When DNA Implicates the Innocent

cold case evidenceScientific American- Since 1997, when researchers first showed that it was possible to gather genetic information about a person based on skin cells they had left on an object, this type of trace evidence, also known as touch DNA, has been increasingly collected from surfaces such as door and gun handles. (In some jurisdictions, such as Harris County, Texas, the number of touch DNA cases submitted for laboratory analysis increased more than threefold between 2009 and 2013, often as a means of identifying possible perpetrators for burglaries and thefts.) Commercial companies now sell kits to law-enforcement agencies that can generate a full genetic profile of an individual from as few as three to five cells. Independent labs and scientists working on such projects as identifying long-deceased individuals also employ the kits.

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