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Science & Technology

Flaws in forensic DNA lab testing discovered

October 12, 2015 | Comment icon 9 comments



How accurate is DNA testing ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0 Christoph Bock
Legal authorities in Texas have identified worrying errors in the way labs have been analyzing DNA.
DNA testing has long been regarded as a highly reliable forensic tool that has proven invaluable in countless criminal investigation cases - but just how easy is it for a mistake to be made ?

Officials at the Texas Forensic Science Commission recently discovered that labs had been producing inaccurate results by using outdated protocols when analyzing DNA samples.

In one case for example DNA recovered from a crime scene was deemed to have a million to one certainty of matching the suspect. When the same DNA test was conducted again with the new protocols however this changed to a probability of thirty to one - a very different result.
"We have to go back and identify which of those cases involved DNA mixtures where the lab may have given incorrect results," said Galveston district attorney Jack Roady. "It's going to be a herculean task, but we're gonna do it."

"The fact that this science may not have been done correctly in the past gives us great pause."

The issue appears to relate mainly to laboratories that have been using state-of-the-art testing kits to extract tiny traces of DNA from crime scenes. While this in itself is not a problem - many of these labs have been analyzing their findings using outdated methods that are not really suitable for obtaining accurate results from such 'weak' samples.

It isn't clear how many, if any, case outcomes may have been skewed by this issue but if even the chance of an erroneous conviction exists due to incorrect DNA results it does raise questions over whether the faith people maintain in DNA testing as a forensic tool is well founded.

Source: NPR.org | Comments (9)


Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by paperdyer 7 years ago
Anybody else smell lots of reopened cases and lawsuits?
Comment icon #2 Posted by Calibeliever 7 years ago
Under the old protocol, says defense lawyer Roberto Torres, DNA from the crime scene was matched to his client with a certainty of more than a million to one. That is, you'd have to go through more than a million people to find somebody else who'd match the sample. But when the lab did the analysis again with the new protocol, things looked very different. "When they retested it, the likelihood that it could be someone else was, I think, one in 30-something, one in 40. So it was a significant probability that it could be someone else," Torres says. Yes, I'd say that's fairly significant.
Comment icon #3 Posted by DieChecker 7 years ago
So this means a lot of people who were convicted by DNA are going to get retrials? And will the people who got off by DNA evidence just get away? My guess is yes on both. It is going to be expensive. Someone is going to get fired....
Comment icon #4 Posted by Oops Monkey 7 years ago
So this means a lot of people who were convicted by DNA are going to get retrials? And will the people who got off by DNA evidence just get away? My guess is yes on both. It is going to be expensive. Someone is going to get fired.... I would have to agree with that, it should go both ways. Oh boy, this is a mess...
Comment icon #5 Posted by Dark_Grey 7 years ago
A strong case against the death penalty
Comment icon #6 Posted by Varelse 7 years ago
Shhhhhh. Nothing to see here folks..move along now. Free 1/2 naked pics of disney starlet over here--- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0
Comment icon #7 Posted by third_eye 7 years ago
where's the 3/4 naked pics of the CSI cast ?
Comment icon #8 Posted by Xzenox 7 years ago
Anybody else smell lots of reopened cases and lawsuits? I think instead of going through all the trouble they will try to sweep most of it under the rug. There must be a lot of people that have been convicted using DNA. I'm sure it would take a huge amount of time to re-open each case for further investigation and well unfortunately my belief in a lot of the government programs has diminished greatly through out the years.
Comment icon #9 Posted by dirtierdragoon4 7 years ago
I had a feeling something like this was happening. Can you imagine all the criminals that went free from project...whatever the name is.


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