Article Title

A Tale of Two Sciences


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . .. . So might one describe the contrasting portraits of DNA's ascension in the criminal justice system that are drawn in David Kaye's The Double Helix and the Law of Evidence and Sheldon Krimsky and Tania Simoncelli's Genetic Justice: DNA Data Banks, Criminal Investigations, and Civil Liberties. For Kaye, the double helix stands as the icon of twenty-first-century achievement, a science menaced primarily by the dolts (lawyers, judges, and the occasional analyst) who misuse it. For Krimsky and Simoncelli, DNA is a seductive forensic tool that is prone to overuse and best distrusted, as evidenced by swollen national data banks, shady police and laboratory practices, and unverified claims that the science has aided hundreds of thousands of investigations. Both books were written by experienced DNA insiders. Krimsky, a Tufts University professor and bioethics expert, and Simoncelli, formerly the Science Advisor at the American Civil Liberties Union, were both active participants in early academic and policy debates around DNA databasing. So too was Kaye, a professor at Penn State University, who has served on a number of government committees devoted to DNA methods and who has also aided defense lawyers in an assortment of cases. So whose picture is right?