Using DNA to catch Killers and free the innocent is not a new concept. We typically think of using DNA to create a direct match between the suspect and the suspect’s DNA left at the crime scene. But what about using a public DNA database to search for potential relatives of a suspect in order to identify the actual suspect?
Below are several stories involving police catching killers using DNA databases most of us are familiar with. Review the stories and videos and answer the following questions.
How Did They Catch the Golden State Killer? An Online DNA Service and His Genetic Relatives Revealed the Suspect.
Another Murderer Caught Using Same DNA Website as the Golden State Killer Case
Search for ‘Golden State Killer’ Leads to Arrest of Ex-Cop.
1. Does a suspect have any privacy in the DNA he leaves at a crime scene to include DNA left inside of the body of a rape victim? Explain your answer, legally.
2. Does a person have privacy in their DNA left on trash that they discard? Explain your answer.
3. Is it okay, legally, for the police to use a suspect’s DNA to create a fake profile on a public DNA site in order to help identify relatives of that suspect?
4. Do any of these police tactics affect people who have not committed a crime? Explain how.
5. If the police have to use public databases for sources of DNA, what does that say about theories that the government has all of our DNA?
These familiar terms are often confused and misused. Probable cause and reasonable suspicion are two terms that are often confused. Read the article Probable Cause and Reasonable Suspicion explaining these two concepts. You are a police officer for all of the following scenarios.
1. You are patrolling at 2 am in June. You see a man standing on the side of a Subway sandwich shop that is open 24 hours. The man is peeking around the corner and he puts on a ski mask. The man sees your patrol car, removes the ski mask, and begins walking away from the Subway. Do you have probable cause or reasonable suspicion? Do you have justification to stop the man? Would you frisk the man? Write a short paragraph explaining what you would do and justify your actions?
2. You are patrolling near the mall at 4:30 pm. You see a man grab a purse from a woman walking to her car and knock her to the ground. The man starts running through the parking lot. He sees you and drops the purse but continues running away. Do you have probable cause or reasonable suspicion? Can you stop or arrest the man? What if he doesn’t stop? What would you do? Justify your actions.
3. You stop a vehicle for running a stop sign. When you walk up to the car you smell a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the inside of the car. The driver is a female about 30 years old. Her speech is slurred, her eyes or bloodshot. You see a spilled beer laying on the floorboard of the car. There is a small child in a car seat in the back of the car. You ask the woman to step out of the car. She refuses and tells you, you will have to drag her out of the car. Was your stop based on probable cause or reasonable suspicion? Do you have probable cause to arrest her? For what? Can you use force to remove her from the car? Justify your actions?
Getting It Wrong On Cell Phone Searches
Read the article critiquing the Supreme Court’s decision on using location data on cell phones to track robbery suspects. List the reasons the author list about why he believes the Court got this decision wrong. Then agree or disagree with the author’s conclusions. Justify your decision either way. Use other sources if necessary to justify your decision, including the textbook.
Nothing to declare: Why U.S. border agency’s vast stop and search powers undermine press freedom
Recommendations: The Committee to Protect Journalists offers the following recommendations
Watch the video and read the article from the Committee to Protect Journalist. A link to the CPJ’s recommendations is also available. The infographic chart provided is helpful at providing an overview of rulings on border searches. The CPJ discusses border searches of electronic devices. The CPJ points out that President Obama prosecuted eight individuals under the Espionage Act and A.G. Jeff Sessions has filed indictments in four leak investigations. The CPJ is concerned about border searches for those reasons.
1. Is there any evidence provided in the article to suggest that searches of electronic devices at the border have been used to specifically target journalists?
2. Of the investigations related to leaks under Obama and Trump, were any of those investigations involving border searches?
3. Have searches of electronic devices increased in the past few years? By how much?
4. Do you believe searching electronic devices at the border is necessary for national security? If you were in charge of adopting a policy to be used at all international borders would you restrict the warrantless searches of devices altogether, or require some suspicion for a warrantless search, or allow all devices to be searched without any individualized suspicion? Justify your decision.
Jennifer Thompson & Ronald Cotton in the Picking Cotton: 60 Minutes Special
Eyewitness testimony is a big part of my criminal cases but it can be flawed. Procedures dealing with eyewitness, photo lineups, and in-person lineups have changed over the years because old procedures have been found to be flawed.
1. Should witnesses or victims be believed without testing and without investigation in criminal cases? Explain.
2. Do witnesses and victims ever lie in criminal cases?
3. In medical studies involving the testing of medicine a double-blind method of testing medicine is used in which the participants taking the medicine are not told if they are taking real medicine or a placebo. Doctors administering the drugs are also not told which whether the medicine they are administering is real or a placebo.
o Why do you believe the double-blind method is used in medicine?
o Do you believe this procedure should be used with eyewitness identification in criminal cases? Why?
4. Based on events in 2018, do you believe Americans understand the issues surrounding due processes and criminal justice? Explain.
5. Do social media movements help or hurt due process and accuracy in our criminal justice system? Explain.
Annenberg Classroom – The Exclusionary Rule
The exclusionary rule was designed to deter government misconduct. It prevents evidence seized in violation of the 4th amendment from being used against the accused in a criminal trial.
Watch the video on Map v. Ohio from the Annenberg Classroom and then answer the following questions. Comment on at least one other student’s post.
1. Do you think the exclusionary rule ever interferes with a guilty person going to jail? Is that okay? Explain your answer.
2. Is the Exclusionary Rule meant to protect the innocent, the guilty, or both? Explain your answer.
3. John Wayne Gacy was a serial killer who killed at least 33 men and buried them under his house between 1972 and 1978. Police executed a search warrant to search Gacy’s house and found the bodies. Suppose the police failed to obtain a warrant before making that search. The Exclusionary Rule would prevent any evidence found inside the house from being used in court, to include the bodies.
Could an exception be made to the exclusionary rule just based on the seriousness of the crime in Gacy’s case? Should an exception be made? Explain why or why not.
Annenberg Classroom – Habeas Corpus: The Guantanamo Cases
Inside Guantanamo – Lesley Stahl gets unprecedented access to the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, facility where the accused 9/11 terrorist will face trial.
Habeas Corpus is a writ used to determine if the detention of prisoner is valid. Labeling someone as an enemy combatant and detaining that person in Guantanamo Bay after 9/11, was designed to prevent prisoners captured after the war on terror was declared, from seeking Habeas Corpus relief. The video covers four major cases (Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, Rasul v. Bush, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Boumediene v. Bush) in which the Court decided the balance between presidential power during a time of war and the protection of civil liberties.
Watch the video from the Annenberg project and then read the article “Inside Guantanamo” from 2013, after the Court decided that Gitmo Detainees must have constitutional protections, including a trial.
1. Some of the detainees captured and held at Guantanamo Bay were tortured and confessions were obtained. Should confessions obtained via torture be excluded from trials involving terrorism?
2. Read about the use of “clean teams” in the 60 Minutes article. Do you believe it is possible to obtain uncoerced confessions by the U.S. Government “clean team” from someone who had previously been tortured by the U.S. government in the past? Why or why not?
3. Do you believe there are times when certain legal protections of individual rights should be suspended? Explain.
4. What was the purpose of the hockey light in the courtroom at GITMO?
5. Do you think convictions obtained under these circumstances are valid? Is there another alternative?
Debate Over Delaying of Miranda Warning
Holder Backs a Miranda Limit for Terror Suspects
Miranda Warnings must be administered to persons who are in custody and who are being asked incriminating questions. If the Miranda Warning is not given to a person under these circumstances, statements made by the suspect can be inadmissible in court.
1. Do you agree with the Obama administration’s stance that suspects accused of terrorism can be questioned without the Miranda warning? Why or why not?
2. What do you think the purpose and/or logic behind questioning suspects in custody for terrorism without giving them the Miranda warning?
3. Why would the FBI question a suspect without Miranda and first and then provide the suspect with the Miranda warning later?
4. If a suspect makes incriminating statements when being questioned without Miranda, should those statements be used against the suspect at a trial later?