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Twins' DNA Foils Police 209

Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that James and John Parr were both arrested after watches worth £10,000 were stolen from a shopping center. Police found blood on a piece of glass at the scene of the crime and traced it back to the 25-year-old identical twins through DNA tests. But James and John both denied the theft and, because they have identical DNA, it has been impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt which twin is responsible. 'The police told us that they knew it was one of us, but we both denied it,' says James. 'I definitely know I didn't do anything wrong. I was watching my daughter that night.' Now the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has concluded that it cannot prove beyond reasonable doubt who was responsible. 'Unless further evidence becomes available, we are unable to authorize any charge at this time,' says CPS spokesman Rob Pett. 'This is certainly not something that we regularly encounter.' Identical twins have hindered police investigations a number of times since the advent of DNA testing. In Malaysia last year, a man suspected of drug-smuggling and sentenced to death was released when the court could not prove whether it was he or his twin brother who committed the crime."
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Twins' DNA Foils Police

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  • Um, this is easy (Score:4, Insightful)

    by HighOrbit ( 631451 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:38PM (#31716986)
    Which one has the cut that left the blood behind?
  • Old days? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:39PM (#31716990)
    So DNA is the only way to prove guilt and find the truth? I remember in the old days, before DNA, they were still able to catch criminals. Maybe they should find some retired police officers to see how it's really done.
  • Just goes to show (Score:5, Insightful)

    by azaris ( 699901 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:40PM (#31716998) Journal
    DNA by itself should never be used as the sole evidence to convict someone. It can be a useful indicator for finding suspects, but there always needs to be more direct evidence to provide a conviction. It is not just that people who don't have twins can be convicted solely based on DNA evidence, while people who do have twins cannot because of the possibility of convicting an innocent person. And that is not even going into DNA collisions or tainted samples.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:41PM (#31717014)

    Instead of resorting to third-world tactics like that, maybe the police investigators could just do their jobs, investigate the crime scene, and find some less-ambigous evidence that conclusively points to one brother or the other. Oh, and that doesn't mean that they "manufacture" the evidence, either.

  • by El_Muerte_TDS ( 592157 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:42PM (#31717018) Homepage

    Guilty until proven innocent?

  • by algormortis ( 1422619 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:50PM (#31717084)

    ...a man suspected of drug-smuggling and sentenced to death...

    I'm surprised nobody has said anything about this. Sentenced to death for smuggling drugs? That's more of a problem than twin's getting away with theft and... well... drug smuggling.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:51PM (#31717088)

    No, we don't need to clone ourselves, just mutate our DNA by exposing ourselves to radiation.

    If my understanding of science is correct, we'll also get super-powers, which in turn will lead to us not having to turn to a life of crime.

    Because we'll either be super-heroes or super-villains, and well, who needs to rob banks when you can take over the world?


  • by Threni ( 635302 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:56PM (#31717130)

    You blood at the scene means you get to explain to the police how it got there. If your blood was in my kitchen, next to my wifes body, and there was evidence she fought her attacker, you don't think the police, having matched the mystery blood back to you, wouldn't want a quick word with you?

  • Well, good. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:57PM (#31717156)

    This is the way it's supposed to work. DNA is not a magic bullet (heh) for solving crimes.

    So the Crown will have to use good old fashioned police work to prove the case, like finding the watch in either twin's possession and/or fingerprints on the broken glass. Even genetic twins have different fingerprints. If the Crown (or any other prosecutorial system based upon English Common Law) cannot do this, then they go free, as per the design of the system.

    It's better to let a hundred guilty go free than to jail (or execute!) one innocent person.


  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @01:59PM (#31717166) Journal
    Who says it was either of them? DNA fingerprints are not unique. There are likely to be 50 other people in the UK with the same DNA fingerprint as the twins and it's entirely possible that one of them was the robber. The depressing thing is that the police seem to think that this is enough evidence to convict even if there is no other evidence, unless they happen to randomly find two people with the same DNA fingerprint.
  • Re:Old days? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @02:00PM (#31717192) Journal
    Sacrificing yourself to spare someone else is generally considered a moral thing to do, so it's more likely that (assuming either is guilty), the innocent one would declare himself guilty. In your world, the state would kill one innocent person and the guilty would go free.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @02:10PM (#31717316)

    Or one more note, an identical twin could leave a sample of his blood and blame his brother.

    Wouldn't that have to be, on top of identical, a secret evil twin?

    Only if he has a goatee []...

  • Re:Old days? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Draek ( 916851 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @02:15PM (#31717362)

    I know dissing new technology and looking to the past with rose-tinted glasses is all the rage these days, but don't you think that if they had any other leads, they would've pursued them as well?

    Besides, not only did the old methods catch only some criminals (so do the newer ones, but for higher values of 'some'), many of those they did catch ended up decades later to not have been criminals after all.

  • Re:Old days? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @02:37PM (#31717574)

    If I were the innocent brother and placed in this situation with no other alternative, I'd gladly confess so that my brother could go free, even knowing (as only I would) that he was the guilty one. I'd be a two thousand years too late to claim that it's my original idea, though.

    fuck that.

    my twin is standing next to me at the gallows, guilty as sin, and refuses to admit his guilt in order to save me? he's an asshole and deserves the hanging even more than before.

  • Fuck that! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @02:49PM (#31717676)
    As an identical twin, I can tell you that your idea stinks. If my brother commits a crime, and I deny it, I don't think I should be charged with obstruction of justice. I don't know what he's doing at any given time of the day. I couldn't tell you what he's doing right now. He could be robbing a jewelry store for all I know.
  • by HAKdragon ( 193605 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `nogardkah'> on Saturday April 03, 2010 @03:16PM (#31717920)
    It is unconstitutional (5th amendment violation) to demand someone confess.

    While I'm not really familiar with the justice system in the UK, I'd have a hard time believing that the US constitution somehow applies there.
  • by mysidia ( 191772 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @03:20PM (#31717956)

    Another possibility would be to examine both people's alibi.

    Trying to hold 2 people for 1 peron's crime is just lazy.

    Presumably one of them can't properly account for their whereabouts at the time of the crime. One of their alibis' has got to have a hole in it (unless a 'third' mysterious twin did it)

    At least one twin is lying, and possibly a friend covering their alibi is lying. They couldn't have both really been watching their daughter that night.

    Unless one of them that committed the crime took their daughter with them, that is. It is doubtful both twins wear exactly the same clothing, same vehicle type, and other things, so perhaps if there was some sort of trace evidence left at the scene, they could be fingered..... At a shopping center, there should be at least one witness, unless this was an inside job done while it was closed.

    I also would not neglect the possibility that both twins were involved in the crime.

    If both twins were involved, they could have both planned to point to the other twin and make sure there was not enough evidence to incriminate either of them. In this manner, committing the perfect crime in plain sight.

    I assume the police actually did both nuclear DNA and mitochondrial DNA testing on both twins, and other analysis of blood content?

    Or maybe not.

    Even identical twins don't necessarily eat the same things. The criminal has some different behaviors / different tastes, that they ought to be able to find evidence of.

    They could probably analyze behavior and figure out which one is actually capable of committing the crime that happened

  • Re:Old days? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 03, 2010 @03:23PM (#31717988)

    So DNA is the only way to prove guilt and find the truth? I remember in the old days, before DNA, they were still able to catch criminals. Maybe they should find some retired police officers to see how it's really done.

    Yeah, like using the millions of CCTV surveillance cameras all over the UK. Doesn't seem to be working so well...

  • by RightSaidFred99 ( 874576 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @03:38PM (#31718112)

    Jesus. Please never be a juror.

    The standard is beyond a reasonable doubt. The defendant making up "any old story", with no corroboration, to explain real evidence the prosecution presents is not enough to remove the doubt from the evidence.

    I'd laugh if the defendant claimed "uhh, someone must have planted it by stealing blood from a fake donation event". The prosecution had presented evidence the defendant was unable to effectively refute.

  • by Rick Zeman ( 15628 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @03:39PM (#31718126)

    So obvious it's been (mostly) done before: []

  • by TheABomb ( 180342 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @04:37PM (#31718502)
    I don't know enough about British jurisprudence, but here in America, we'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to incarcerate you for twenty bucks' worth of drugs or a $1.99 mp3. On the other hand, if your crimes drive enough people into bankruptcy, the government will give you billions of dollars in bailout money. This is somewhere in that big grey expanse between them.
  • Re:Old days? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Xeno man ( 1614779 ) on Saturday April 03, 2010 @05:40PM (#31718958)
    Without DNA they wouldn't even have a suspect. In the old days this would have just been another unsolved crime.

"No, no, I don't mind being called the smartest man in the world. I just wish it wasn't this one." -- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias, WATCHMEN