I just read an article in The New York Times about a new —and potentially game changing— use of DNA in criminal investigations.
As a mystery writer (reader & fan) I try to keep up with changes in criminal investigative techniques. Right now, DNA is a linchpin in many prosecutions, but for it to play a significant role in an investigation, the police must have a suspect. It’s the comparison of DNA left at the crime scene with likely perpetrators (people with a motive and access) that links a suspect to a crime.
Imagine if the DNA left behind enabled law enforcement investigators to create a picture of the suspect? It’s thrilling AND terrifying, too. It is one thing to say that there’s a few blonde hairs and DNA in the dead man’s bed indicating that he might have been with a blonde-haired women sometime shortly before —or after— his death. It’s another thing entirely if the inadvertent “sample” left behind prompts an actual description of the unknown woman.
It’s a science fiction-tinged nightmare scenario!
I kind of love it as a premise for fiction, but it’s frightening as a prospect for real life criminal prosecutions where it could “profile” perpetrators and narrow their lines of inquiry.
Could the next MOST WANTED KILLER be a short, brunette with curly hair and hypersensitive pale skin? Um. I’d better be careful. There might be a criminal out there with DNA that draws a picture that looks a little too much like me.