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The History of a Monumental Forensic Tool and the Ethical Debate Sparked by Wrongful Convictions Based on Trace DNA Evidence

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This episode of Tiny Matters podcast provides an overview of DNA profiling, how it has evolved, and the influential role it has played in criminal convictions; it also features three expert guests who discuss the intricacies of DNA and how using it as evidence can be complicated by several factors.


This podcast episode discusses forensic evidence, the history of DNA profiling and how it has evolved, and the 2012 murder case of Raveesh Kumra that led to the wrongful arrest of Lukis Anderson, whose DNA was under Kumra’s fingernails but who, at the time of the murder, was in a hospital being treated and carefully monitored for intoxication. The podcasters, Deboki Chakravarti Sam Jones, and their guests, who review how DNA profiling works and some of the key criminal cases that helped advance the science behind it. They provide a general discussion of how DNA sequencing works, the subsequent conviction of Tommy Lee Andrews in Florida. MIT biologists Natalie Damaso and Meghan Ramsey, and DNA expert Cynthia Cale discuss DNA sample collection from crime scenes, and how the same paramedics who took Anderson to the hospital in 2012 also responded to the Kumra murder and treated both men with the same equipment, including a pulsometer, that led to the transfer of DNA and the initial wrongful arrest, which was later corrected. The guests also discuss a trend in forensic science to do activity level assessments, and how those may be complicated by variables such as shedder status, biological material transfer, noting some body materials that transfer easier than others, and environmental factors.

Date Published: January 1, 2023