This Could Change EVERYTHING!

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.


  1. lol – this coincides perfectly with something I saw on TV just the other night – the difficulty of facial recognition, even for those trained to the job like the people who have to match photos to say passport ID.

    So if we humans actually have trouble distinguishing faces in proper photos, how much more trouble would be have with an Identikit-DNA face?

    The authorities would be wanting the tech. to help catch criminals, but civil libertarians and lawyers would be undermining the validity of the results, at least in so far as they pertain to a suspect.

    Interesting tech indeed. 😀

    • Candy Korman

      There will, no doubt, be tons of bugs to work out! And yes, this is similar to the facial recognition issues with the current technology. So, for now, we’re basically safe from the MOST WANTED poster drawn directly from some stray DNA left behind at a crime scene…. BUT in the future?! We’ve got a true science fiction scenario in the offing!

      The idea makes me nervous and yet, it’s such a great way to start a story. Don’t you think? I’m laughing as my fingers are hovering over the keyboard wondering where to take this in a story.

    • Candy Korman

      MINORITY REPORT!!! That’s the one I kept thinking of, but couldn’t nail down the name.

      Yes, the world IS getting more paranoid and we writers will manage to get stranger, too! LOL