can find testable DNA just about anywhere, as shown by the red spots on
the Bascom (Hall) strangler, caught in the act.
Short, ironic history
A suspect confessed to the crimes, but denied a previous, similar crime. A DNA test confirmed that denial -- and when the police DNA-tested evidence from the recent murder, they discovered that the suspect's DNA was similarly absent. The suspect, once confessed but twice innocent, walked free. With both crimes now unsolved, the police found a pretext to collect blood from local men and eventually found and nailed a man whose DNA appeared at both crime scenes. "It was an extraordinarily auspicious beginning...," wrote Harlan Levy, a former New York City prosecutor. "In its first known application to a murder case, DNA testing fulfilled both its promises, clearing an innocent man and helping convict a guilty one."
DNA fingerprinting was a whole lot less decisive in the O.J. Simpson case: The ex-footballer walked on double murder charges, even though his blood was found in compromising situations. The jury decided that the DNA evidence was tainted by police misconduct. While the DNA was neither convincing nor convicting, the Simpson trial forever changed the legal treatment of DNA:
And that's fine with prosecutors, who note that given the difficulty of preventing repeat crimes by sex offenders, and the gravity of rape and murder, databases are the fastest, best protection for the public.
Beyond political and legal acceptance, the increasing use of DNA fingerprinting reflects the introduction of a faster, cheaper and better technique that can produce a conviction from a pin-head size drop of blood. In fact, even a few skin cells may do the trick. Says Laber, "We've had good luck with cigarette butts, stamps, envelopes, ski masks, even a hat band. If you lose a hat or an article of clothing, there's a reasonable chance" your skin cells may be found on it.
Can they test blood after 20 years? Yewbetcha. I seen it on TV!
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