RIP Philo

Should "Abandoned" DNA be admissable?

http://www.wral.com/news/science/story/1239010/

>> When a 60-year-old man spat on the sidewalk, his DNA became as public as if he had been advertising it across his chest.

Police officers secretly following Leon Chatt last August collected the saliva - loaded with Chatt's unique genetic makeup - to compare with DNA evidence from the scene of an old murder they believed he'd committed. <<
Permalink Send private email xampl 
March 18th, 2007 1:21pm
yep.  why not.
Permalink Send private email zestyZucchini 
March 18th, 2007 1:43pm
I would say no.

First, since there could be lots of people's spit there on the sidewalk.

Second, I think we need to extend privacy (privacy = things you need a warrant for) rights to include these sorts of things, otherwise we are prisoners in our homes to have any privacy. It's not the same as if he had written a letter to the editor and made something public, it's more like if you are sitting in a restaurant and put your jacket on the chair, can police search it without a warrant since you're not actually holding it?
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 18th, 2007 3:16pm
> if you are sitting in a restaurant and put your jacket on the chair, can police search it without a warrant since you're not actually holding it?

yes, i think. or at least that is what watching 700 hours of "Law and Order" has conditioned me to believe.
Permalink hello. 
March 18th, 2007 3:23pm
In that particular case for example, the police had absolutely no evidence tying him to the crime. So they follow him and grab DNA, and lo and behold it matches 20 yr old DNA found at the murder scene, which was the house of his sister in law, a house that he had visited plenty of times. So now he's going to jail because DNA is scientific and proves that any DNA found at a crime scene identifies the killer. Any DNA at all. So if your sister is killed and your DNA is present in her house, science proves you killed her.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 18th, 2007 3:25pm
"So if your sister is killed and your DNA is present in her house, science proves you killed her."

right, but that is bad logic regardless of how they got the DNA, right?
Permalink Send private email zestyZucchini 
March 18th, 2007 3:33pm
> So if your sister is killed and your DNA is present in her house, science proves you killed her.

In a rape and murder case, I'm assuming if your sister is killed and your DNA is present in the dried jizz inside of her vagina and the blood spattered on the tablecloth, science proves you killed her.
Permalink hello. 
March 18th, 2007 3:39pm
No, it just proves that you committed incest, and cut yourself while paring an apple.
Permalink Send private email xampl 
March 18th, 2007 4:03pm
Assuming there is no such thing as incest. Maybe her boyfriend killed her when he found out she was screwing her brother. Or maybe her father killed her - it was one of those islamic honor killings.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 18th, 2007 4:16pm
xampl beat me to it
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 18th, 2007 4:17pm
If the DNA had ruled him out there would be no story.

In other cases DNA has also been extracted from discarded chewing gum and cigarette butts.

Most people don't spit on the footpath. If this gives litterers cause to think then I'm all for it

:)
Permalink trollop 
March 18th, 2007 4:35pm
The only thing bad about DNA is that we have to fight the presumption of guilt. "DNA match, ergo guilty" doesn't fly.

Other than that, DNA is just like any other evidence, and all this stuff is covered by some pretty old law. In the instant case, the issue is abandonment, which goes back to dark ages british common law - the jacket on the chair has not been abandoned, it is your property and you have an expectation of privacy as to the contents.

The spit on teh sidewalk has been obviously abandoned, and so you have no expectation of privacy. DNA aside, you also can have issues of drug testing, or maybe matching chemicals in the saliva to a more recent crime scene ("the victim was killed by someone chewing red man chewing tobacco!")

Nevertheless, the presence of DNA at a crime scene is just one factor. The DA still has to build a case around it as evidence. The weight of the evidence can be based on the custody chain and where the DNA was found (DNA on the carpet in the corner is a lot less probative than DNA inside the victim's wounds, for example)

If you want to rail at some aspect of "the man" then the issue to attack is how prosecutors are driven by a need to get a conviction instead of the need to determine the truth. Once they have a suspect in mind, their work focuses on "how do we pin this crime on that guy?" instead of the more proper "how do we determine if this is the guy that really did it, and can we convince a jury of it?"

That misdirection of focus is what produces such inequity in the legal system and why so many innocent people get railroaded.
Permalink Send private email Philo 
March 18th, 2007 4:44pm
"the issue to attack is how prosecutors are driven by a need to get a conviction instead of the need to determine the truth"

Yes, I agree completely: "People, let's get some of this backlog cleared." The focus is on checking off cases as solved rather than actually finding out who really did it. Police have completely dehumanized the public. Anyone they can pin something on is just part of a formula.
Permalink Practical Economist 
March 18th, 2007 4:52pm
Forensics is not as glamorous as portrayed on TV. Who knew?
Permalink Send private email sour grape snowflake 
March 18th, 2007 8:30pm
Is garbage considered abandoned?
Permalink JoC 
March 20th, 2007 5:48pm

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