Fingerprints Vs. DNA: Is One Term Paper

Length: 7 pages Sources: 7 Subject: Physics Type: Term Paper Paper: #85872409 Related Topics: Expert Witness, Forensics And Dna, Ap, Physics
Excerpt from Term Paper :

(Aronson, 2007)

The problems and future of DNA Testing

The scientific soundness of the DNA test has not been doubted at all. Courts have increasingly relied on the outcomes of DNA tests. The common man is at a loss to understand the complexities of the method, and as a result in jury trials it is not taken as standard proof but approached with hesitancy. Jurors are ignorant of science and the 'principles of modern genetics' and can get quite confused by all the jargon and confusing tactics of lawyers who are more interested in their cases rather than scientific truth. ("DNA Fingerprinting and Forensics," 2006) Thus the very process that can throw light on the proceedings and produce unfaultable evidence gets mired in sticky debates. The actual concern about the DNA test is not a confused jury but the process of collecting the data and analyzing it. There is no safeguard or guarantee to rule out a false match and insufficient identification data. Unlike fingerprints which do not require complex collection procedures and interpretation techniques, DNA testing cannot be said to be totally infallible. ("DNA Fingerprinting and Forensics," 2006)

The constitution of the United States, guarantees that no person will be convicted except under the condition that there is proof beyond all reasonable doubt about the culpability of the accused. Therefore the very DNA evidence will have to be seen in the light of absolute certainty. However in civil suits like the fixing of paternity, the evidence is not required to be exact but preponderance in favor of the producing party will suffice. DNA finger printing is the only method that is reliable and perfect in civil suits of this kind where fingerprinting will be of no help. ("DNA Fingerprinting and Forensics," 2006) the inherent problems associated with the DNA fingerprinting are more than just the reliability factor. Courts have begun taking notice of DNA matches and have accorded the same status for it as fingerprinting. The greater problem is the time consumed in the profiling of the DNA as compared to the fingerprint technique especially in a spot where the evidence need be taken from objects and the scene of occurrence. DNA profiling lacks the speed of fingerprint analysis because of the difficulty of matching profiles of offenders to the samples. One important consideration is the mounting crime and backlog of cases that require examination. There is a shortage of qualified examiners and therefore work overflow has slowed and regarded the process of developing the method into better functional applications. (Lazer, 2004)

Fingerprint experts are common part of the criminal investigation squad and also there are forensic laboratories that have records of fingerprints which can be profiled and matched within seconds. The technical expertise for matching the fingerprints is available and there need not be delay in time in further action where immediate apprehension of persons are required based on the match. As stated earlier, the dearth of experts have caused the system to go slow and it takes more time to analyze and match the data which in critical cases can frustrate the very investigation. Secondly the persons who collect the required samples need not be the same persons trained in the collection of samples for DNA tests. While fingerprinting is common and can be done by most technicians on the spot, DNA samples require more trained hands. Either the police or forensic officers have to be trained in the collection of or since it takes time, more importantly the preservation of the samples for a longer period of time. The crime scene material stored in labs but when the investigating and adjudication is complete the stored data and objects became unreliable for further use. Because DNA testing takes time and the long gap makes the evidence shaky and not by itself complete. (Lazer, 2004)

The legislation in some states recently requires that all biological evidence be stored carefully indefinitely. To overcome the voluminous demand, field kits for DNA testing is proposed. It is possible for such kits to be treated which will help extracting, storing and data analysis and on the scene assessment of the available information....


The profiling of DNA is itself evolving and in future the collective action of experts and the use of novel methods like STR typing and SNP assays would speed up the analysis and sharpen its accuracy. The collection of DNA from the people and codifying it could have privacy issues. The citizens must weigh the cost of losing privacy and the DNA print being available to the authorities against the safety it promises in deterring potential criminals from their ventures because of sure possibility of detection. (Lazer, 2004)

Legal views of DNA

It is true that the world over finger prints is immutable evidence of identity of an individual and there is no substitute for that and there is no questions raised over the authenticity of the prints. The legal fraternity however views the DNA evidence with slight apprehension. DNA evidence is accepted in courts, but the general view of the courts is to rely on other evidence wherever available, even to the extent of ignoring the DNA evidence. A very strange case is mentioned here to show the preference of the bench to circumstantial evidence more than the reliance of DNA at Texas in the criminal court of appeals an appeal was filed by the accused person - "NO. AP-75,027" and the case is CHARLES DEAN HOOD, Appellant v. The STATE of TEXAS." ("In the court of criminal appeals of Texas- NO. AP-75,027 Charles Dean Hood, Appellant vs.The State of Texas. Delivered: March 2, 2005," 2008)

This is with regard to an order on DNA testing by the lower district court. The opinion of the court was delivered by the honorable Keasler, Judge. The Appellant Charles Dean Hood, a convict for capita murder was sentenced by the lower court to death. The appellant that is Charles Dean Hood filed the motion requiring a forensic test for DNA. The argument was that the trial judge has erred in many ways and the DNA test would have helped prove his innocence. The appeal court refuses the appeal on many grounds, and in our study of the DNA issue it is illustrative of the fact that where other evidence id available courts do not regard the DNA matches as absolute. Unlike fingerprints which form the primary evidence in the trail and the courts would not overlook it, in this case which illustrates the stand of the court, we find that an appeal by a convicted person who stands to lose his life stands turned down for reasons which were set out by the court thus: "Williamson called the police and told them that he believed that his girlfriend had been abducted. After the police arrived at the victims' house, they found both Williamson and Wallace dead with gunshot wounds to their heads. [Hood]'s fingerprints were found on the "girlfriend's" note, on garbage bags that had covered her dead body, and on documents that had been taken from his boss' safe. [Hood] was also later found to be in possession of several items of Williamson's property." ("In the court of criminal appeals of Texas- NO. AP-75,027 Charles Dean Hood, Appellant vs.The State of Texas. Delivered: March 2, 2005," 2008)

We have to notice here that the finger prints found were taken to be evidence. Hood required DNA testing of items which he claimed would establish his innocence which was denied. In this case the court reject ed the appeals on the ground that "Even if DNA tests revealed the blood of another individual at the crime scene - even Andrew Yourston - that evidence would at most establish that Hood acted with someone else in committing the crime. Hood's bloody fingerprints were found on the door to the room where Wallace's body was found and on the trash bags in which her body was wrapped. His fingerprints were on the note purportedly left by Wallace. These are not the fingerprints of someone who just happened to be living at the house; these are fingerprints demonstrating involvement in the crime." ("In the court of criminal appeals of Texas- NO. AP-75,027 Charles Dean Hood, Appellant vs.The State of Texas. Delivered: March 2, 2005," 2008) This goes to show how much value is attached to the fingerprint evidence over all other forms.


We can therefore conclude that the finger print method is the safest and tried method. DNA fingerprinting is evolving and has a lot of areas which are not adequately covered and is still unavailable to the lay man and jury for easy understanding. More over it has not been proved to be absolutely unique as fingerprinting. It is yet to gain absolute acceptance in courts and the difficulty that is created by the time and resources required for analysis still…

Sources Used in Documents:


Aronson, Jay. D. (2007) "Genetic Witness: Science, Law, and Controversy in the Making of DNA" Rutgers University Press.

Champod, Christophe. (2004) "Fingerprints and Other Ridge Skin Impressions"

CRC Press.

Lazer, David. (2004) "DNA and the Criminal Justice System: The Technology of Justice"

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