Friday, July 9, 2010

How do you determine the greater good?

Many of you know that I have always been fascinated by serial killers or more precisely the police work and investigations that go into tracking them down. This week I was interested to read about how the LAPD has finally tracked down and arrested a suspect they believe is the "Grim Sleeper" who was an active serial killer in South Los Angeles for 25 years.
This comes as great news to the families of the victims of this predator as well as the community as a whole however the arrest has prompted a debate about the tactics used to track down Lonnie D. Franklin Jr. the accused. The police were led to him by what is known as a familial DNA search. Broken down simply this is what happened. Police had DNA evidence linking the killings together but no suspect to match it too. What they did was initiate DNA searches of prisoners in the California penal system who had similar DNA to the suspect not exact matches. Lonnie Franklin's son Christopher was incarcerated and they were able to match a partial DNA profile from him. This led them to his
father the suspect. From there they tailed him and gained a sample of his DNA from a discarded pizza crust and found it was a match to the profile of The Grim Sleeper.
Pretty neat stuff huh? The police think it is. They are touting that "It is the first time an active familial search has been used to solve a homicide case in the United States". I thought so too until I started thinking a little bit more about it. There is just something that strikes the civil libertarian part of me wrong about a DNA database of families DNA that can be compared to others. Where does this database end? What lengths will it be used for? Sure catching a serial killer serves the greater good but what if the DNA database starts being used to track down other types of crimes? What about rape? Yes that probably serves the greater good but where does it stop? Is auto theft a crime that we are willing to search DNA databases to solve? How about shoplifting, or failing to pay child support?
I guess my concern about the whole process is how it will be used and who may get caught up in the process. This seems very "Big Brother-ish" to me and I worry about overzealous police relying too much on DNA and not on old fashioned police work. What happens someday when someone is set free because some slick lawyer gets the right judge to make a ruling and where would that leave other cases using the same techniques? I'm happy that potentially the Grim Sleeper is off the streets but sure am concerned about all the questions it raises. I wonder what you all think?


Becky said...

Sure, it sounds 'Big-brother-ish' mostly because it is. And of course it's going to be abused in some way, most things are. But when you consider the greater good, then it just may be worth it.

With the minority issue and racial profiling...I think something needs to be done in society to make the proportion of inmates more balanced, but to not use technology to solve a homicide (not to mention a serial killer case!) because 3 or 4 generations of the same family have been incarcerated seems silly and imprudent.

As for me, I'm just not going to leave my DNA anywhere it doesn't belong.

Jay said...

I can see a lot of potential for abuse when it comes to national data banks of DNA and other information on citizens. Especially people who have never been charged with any crime or even a suspect.

I think the same thing when I see local police holding events where people can get their kids finger printed or palm printed and shit so they can be identified in case they are ever abducted. Yeah, and the state can start to build a "file" on each person.

Not to sound too conspiratorial or anything, but that's a little scary.

Public officials have to walk a real tightrope on issues like this.

Raquel's World said...

I actually agree with this method. Any way that they can catch the bad guy I am for it. I do not think that it will be used for lesser crimes for example delinquent child support. But if I was the mom who was owed 20 grand in back child support while the dead beat dad flew under the radar and he was finally caught up to using this method, I would be okay with that as well.

Mrs. D said...

I'm not one to lean towards conspiracies usually, but like Jay I also wondered about the little kid-fingerprinting things. They're just waiting until they're ripened criminals and then they've got 'em, LOL.

Really, I think DNA is going to be more helpful than abused in the long run. I guess I think about the people who've been set free after DNA has proven their innocence. I see no problem w/it being used really. It should definitely be used for rape, violent acts, and even child support if they must to catch a deadbeat parent.

Doc said...

Here's a question for you all? When they fingerprint kids here they give the paper to the parents. Where you guys live the POLICE keep the paper with the kids prints and hair sample? HOLY CROW! THAT is big brother run amok.

Disaster Chick said...

All I can say my fingerprints in the database do to work.

Having family members be victims of crimes I'm for the greater good.

I think if we all had to submit then maybe things would balance out more with the majority/minority.

Doc said...

NO WAY IM GIVING UP MY DNA TO SOME NATIONAL DATABASE!!! (because the republicans may take back over soon)

Disaster Chick said...

I'm also interested because I would like to know if some of my heritage is from the wrong side of the sheets. said...

Seriously, I see what you're saying, but I think DNA evidence is the best thing to ever happen to the judicial system.

Charlene said...

The unjustly imprisoned person was put there using the technology of crime solving at the time. A line-up was mishandled prejudicing the identification; an overzealous cop who just wanted to bend the evidence a little; the corrupt cop who was working for the real criminal. You don't think this kind of thing can be put to work with the new processes? Wherever human nature is at play, anything can be made to seem reasonable.

I don't want to have every aspect of every person identified and cataloged. To be willing to give up your very identity because you "know" you will not ever be a criminal means you trust the definition of a criminal.

Jeff B said...

Sure the opportunity for misuse is certainly possible with this new technique, but it's that way with everything. Jurors can be influenced, line-ups can be botched, and so forth. Throwing this new found way of tracking down criminals out solely because of the possibility of it being misused would be travesty.

Evil Twin's Wife said...

In my mind, if you don't have anything to hide, then why would you mind giving a DNA sample? Same as wire tapping. We're not over here selling drugs or cooking meth. If they want to listen in to my boring conversations with my best friend....So be it. They'd probably fall asleep while listening. LOL.