DNA Fingerprinting: You Be The Judge!
Carolyn Napier Martin
DNA fingerprinting has been hailed as the greatest advance in forensic science since traditional fingerprinting, but it is feared by some that this powerful tool has been accepted into the courts before all the " kinks" have been worked out. These activities allow the student to understand the con-cepts and the problems.
Biology I and II students who have an understanding of DNA structure and function, restriction enzymes and gel electrophoresis. An introduction to these activities should include a lab or simulation lab on DNA fingerprinting (perhaps using EDVOTEK Kit 109 - EDVOTEK, P.O. Box 1232, West Bethesda, MD 20817; 800-EDVOTEK)
The students will use their knowledge of DNA fingerprinting to evaluate use of certain prints in courts and will address the ethics of establishing a national database of fingerprints.
Review how DNA fingerprinting is done, if needed, and have students read the background information. It will be helpful to have copies of some of the articles on the controversy of DNA fingerprinting for student reference. The OTA book, Genetic Witness: Forensic Uses of DNA Tests has very good background material. This may be ordered from: Superintendent of Documents; Government Printing Office; Washington, D.C. 20402-9325; GPO Stock number 052-003-01203-1; price $9.50; ordering info: 202-783-3238.
Students may work alone or in small groups to carry out the activities. For the ethical decision making model, follow the suggested protocol.
Chakraborty, Ranajit , and Kidd, Kenneth E., "The Utility of DNA Typing in Forensic Work," Science 254:1735-1739, 1991.
Devlin, B., Neil Risch, and Roeder, Kathryn, "Forensic DNA Test and Hardy-Weinberg Equilibrium," Science 253:1037-1041, 1991.
Lewis, Ricki, "DNA Fingerprints: Witness for the Prosecution," Discover 9:44-51, 1988.
Lewontin, R. C., and Hart, D. L., "Population Genetics in Forensic DNA Typing," Science 254:1745-1750, 1991.
Norman, Colin, "Maine Case Deals Blow to DNA Fingerprinting," Science 246:1556-1558, 1989.
Rasmussen, Alison M., and Matheson, Robert H., A Sourcebook of Biotechnology Activities, National Association of Biology Teachers and North Carolina Biotechnology Center, 1990.
Risch, Neil S., and Devlin, B., "On the Probability of Matching DNA Fingerprints," Science 255:717-720, 1992.
Roberts, Leslie, "Fight Erupts Over DNA Fingerprinting," Science 254:1721-1723, 1991.
Roberts, Leslie, "DNA Fingerprinting: Academy Reports," Science 255:300-302, 1992.
Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Genetic Witness: Forensic Uses of DNA Tests, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., 1990.
You should read the background information below so that you will have the knowledge required to judge the validity of the DNA fingerprints shown on the last page of this exercise. You may also need to read some of the articles which your teacher has on DNA typing or to do some reading in the library.
DNA fingerprinting is a technique that is used to collar criminals, exonerate innocent persons, and identify fathers in paternity cases. Courts around the world have admitted DNA fingerprinting as evidence in hundreds of murder, rape, and paternity cases. DNA isolated from blood, semen, hair, tissue, bone marrow, saliva, and urine left at the scene of a crime may identify an assailant. The U.S. Armed Forces began with new recruits in June, 1992 to collect DNA samples which will be used to identify fallen service personnel and will eventually include all military persons.
For several years now, leading scientists have waged heated courtroom battles over the reliability of DNA fingerprinting. The major problems are:
Procedure: Activity A.
Your job is to evaluate the copies of the photographs of some DNA fingerprints (last page of exercise) from the files of the FBI and from Cellmark Diagnostics, a DNA fingerprinting lab. Your group will examine each sample and make certain decisions concerning the print.
Look at Print 1, which shows DNA from a rape victim (known female) in lane 3 and a suspect male in lane 4. Lane 6 shows semen recovered from the rape victim. The suspect is a recent Cuban immigrant, so the Hispanic database was used to determine the probability of there being another person with the same print.
Should this evidence be used in court? ____
Give your reasons: _______________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________
Look at Print 2, which was made in preparation for a murder case. M = marker; K562 = standard; K1 = DNA from the suspect; Q 1-6 = DNA from hair found clutched in the victim's hand. In Print A, the well containing DNA from the suspect was overfilled. What phenomenon has occurred?
Should this evidence be used into court? ____
Look at fingerprint B. Two wells were filled with the suspect's DNA. Q3 contains evidence from the crime scene. Should this second set of prints be used in court?
Why or why not? __________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________ ___________________________________________________________________________
Print 3 shows DNA from two paternity cases. Use the following key to identify the lanes:
Is AF1 the father of C1? ____
Is AF2 the father of C2a? ____ C2b? ____
Do you think that the quality of these prints good enough for court evidence?
Procedure: Activity B
Read the article "DNA Fingerprinting: Academy Reports," Science, April 17, 1992 and answer the following questions:
What recommendations has the National Academy of Science made relative to population substructure and the calculation of chance of a match between the DNA patterns of a suspect and another person?
How will this affect the impact of DNA fingerprint evidence in court?
Procedure: Activity C
Because many convicted sex offenders repeat their crimes, some states have enacted laws requiring that their DNA be kept on file as an aid to solving future crimes. It has also been proposed that a national database of DNA fingerprints be set up, including those of job applicants and all newborns.
Use one of the ethical decision-making models at the front of the module to resolve this question.