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F.B.I. Audit of Database That Indexes DNA Finds Errors in Profiles

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JOSEPH GOLDSTEIN
NY Times
January 25, 2014

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, in a review of a national DNA database, has identified nearly 170 profiles that probably contain errors, some the result of handwriting mistakes or interpretation errors by lab technicians, while New York State authorities have turned up mistakes in DNA profiles in New York’s database.

The discoveries, submitted by the New York City medical examiner’s office to a state oversight panel, show that the capacity for human error is ever-present, even when it comes to the analysis of DNA evidence, which can take on an aura of infallibility in court, defense lawyers and scientists said.

The errors identified so far implicate only a tiny fraction of the total DNA profiles in the national database, which holds nearly 13 million profiles, more than 12 million from convicts and suspects, and an additional 527,000 from crime scenes. Still, the disclosure of scores of mistaken DNA profiles at once appears to be unprecedented, scientists said.

In some cases, the discovery of an error has enabled the authorities to identify new suspects in cold cases. One such discovery has breathed new life into the murder investigation of a man found bludgeoned to death in the Bronx in 1998. It also led to new matches in two rape cases in New York City in the 1990s, although the statute of limitations for prosecution appears to have expired. In these examples, the errors were found in the DNA profiles taken from the crime scenes rather than from people convicted of crimes.

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This article was posted: Saturday, January 25, 2014 at 6:22 am





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