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Opinion: DNA

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2006
2 pages
This article discusses the case of John Mark Karr who confessed to killing 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey in Boulder, CO, in the context of currently available DNA testing.
In the last 10 years, DNA tests have become so decisive that the guilt or innocence of a suspect can be resolved with a single swab of DNA. Prosecutors have a much better chance of supporting the charges in a case when viable DNA evidence is available to submit to laboratory analysis. Great advances have occurred in the last decade of forensic evidence. As of 2003, not only has the 13 year genome project completed the sequencing of the 3 million base pairs composing human DNA, but DNA technology has continued since then to alter and advance forensic evidence examination in the following ways: tools have been designed to amplify and analyze strands of degraded DNA; an international collaborative project is underway to complete the mapping of DNA single nucleotide polymorphisms and to find genetic correlations within typical genome sequence nucleotide variations; successful analyses of remains from large-scale national disasters have expanded the parameter of DNA forensics applications; laboratory analysts have discovered the increasingly accurate capabilities of mitochondrial DNA; a national DNA database system, called the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, enables the coordination between State DNA database collection; and a Federal initiative, originating from the Justice for All Act of 2004, ensures fairness throughout the judicial processes via proper collection, prompt access to testing, and accurate laboratory analysis of DNA evidence. The author opines that since the DNA evidence did not prove John Mark Karr’s guilt, the case could be viewed as a legal embarrassment for years to come; if found guilty of child pornography charges, anything short of conviction and a long prison term would disgrace the integrity of the legal system in the United States and around the world.

Date Published: October 1, 2006