whose interests are to count and whether some people's interests should be given greater weight than others'. For example, there are the interests of the accused, the interests of victims of crime or their families in apprehending and convicting perpetrators, and the interests of society. Whether the interests of society in seeing that justice is done should count as much as the interests of the accused or the victim is open to question.

A major issue is the preservation of confidentiality of information obtained with DNA technology in the forensic context. When databanks are established in such a way that state and federal law-enforcement authorities can gain access to DNA profiles, not only of persons convicted of violent crimes but of others as well, there is a serious potential for abuse of confidential information. The victims of many crimes in urban areas are relatives or neighbors of the perpetrators, and these victims might themselves be former or future perpetrators. There is greater likelihood that DNA information on minority-group members, such as blacks and Hispanics, will be stored or accessed. However, it is important to note that use of the ceiling principle removes the necessity to categorize criminals (or defendants in general) by ethnic group for the purposes of DNA testing and storage of information in databanks.

The introduction of a powerful new technology is likely to set up expectations that might be unwarranted or unrealistic in practice. Various expectations regarding DNA typing technology are likely to be raised in the minds of jurors and others in the forensic setting. For example, public perception of the accuracy and efficacy of DNA typing might well put pressure on prosecutors to obtain DNA evidence whenever appropriate samples are available. As the use of the technology becomes widely publicized, juries will come to expect it, just as they now expect fingerprint evidence.

Two aspects of DNA typing technology contribute to the likelihood of its raising inappropriate expectations in the minds of jurors. The first is a jury's perception of an extraordinarily high probability of enabling a definitive identification of a criminal suspect; the second is the scientific complexity of the technology, which results in laypersons' inadequate understanding of its capabilities and failings. Taken together, those two aspects can lead to a jury's ignoring other forensic evidence that it should be considering.

As large felon databanks are created, the forensic community could well place more reliance on DNA evidence, and a possible consequence is the underplaying of other forensic evidence. Unwarranted expectations about the power of DNA technology might result in the neglect of relevant evidence.

The need for international cooperation in law enforcement calls for appropriate scientific and technical exchange among nations. As in other areas of science and technology, dissemination of information about DNA



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement