5 (Oct. 2004)

13 evidence invisible to the naked eye 28 would become critical to solving some of society s most puzzling criminal investigations The Science Behind DNA What is DNA: Deoxyribonucleic Acid, or DNA, is a double- stranded macromolecule found within the cells of all living organisms, encoding an individual s unique genetic information. Unwound, DNA takes the form of a ladder: two parallel lines joined together by rungs; however, it is usually found in its coiled state as a double helix. DNA is a polymer that is constructed from repeating units known as nucleotide monomers. Each nucleotide consists of a five- carbon sugar, a phosphate group and one of four possible nitrogenous bases: cytosine (C), guanine (G), adenine (A), and thymine (T). The sugar and phosphate molecules bond together to create the double- stranded backbone of DNA, while the nitrogenous bases attach to the sugar molecules and project inward (figure 6). These bases constitute the rungs of the DNA ladder connecting the two backbones by pairing together in a predictable pattern: A always pairs with T and G always pairs with C. 30,31,32 In one human cell, there are approximately three billion 33 nitrogenous bases on a single strand of DNA. Interestingly, scientists have discovered that only two percent of these three billion As, Ts, Cs and Gs are actually responsible for 28 U.S. Department of Justice, NIJ Special Report: Using DNA to Solve Cold Cases, by Sarah V. Hart, et al., NCJ , (Washington DC: July 2002), Jobling and Gill, Encoded Evidence: DNA in Forensic Analysis, Max M. Houck, Forensic Science, Modern Methods of Solving Crimes (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2007), Chapter 6, DNA. 31 Richard Saferstein, DNA: The Indispensable Forensic Science Tool, In Criminalistics, (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2011), Neil A. Campbell and Jane B. Reece, Biology, 8 th ed, (San Francisco: Pearson Benjamin Cummings, 2009). 33 P. P. Vaidyanathan, Genomics and Proteomics: A Signal Processor s Tour, IEEE Circuits and Systems Magazine, fourth quarter, (2004): 6-29, 12

14 translating DNA into the proteins, processes and functions of a living cell. 34,35 So, what is the function of the remaining ninety- eight percent? Although it has yet to be understood in a biological context, recent discoveries have shown these genome sequences to be highly informative in forensic identification. Discovery of DNA Fingerprinting: In 1984 at the University of Leicester, Alec Jeffreys became responsible for the discovery of genetic fingerprinting 36 a breakthrough that forever would redefine forensic crime solving capabilities. 37 This revolution is based on his finding of hyper- variable minisatellites, or portions of the DNA molecule [which] contain sequences of letters that are repeated numerous times that seem to act as fillers between the coding regions of DNA. 38 Despite the fact that they do not appear to have a physiological purpose, Jeffreys hypothesized that the level of individual specificity 39 these regions denote could provide means by which questions of identity could be resolved. Three years later, DNA evidence was used for the first time to help obtain a conviction. The defendant, Colin Pitchfork, was found guilty of a double rape- homicide after investigators were able to match DNA from two different crime scenes to a sample obtained from 34 Max M. Houck, Forensic Science, Modern Methods of Solving Crimes, Greg Elgar and Tanya Vavouri, Tuning in to the signals: noncoding sequence conservation in vertebrate genomes, Trends in Genetics 24, No. 7, (July 1, 2008), , 36 According to the Oxford English Dictionary, genetic fingerprinting is defined as the use of genetic characteristics derived from, and typically unique to, an individual for identification. 37 The History of Genetic Fingerprinting, University of Leicester, 38 Saferstein, DNA: The Indispensable Forensic Science Tool, Giles Newton, Discovering DNA Fingerprinting, Wellcome Trust: The Human Genome, (2004), 13

15 Pitchfork. 40 Although the technique used by Jefferys since has been made obsolete, the forensic science that stemmed from his discovery has provided law enforcement officials with an entirely new perspective from which they can approach evidence in a criminal investigation. Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms (RFLPs): Certain regions of DNA contain specific sequences (anywhere from 15 to 35 base pairs long) that are recognized by endogenous molecules called restriction enzymes, which are responsible for cutting DNA strands at these distinct nucleotide base arrangements during certain biological processes. However, the number of times that a specific sequence occurs in the genome varies from individual to individual. Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphisms (RFLPs) are the different fragment lengths of base pairs that result from cutting a DNA molecule with restriction enzymes. 41 Individuals who have more repeating sequences will have more cuts in their DNA, so forensic geneticists are able to include or exclude people as suspects following an analysis of this test. The more restriction enzyme recognition sequences used, the smaller the probability two people will have the same results. RFLPs are the original technique with which DNA fingerprinting was performed; however, there were a number of downsides to this technology namely, the testing required large quantities of DNA, (as previously discussed, generally only fragments of DNA are found at crime scenes), they take a long time to perform, and they are relatively 40 Stephanie Rankin, Case Study: Colin Pitchfork, Forensic Science Central, 41 Saferstein, DNA: The Indispensable Forensic Science Tool. 14

16 expensive. 42,43 The discovery of Short Tandem Repeats, coupled with the improved automation of performing Polymerase Chain Reactions paved the way for the current formula employed by forensic scientists for DNA fingerprinting. Polymerase Chain Reactions (PCR) & Short Tandem Repeats (STRs): Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is a method of DNA replication that allows scientists to make an exponential number of copies of small DNA fragments. The process is relatively straightforward: first the DNA is exposed to a temperature of 94 o C the temperature required to denature, or unwind and separate, the two strands of a DNA molecule for approximately thirty seconds. Immediately following this, the temperature is reduced to anywhere from o C, so the primers can attach to the separated strands of DNA and begin the replication process. Lastly, the temperature is increased to 72 o C so that the nitrogenous bases can attach themselves facilitating DNA replication. 44 For a visual depiction of the PCR process, see Figure 7. Thanks to the invention of the DNA Thermal Cycler, a machine that automates the rapid and precise temperature changes required to copy a DNA strand, 45 performing PCR has become faster, easier, cheaper, and more consistent. Short Tandem Repeats (STRs) are the intermediary that connects the process of DNA fingerprinting with the replicating capabilities of PCR. They are extremely short regions of DNA (less than 450 base pairs long) that contain a base pair 42 Jobling and Gill, Encoded Evidence: DNA in Forensic Analysis. 43 U.S. Department of Justice, NIJ Special Report: Using DNA to Solve Cold Cases, New England Bio Labs, PCR Protocol for Taq DNA Polymerase with Standard Taq Buffer, https://www.neb.com/protocols/1/01/01/taq-dna-polymerase-with-standard-taq-buffer-m Saferstein, DNA: The Indispensable Forensic Science Tool,

17 sequence (three to seven letters in size), which is repeated a certain number of times. 46 Because STRs are relatively small in size, they are easily duplicated using PCR, meaning the sample fragments usually found at crime scenes now have the potential to be exceptionally informative. Currently, forensic scientists in the United States use 13 specific STR loci plus the ameliogenin gene which is able to tell forensic scientists the individual s sex when constructing a suspect profile for the national DNA database (Table 1). 47 This homogenization of DNA characteristics provides forensic laboratories the ability to compare their DNA profiles with those that have been developed during other criminal investigations. Once a person s STR profile is constructed, and a match has been made, forensic geneticists then calculate the probability of another individual within the population having that particular combination of repeats. The incidence of two STR repeats is multiplied together to generate a likelihood of common origin. A DNA profile consisting of four common STRs yields a match probability of approximately one person out of 10,000; adding four more loci reduces the match probability to one in 50 million. 48 Of course, these statistics assume there are no lurking variables that will increase the match probability, such as DNA degradation, or if the two samples come from relatives. Nonetheless, this process of DNA proliferation has proven to be an extremely effective and efficient tool to assist the process of DNA identification. 46 Ibid., U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on the CODIS Program and the National DNA Index System, 48 Jobling and Gill, Encoded Evidence: DNA in Forensic Analysis,

18 Mitochondrial DNA (mtdna): Up until now, I have been discussing genetic profiling using nuclear DNA, or DNA that is found within the nucleus of a cell. In the human body, however, there is another type of DNA that exists within a cellular organelle known as a mitochondrion (plural: mitochondria). The mitochondria are the sites of cellular respiration, the process by which our cells metabolize the nutrients we ingest into usable energy. DNA inside the mitochondria possesses several different characteristics from nuclear DNA: it is circular in shape, smaller in size, has more copies, and is only inherited from a mother. 49 It is this final property of mtdna that is the double edge sword for forensic identification. All relatives on the maternal side have the same mtdna, which makes it essentially impossible for law enforcement officials to differentiate a suspect from one of his or her relatives especially siblings. On the other hand, mitochondrial DNA has a significantly greater probability of surviving at a crime scene than nuclear DNA, which in many situations, makes it the only type of DNA available for analysis. One of the most famous instances in which mtdna was used to ascertain the identity of unidentified individuals was following the recovery of remains that were believed to be the members of Russia s Romanov Family. DNA samples were obtained from known relatives of Queen Alexandra, and provided confirmation that bodies discovered did in fact belong to the murdered Russian royal family Houck, Forensic Science, Modern Methods of Solving Crimes, Evgeny I. Rogaev, et al, "Genomic identification in the historical case of the Nicholas II royal family," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10, No.13 (2009):

19 2. Automated Databases The Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, is the overarching name that encompasses the United State s entire DNA database. This software provides a comprehensive collection of DNA profiles originating from the local (LDIS), state (SDIS) and national (NDIS) levels of criminal investigation. By linking all of these jurisdictions together, law enforcement officials have at their disposal a plethora of information that can hopefully help them achieve justice for victims and their families. Within CODIS are three distinct databases: the convicted offender index, the missing persons index and the forensic index. The convicted offender index contains the DNA profiles of individuals who have been arrested for or convicted of a variety of crimes. Currently, all 50 states require DNA samples from individuals convicted of felonies, but every state has a different threshold for misdemeanor offenses that qualify for the acquisition of a suspect s DNA. 51 However, as the National Institute of Justice predicted back in 2002, as states continue to recognize the crime- solving potential of DNA databases, they continue to expand the scope of their convicted offender legislation. 52 In June of 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that it is legal for police officers to obtain a DNA sample from an individual who had been arrested but not convicted of a crime. 53 This decision will almost certainly guarantee an influx in the number of entries within the convicted offender index of CODIS however, given this development, it might be prudent for them to rename this portion of the database. 51 Merritt Melancon, DNA base will grow, but some want more data, Athens Banner-Herald Online, May 29, 2011, 52 U.S. Department of Justice, NIJ Special Report: Using DNA to Solve Cold Cases, Maryland v. King, 133 S. Ct (2012). 18

20 The missing persons index is further broken down into the unidentified index and the reference index. The unidentified index contains DNA profiles from crime scenes in which a victim s identity has not been established, and the reference index contains both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA profiles from family members of a missing person. Within the forensic index lie all DNA profiles that have been generated from biological evidence discovered at crime scenes. Possibilities of evidence that can contain informative DNA can found in Table 2. Law enforcement officials and forensic technicians search the CODIS database in hopes of connecting two crimes together. To do so, the computer must search amongst 10,477,600 offender profiles, 1,578,800 arrestee profiles and 504,700 forensic profiles. 54 If the software detects a hit, then the geneticists will perform the necessary tests to confirm that a match has been made. Once detectives have obtained confirmation from the scientist, that information is used as probable cause to obtain a new DNA sample from that suspect so the match can be confirmed by the crime laboratory before an arrest is made. 55 As of September 2013, CODIS has provided identification information for more than 213,500 investigations and has yielded over 222,600 hits. 56 Although these numbers currently are quite small compared to the IAFIS database s statistics, with every entry that is entered into CODIS, the more successful the technology has the potential to become, especially 54 U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, CODIS NDIS Statistics, 55 US Department of Justice, NIJ Special Report: Using DNA to Solve Cold Cases, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, CODIS NDIS Statistics, 19

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