5 things you didn’t know about DNA testing

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Ever wondered just how much DNA testing has helped in the field of science? Here are several of the most interesting cases where it has uncovered the identity of some of the world’s most notorious killers as well as some noble names.

The first ever case

In November 1983, 15-year old Lynda Mann was abducted from outside of her home in Narborough, England. Only a day later she was found murdered. Then, three years later, another woman was murdered in the same circumstances for which a man named Richard Buckland was arrested. A new technique called ‘genetic fingerprinting’ through DNA testing was applied, and Buckland was found innocent. After that, 5,500 men from the local area were tested in the same way, and Colin Pitchfork’s genetic profile matched the semen sample from both girls meaning that in 1987 he was the first murderer to be convicted by DNA testing.

The ‘DNA wars’ of OJ Simpson

In 1995, OJ Simpson was found ‘not guilty’ of murdering his ex-wife and her friend. However, when samples from the crime scene were collected, the blood matched OJ’s genetic identity without any shadow of a doubt. This testing was not done by the police crime lab but instead by two independent labs that were hired by the defendants and the case took a turn in what had first appeared to be a simple road to conviction. Days of accusations followed where the defense claimed the blood samples had been tainted and switched while in police custody. Jurors were forced to listen to hours and hours of expert testimony but distracted with the accusations of the corruption of the LAPD, the DNA evidence was forgotten.

The Green River Killer

In Washington in the 80s and 90s, the eponymous Green River Killer took somewhere between 48 – 90 victims, the majority of which were prostitutes. One of the main suspects, in this case, was Gary Ridgway, a man who had a history of frequenting and abusing prostitutes. Although they collected DNA samples from Ridgway in 1987, the technology present at the time was unable to connect him to the killings, and it wasn’t until 2001 that new techniques allowed them to incriminate him. When he was arrested, he confessed to the murders and was sentenced to 48 life sentences.

The French Queen: Marie Antoinette

Marie Antoinette, the wife of Louis XVI, is one of the most famous French royals and the last to queen to take the throne before the bloody French Revolution in 1789. Rumours circulated that her son, who disappeared in 1795, had escaped the revolution by being taken to a safe place. If so, this would mean that some direct decedents would still be alive today. In 2000, scientists did a DNA test on a heart of a boy who died of tuberculosis in prison, and presumed to be the heart of the Prince Louis XVII. His DNA was compared to Marie Antoinette’s, which had been taken from a hair sample of the queen. The test established that Marie Antoinette was the biological mother of the Dauphin meaning that the heart was indeed that of Louis XVII.

The exoneration of Jerry Miller

Although he testified that he was at home at the time of the attack in 1981, 48-year old Jerry Miller was found guilty of rape, robbery, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated battery and he served 25 years in prison. The Innocence Project took on Miller’s case in 2005, and they conducted DNA tests that allowed for his exoneration. He was the 200th person to be exonerated by DNA evidence.