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Forensic Test Predicts Eye and Hair Color From DNA 73

Posted by Soulskill
from the accurate-to-some-amount-of-decimal-places dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A forensic test that has been developed to help police nab perpetrators of crimes can predict a suspect's eye color, hair color, and ethnic origin. The test's ability and the science behind it has been outlined in Forensic Science International: Genetics (abstract). Developed by Susan Walsh and other researchers from the Netherlands, Greece, and Poland, the test uses phenotypes from DNA to ... predict a suspect's appearance using 'low amounts of template DNA, as well as degraded DNA,' which means that the DNA does not need to be perfect in order for the system to read it."
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Forensic Test Predicts Eye and Hair Color From DNA

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  • by wbr1 (2538558) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:33PM (#41155919)
    The DNA doesn't lie! Sure it was degraded and we had to amplify and replicate degraded copies.. but it said the rapist would have brown hair and blue eyes.. and look.. does the suspect not have brown hair and blue eyes?
    Later, in the jury room... DNA is always right.. GUILTY!!!
    • by willie3204 (444890) on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:39PM (#41156049)

      The OJ verdict disagrees with that line of thought

      • by Desler (1608317)

        If the glove doesn't fit you must acquit!

        • by Anonymous Coward

          OJ will get zero
          'Cause he was a hero
          Who carried a ball
          In September through fall
          Entertaining the twit
          Who will vote to acquit!
              - The Capitol Steps

      • Interestingly enough, at the time his defense lawyers actually tried to make the claim that perhaps some of OJ's DNA could have wafted from the test tube with his blood into the other tube containing the crime evidence. I guess the public was so new to the idea of DNA that some thought it possible.

      • But this... is Chewbacca. That does not make sense.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kenja (541830)
      So the question is, if the tests say he has blue eyes, but he actually has brown, can that be used as evidence in his defense? If not, then why would it be usable by the prosecution if he has blue?

      There's not much "science" in forensic science. You'll be hard pressed to find a single peer reviewed study that shows finger prints to be a valid means of identification (at least of the sort used in forensics where only a few points need to line up).
      • by Dr. Tom (23206) <tomh@nih.gov> on Tuesday August 28, 2012 @04:49PM (#41156245) Homepage

        You'll be hard pressed to find a single peer reviewed study that shows finger prints to be a valid means of identification

        challenge accepted

        http://lpr.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/2/87.short [oxfordjournals.org]

        • by Kenja (541830)
          Close, but that only shows that the validation method holds up legally. It does not show that no two people in the world have the same fingerprints much less the same 2-5 whirl markers used for comparison by law enforcement.
          • by Dr. Tom (23206)

            You're right.

            Not to mention that it is possible to wear fake fingertips that give you somebody else's fingerprints ...

            Also a problem with degraded DNA: if you find some DNA at the crime scene that codes for a person with blue eyes, that doesn't mean the blue-eyed DNA is related to the suspect, just that somebody with blue eyes had been there some time in the past ...

            • Not even that. I can collect someones hair clippings or dandruff in a salon and leave them somewhere.
              • To be fair, hair clippings wouldn't provide DNA and it would become quite obvious that they were planted when every hair found at the crime scene was found to be snipped rather than pulled/fallen out.

                • To be fair, hair clippings wouldn't provide DNA and it would become quite obvious that they were planted when every hair found at the crime scene was found to be snipped rather than pulled/fallen out.

                  You obviously haven't been to my hair salon!

            • by swell (195815)

              "Not to mention that it is possible to wear fake fingertips that give you somebody else's fingerprints ..."

              This is why I also carry a vial of my ex's DNA when I'm doing crimes.

              • So you walk around with a turkey baster filled with his semen, just waiting for the opportunity to use it?

            • On the other hand, if said DNA comes from fresh blood at the crime scene, or semen, or skin flakes under the victim's nails, or [etc, etc, etc]. There are plenty of times when you can say, if not for certainty, then at least beyond a reasonable doubt, that the DNA came from the perpetrator (or at the very, very least, a witness).

          • It does not show that no two people in the world have the same fingerprints

            Would you require proof that there's no teapot orbiting the Earth before you'll accept that it's probably not there?

            • Would you require proof that there's no teapot orbiting the Earth before you'll accept that it's probably not there?

              If the Chinese have a manned space program, you can be sure there's a teapot orbiting the Earth.

        • You'll be hard pressed to find a single peer reviewed study that shows finger prints to be a valid means of identification

          challenge accepted

          http://lpr.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/2/87.short [oxfordjournals.org]

          Counter example: [pbs.org]

          In 2004, cognitive neoroscientist Itiel Dror set out to examine whether the process of fingerprint analysis, long considered one of the most reliable forms of forensic science, can be biased by the knowledge examiners have when they attempt to find a match for prints from a crime scene... Dror constructed an experiment using the case of Brandon Mayfield. Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer, was at the center of international controversy in 2004 after the FBI and an independent analyst incorrectly m

      • So the question is, if the tests say he has blue eyes, but he actually has brown, can that be used as evidence in his defense?

        Once you catch the suspect, you can run a full DNA match. This test will only tell you how does the suspect *probably* look like. It can probably miss those features that depend on multiple genes or perhaps are influenced by some other factors or conditions, but this is for manhunts, not for the court room.

        • by wbr1 (2538558)

          So the question is, if the tests say he has blue eyes, but he actually has brown, can that be used as evidence in his defense?

          Once you catch the suspect, you can run a full DNA match. This test will only tell you how does the suspect *probably* look like. It can probably miss those features that depend on multiple genes or perhaps are influenced by some other factors or conditions, but this is for manhunts, not for the court room.

          If you think it won't be used in the courtroom by overzealous prosecutors and police, with paid forensic 'scientists' to spout out 'scientific' reasons the results are right to confuse the jury, I have some prime tropical real estate for sail in Nova Scotia.

      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        Ahem: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/04/18/1018707108 [pnas.org]. First result on Google. Short version: false positives at a .1% rate, false negatives at 7.5%, independent review caught every single one. I'd say that is reasonably accurate.

        There is a ton of science in forensic science. Obviously, it is not 100% nor is it "hard" science where you can get 99.9995% confidence using a thousand or more trials for each match like you can in, say, physics. That is why you have a trial, and "beyond reasonable doubt"

      • by tnk1 (899206)

        Yes, I think this would probably be impeachable in a trial if used as actual evidence. A prosecutor may well try to get it in, if they wanted to try and play to the CSI Effect, but I don't think it would stick.

        However, if it is only used to locate a subject who can then be more completely tested and investigated, there is no need for this process to appear in trial.

        Of course, it might enter the legal system if it is used as probable cause to get a warrant for a search or some other investigative purpose.

    • by mapkinase (958129)

      The phrase "grisly science" have never had so many meanings

    • by Sulphur (1548251)

      The DNA doesn't lie! Sure it was degraded and we had to amplify and replicate degraded copies.. but it said the rapist would have brown hair and blue eyes.. and look.. does the suspect not have brown hair and blue eyes?

      Later, in the jury room... DNA is always right.. GUILTY!!!

      Worse, he resembles the CGI rendering. A lot of talented forensic artists will be seeking employment elsewhere in a few years.

      --

      Or was it brown eyes and blue/orange hair?

    • The DA's DNA tests will never come back with blue eyes. Blue eyes, no; brown skin, yes. Always.
  • Police Commissioner: "Our officers are NOT stopping and checking people because of their ethnic background. Our officers stop and check based on the DNA of the people. It's all scientificously based."

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In other words, they now have another good reason to do something that they already had a good reason to do in the first place.

  • I guess hair colouring and coloured contact lenses will be getting more popular for criminals ...

  • Let's see, is that the ethnic origin of my father' father, or of my father's mother, or of my mother's father, or of my mother's mother? Or of all four of them? Or of all eight of their parents? Or maybe it just tells the police what color my skin is?
  • This is misuse of the word. A right word is "discover." But hair color is often not the same as the genes might suggest.
  • I doubt it! NPR's Radio Lab had spoke on this recently. The best science can do is predict probability. Likelihood your nose, iris, cheekbones will look like X rather than Y.

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