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Monday, January 9, 2006

well, you guys wanted to see it so here it is!

Yellow police tape surrounding the house, cops everywhere trying to keep the crowd at a distance. You walk through the front door; the abysmal smell of blood reaches your nose, one of the members of your team dashes out of the house and wretches. Once the coroner reaches the end of the stairs he tells you the situation, three dead bodies: a man, a woman, and a little girl. In the middle of the floor, written in their blood is a message. “This makes five. Come on guys you’re disappointing me. Catch me if you can.” The serial killer has struck again. With only the help of your mind, tools, Forensics, and DNA Fingerprinting at your disposal you begin examining the crime scene. Do you know what a CSI is? CSI stands for Crime Scene Investigator. They deal with this kind of thing every day, maybe not a serial killer, but they investigate every unnatural death. Often times they use a method of Forensic science called DNA Fingerprinting to help solve their cases. When you hear the word “DNA Fingerprinting” you think of the show CSI, when the people are dusting for fingerprints left behind. That is not DNA Fingerprinting! Those people are doing what we call “latent fingerprinting” There is a difference! DNA Fingerprinting is when a small bit of genetic material (blood, a hair with the root still attached, semen, or saliva) from a single individual (or a crime scene) and scanned through a computer to give it a computerized numeric value in the form of a barcode. Then a sample is taken from the suspects only if they give it up willingly or if a search warrant is present. If the bar codes match exactly then you have your killer. Latent Fingerprinting is when you just take the fingerprints and run them through CODIS. Courts everywhere agree that DNA Fingerprinting is a highly trusted method of solving the ever-pressing question of “Who done it”.

Just what are the benefits of DNA Profiling? Okay, just to clear this up for everyone, DNA Fingerprinting and DNA Profiling is the same thing. I don’t know why they gave it a different name they just did. Maybe they did it just to confuse us, I don’t know. One of the many benefits is a quick and absolute elimination of innocent suspects. All you have to do is line their barcodes up with the one found at the crime scene, if they match you’ve got your murderer! Another benefit is how fast you can identify the offenders with a high degree of probability. And the last one that I’m going to mention is the reliability of evidence in court! How simple is that? There are a lot more benefits, but if I listed them all, this paper would be a lot longer.

Are there any other uses for DNA Fingerprinting? Actually there are. DNA Fingerprinting has many other uses other than for just solving murders. Other than criminal identification, DNA Fingerprinting is used for two major things, determining paternity and maternity, and for personal identification. Just for those of you who don’t know, paternity is the father of a baby and maternity is the mother. The reason that is helpful is because, believe it or not, some babies are actually switched at birth. As for personal identification, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Credit cards and other sources are much easier.

Does this method have any flaws? Oh, yes, as do many other sciences, this one has its share of pros and cons. First is the problem with cross-contamination. Say that the vic’s blood mixed with the blood of her killer (let’s say she got a hold of a small, sharp, pointy thing) That’d be a catastrophe! Or even if someone sneezed on the samples! Then that person’s DNA would mix with the sample and would throw the whole case off. Then there’s the chance of non-sterile instruments. This doesn’t happen very often but someone at the factory that makes the swabs for the crime lab doesn’t put on their masks and sneezes. It’s the same thing with the cross-contamination. Say good-bye to your case cause it just went down the tube. If any of these things were to happen the whole case would be thrown off.

Though not completely perfect, DNA Fingerprinting is a very good thing to have. It has put hundreds of murderers in prison and serial killers on death row where they belong. And it has even found swapped children and kidnapped ones as well. So now, even if the criminal leaves behind a trace of himself behind, we can catch him. DNA Fingerprinting has revolutionized the way we live. Hopefully you have learned something from this. I certainly have. Now, where did that blood sample get off too?

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