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DNA testing: although constantly evolving, accuracy concerns linger

Like other forms of technology, DNA testing has gone through a long and predictable odyssey of fine tuning and adjustment steered by researchers' tireless efforts to make it precisely accurate and unerring.

In other words, persons who use DNA in virtually every field -- from medical research and archaeology to cloning and police work -- want to see the science emerge as infallible and beyond reproach in any particular.

According to a recent New York Times article on DNA and its testing implications in the criminal law sphere, that lofty goal might just turn out to be ever elusive, as steady development in forensic-related technologies is proceeding in tandem with growing controversy regarding increased possibilities for error.

Years ago, the paper notes, DNA research was in an infancy stage during which chemical processes employed in testing "destroyed much of the source material."

Given that, research obviously turned to efforts that would enable accurate results with less source material involved.

In a nutshell (and simply put), researchers over the years have developed technology and techniques to increasingly reduce the amount of DNA needed for testing, which has made it easier for personnel in myriad fields -- including law enforcement -- to pronounce findings and results based on progressively smaller sample sizes of genetic material.

Is that a good thing?

The verdict seems mixed, with commentators both lauding the increased research opportunities afforded by smaller samples and the potential for error caused by contamination and flawed conclusions.

The repercussion inherent in that latter possibility can be clearly outsized -- even dramatically life changing -- for criminal suspects who are on the receiving end of faulty judgments pronounced by forensic researchers.

Technology is constantly evolving. It is also enduringly questionable, which any proven criminal defense attorney knows when it prominently features in any criminal charge brought against a client.

And it can be eminently controversial. The above-cited article notes a recent lawsuit filed by a prominent DNA researcher who was allegedly forced to retire after she called into question the accuracy of genetic testing conducted at a lab.

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