A A Email Print Share

Whose DNA Is It Anyway?—Balancing Access with Privacy Considerations in Criminal Justice

DNA evidence can be used to free the innocent and convict the guilty, but only when it's actually utilized. Government agencies control DNA evidence, but many have not yet adopted analysis methods capable of obtaining optimal information. In addition, many agencies restrict access to data that can advance criminal justice or prevent crime.

Now, with the U.S. Supreme Court set to rule, in Maryland v. King, on the question of whether that state may collect DNA from individuals not yet convicted of violent crimes, the subject of DNA access and privacy is especially timely.

An interdisciplinary group of experts will explore investigative, legal, scientific and ethical dimensions of these thought-provoking issues, as well as ways to improve upon current forensic practice, at Whose DNA Is it Anyway?, a daylong seminar at Duquesne University. A part of the Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law's Forensic Fridays series, the seminar will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday, March 15, in the Africa Room of the Duquesne Union.

"This topic was selected because of the expanding reliance upon DNA evidence in our criminal justice system and the host of issues that this presents," explained Ben Wecht, program administrator for the institute.

Presenters at Whose DNA Is it Anyway? include:

  • Dr. Gregory Hampikian, professor of biological sciences and criminal justice, Boise State University, and director of the Idaho Innocence Project
  • Dr. Victor Weedn, chair of the Department of Forensic Sciences, The George Washington University
  • Dr. Mark Perlin, chief executive officer and chief scientific officer, Cybergenetics
  • Dr. Alfred Blumstein, the J. Erik Jonsson University Professor of Urban Systems and Operations Research, Carnegie Mellon University
  • The Hon. Jill Rangos, judge, Criminal Division, Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas
  • Det. Kenneth Mains, Lycoming County District Attorney's Office
  • Laura Irwin, assistant U.S. attorney, Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Akin Adepoju, assistant federal defender, Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Wesley Oliver, professor of law, Duquesne University.

"The field of forensic DNA analysis constitutes a premier method for prosecuting and convicting the guilty while, at the same time, absolving the innocent," said Dr. David Seybert, dean and professor of the Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences, which is co-sponsoring the seminar. "It is imperative that forensic practitioners and the criminal justice community engage in this type of dialogue in an ongoing basis."

In addition to the Wecht Institute and the Bayer School, Whose DNA Is it Anyway? is co-sponsored by Duquesne University's School of Nursing. For more information, including cost and available continuing education credits, visit http://www.duq.edu/forensic-friday, email wechtinstitute@duq.edu or call 412.396.1330.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.