DNA Sciences: Genetic Fingerprinting Wasn’t Always Reliable. This Flaw Was Exploited In This Historical Crime Story.
Remember when police only had fingerprints and witnesses to work with at crime scenes? What if your DNA turned up in a cold case? What would you do next?
Today’s crime-solving is easy. You take a swab of some icky stuff left at the scene of a recent crime, do something science-y with it, and a mystery gets solved fast. Bingo. A bad guy goes to jail. Everyone sleeps at night. Perfect.
It’s the happy ever we expect for all crime stories.
We assume that DNA sequencing has been with us forever but it hasn’t. In fact, there are some countries in the world where this science is still in its infancy. There are others where it doesn’t exist at all. Technology and knowledge aren’t shared around this globe equally.
And then there’s that wonderful moment in history when such DNA science arrived in our own country. It was new. At that point, genetic sequencing was super expensive, time-consuming and didn’t always yield the same results twice. It was unreliable. We liked what it promised to do but couldn’t trust it. A hair follicle, saliva, or semen, wasn’t enough to convict in court. This meant some criminals got away with murder. They live free today because of this.
I wrote a novel where one criminal committed a heinous crime just before the process of DNA matching became a perfected science. They lived well after it’d been accepted into Criminal Law. Someone else finds some good, historical DNA evidence on an old love letter and then makes a threat to reveal a long-hidden truth. It’s a new angle on the DNA component of crime narratives. (My story is not exclusively about DNA. The cover of the book confirms this.)
It makes me wonder how many real-life criminals are out there just waiting for a knock to come on their door for something they did pre-DNA science.
SEETHINGS might be seen as a true murder story. If that’s the case, then we’ve something to genuinely fear. That ordinary person in it could be your neighbour or the person sitting opposite you in a coffee shop. They look and act normal. You can’t tell if they’re a psychopath unless you took a sample of their genetic fingerprint and ran it through a crime database. Did they commit an evil act or not?
Here’s a twist of an idea: Take a sample of your own DNA to the lab. Wouldn’t it be funny if the results showed your DNA profile matched another one that appeared in an unsolved crime? That’d shock you, right? You’d deny doing the crime, of course. You didn’t do it. After all, you’re a decent, kind person. And you’d remember committing a crime like that, wouldn’t you?
What if you’d forgotten about doing it? Now you’d have to find a way to believe the reasons why your memory was blocked to understand why you did what you did.
That’s also SEETHINGS.
Originally published at https://michaelformanwriting.com on December 18, 2021.