“Stringent Safeguards” Needed On Familial DNA Searches: NY Times


The apprehension of a Los Angeles serial killing suspect through the much-debated familial searching DNA technique means that the method likely to spread to other states, says the New York Times in an editorial calling for “stringent safeguards to prevent abuse.” The newspaper notes that using partial DNA matches means that hundreds of people could fall under suspicion because they are related to someone in the criminal DNA database.

The times suggests following California’s example. Under rules established by Attorney General Jerry Brown, familial searching cannot be used unless all other investigative leads have been exhausted. The crime must be murder or rape, and the criminal has to be an active threat to public safety – still committing crimes. A committee of lawyers and forensic experts evaluates all requests to do a familial search and votes on whether to proceed based on those criteria, as well as the strength of the DNA match and several other factors. Such procedures should be codified in law, says the Times, or “another attorney general could come along and loosen the procedures to allow abusive fishing expeditions.”

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