Almost 28,000 cases nationwide have been prosecuted with help from the FBI’s data bank of DNA profiles, while at least 170 people have seen their convictions overturned on appeal thanks to DNA evidence. Nonetheless, the use of DNA evidence in appeals has been impeded by political considerations and legal uncertainties, according to Roeder. "After all other legal avenues have been tried, the hope of any innocent person is that biological evidence from their cases still exists and can be subjected to DNA testing. But DNA’s value to free the wrongfully convicted can be attained only if political leaders allow its full application," Roeder said. "Thousands currently await the evaluation of their cases."
In the early phases, technical disputes among scientists impeded the use of DNA evidence, Roeder said. One of the earliest controversies to erupt over DNA testing was the magnitude of genetic diversity among people of different ancestry.
Some controversy remains concerning the so-called "cold hit" technique, in which investigators search a DNA database to find a match of DNA found at a crime scene and then collect other evidence to build their case -- as opposed to first identifying a suspect through other evidence and then using DNA to confirm their case. Some critics claimed that this practice could snag an innocent person, but Roeder has demonstrated through her own research that the likelihood of a false hit are miniscule -- in one case, for example, it was about 1 in 26 quintillion, a probability so slight it needn’t be shared with juries, Roeder said.
"The jury can’t handle such small numbers. We would do them a service to simply tell them it matches or it doesn’t match," Roeder said.
Roeder began her career as a biologist, and much of her current research is focused on using statistical tools to understand the workings of the human genome and the nature of inherited diseases. She is a member of the Bioinformatics and Statistics Genetics Group, which includes researchers in the departments of Statistics and Biological Sciences at Carnegie Mellon, and the departments of Psychiatry and Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh. The group’s primary research goal is to develop statistical tools for finding associations between patterns of genetic variation and complex disease.
Jonathan Potts | EurekAlert!
Fish recognize their prey by electric colors
13.11.2018 | Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
The dawn of a new era for genebanks - molecular characterisation of an entire genebank collection
13.11.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Pflanzengenetik und Kulturpflanzenforschung
Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.
Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...
Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.
In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...
On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.
When choosing materials to make something, trade-offs need to be made between a host of properties, such as thickness, stiffness and weight. Depending on the application in question, finding just the right balance is the difference between success and failure
Now, a team of Penn Engineers has demonstrated a new material they call "nanocardboard," an ultrathin equivalent of corrugated paper cardboard. A square...
Physicists at ETH Zurich demonstrate how errors that occur during the manipulation of quantum system can be monitored and corrected on the fly
The field of quantum computation has seen tremendous progress in recent years. Bit by bit, quantum devices start to challenge conventional computers, at least...
09.11.2018 | Event News
06.11.2018 | Event News
23.10.2018 | Event News
13.11.2018 | Life Sciences
13.11.2018 | Life Sciences
13.11.2018 | Awards Funding