Better DNA tests would help in Kartel trial

Published: Saturday | December 14, 2013 Comments 0


Perhaps I am being unfairly critical, but the performance of expert witnesses in the Vybz Kartel trial leave me disappointed and expecting much more from them. Somehow, indications of sloppiness and inexperience seem always to be coming to the fore.

Last week Wednesday, a forensic scientist testified. I place great store by the word of scientists, as I know that eyewitnesses are not always reliable. This witness claims that she was unable to determine if blood found at the scene of an alleged murder was that of the alleged victim. This after comparing the DNA with that of an uncle.

Why was an uncle used for comparison? We know that, based on lifestyles in this country, questions of paternity represent a significant challenge even to the women in question. Wouldn't it have been more useful to do mitochondrial DNA testing?

In this case, it would have presented an opportunity to test the chromosomes coming from the mother, as these are transferred to both genders of her children. This is not subject to dispute, as the woman who gave birth to a child is obviously the child's gestational, genetic and legal mother.


Questions of paternity are not so easy to answer. Scientists frequently have to work backwards, from the child to the potential parent, to determine the actual nature of the relationship.

The alleged victim has sisters. His mother has/had relatives. Could none of these be found?

As I listened to reports of the questions put to the witness, I got the distinct impression that no one in that courtroom was comfortable or familiar with the subject of DNA.

DNA is now being collected from the steering wheels of cars to solve cases of car theft. DNA profiles are routinely being obtained from biological evidence collected decades before. This leads me to wonder if anyone thought of checking the clothing and personal items of the alleged deceased for DNA instead of checking some 'uncle'.

Recent advances in technology and laboratory throughput have made DNA analysis an indisputable tool in crime investigation. The increased use of DNA evidence has created a need for training in law enforcement, and among court reporters, prosecutors, defence attorneys and judges alike. DNA evidence must be presented in a way that is understandable to triers of fact.


Stony Hill, St Andrew

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