Familial DNA Testing Approved In New York

The New York State Commission on Forensic Science recently approved the proposal to allow Familial DNA Matching (FM) in certain criminal cases. The matter came to the fore following the rape and murder of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano almost a year ago. The victim’s family became fierce advocates for FM.

Queens District Attorney Richard Brown and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill were also at the forefront of the issue.

By no means is New York the first state to approve FM—in fact, it is reportedly the 11th and has been used in some European countries.

The layman’s explanation for how the method works appears to be that if the suspect leaves a DNA sample in or around the victim, it will be matched against DNA samples in the state’s (or nation’s) data bank.

If there is no match and there is a suspect in mind who cannot be found, then a member of his or her family could be tested for a match to tie the suspect to the crime.

Once caught, the suspect’s DNA would be taken and compared to that which was found at the crime scene. It sounds simple enough, but what if someone does not want to be tested as a stand-in for a suspected family member? Then what?

From a victim’s standpoint, this sounds like a great opportunity. But from the perspective of a family member of a suspect, this could possibly lead to a lot of complications. Civil liberties advocates agree. They believe that it is wrong for innocent people to be subjected to police interrogation and DNA sampling.

As New Yorkers and decent human beings, all of us were shocked and dismayed at what happened to that vibrant young woman in Howard Beach last summer. Her family has been shattered by this senseless loss of their daughter.

But like any family whose lives have been turned upside down by tragedy, they are trying to make a positive thing happen out of their loss. For the sake of all families who will get justice due to this law, it is probably worth the inconvenience of the innocent to get to the guilty.

No one should get away with rape and murder as a result of there being no DNA match. The public is at risk every time someone gets away with kidnapping, murder or rape. Being able to identify and stop them is the mandate of the police. One just hopes that this is not applied in an unjust way in certain communities.

But anyone who can look at another human being and commit such atrocities against them needs to be brought to justice. Some would say that the end justifies the means. For some, the jury is still out.

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