Am I Exaggerating the Importance of the DNA Results?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006
It’s finally official:

“Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty, both (Duke University) 20-year-old sophomores, have been charged with first-degree rape, first-degree forcible rape and kidnapping, the officials said. “

This is what bothers me:

“Court documents filed in the case have said a medical examination of the accuser showed signs consistent with sexual assault. DNA samples from the players failed to match material collected by investigators, defense attorneys hired by some of the players said last week.”

I do even for a moment pretend to be an expert on DNA testing. Still, I fail to comprehend how am assailant’s DNA might be absent after a brutal rape. Is this even remotely possible? Wouldn’t the rapist have to be wearing some sort of space suit? One would think that the attacker would minimally have to force the victim to thoroughly bathe every square inch of her body, inside and out. Am I missing something?

8 comments:

Seriouslyunserious said...

Yes you are missing something, its that an appointed DA likes his high paying job and wants to be elected and serve a long career there. So he is doing exactly as instructed by the mob that he spoke to at the Central gathering and is arresting white boys. How he got a grand jury to go along I am not sure but perhaps the make up of the grand jury would explain that quite well. Ham sandwich analogy usually appear about here.

brylun said...

I am curious to see how the prosecutor will prove beyond a reasonable doubt that rape and kidnapping have been committed by these individuals.

The medical evidence apparently supports the victim's claim of sexual assault.

But I am not aware of any eyewitnesses or other evidence pointing to these defendants. There is no DNA evidence and the other exotic dancer says she did not see any crime being committed.

Any rape or kidnapping charge should be taken very seriously, but there is a presumption of innocence in our judicial system.

I am not aware that prosecutor Mike Nifong, although up for election on May 2nd, has a track record of baseless indictments like Ronnie Earle in Austin, Texas.

So I need to hear the facts and evidence before I can make up my mind.

brylun said...

Possible exculpatory evidence: Defense attorneys have said time-stamped photos taken the night of the party show that the alleged victim was injured and impaired before she arrived.

Morgan said...

David:

"It doesn't mean nothing happened. It just means nothing was left behind," he [Nifong] said, noting that is common in sexual assault cases.

There are reasons that identifiable DNA might not be present. It degrades over time, especially if it is exposed (e.g. on the skin), there needs to be enough of it in a sample to "swamp" the accuser's DNA - a stray skin cell or two will probably not do it - a chunk of skin under a fingernail probably would. I believe that even DNA swabs taken from inside the mouth (for paternity tests and genetic genealogy purposes) require that the person providing the sample uses a mouth rinse first to remove "foreign" DNA.

If an attacker doesn't leave semen behind, and the victim doesn't scratch the attacker, or get the attacker's blood on her clothes, or pull out the attacker's hair complete with roots, there might not be identifiable DNA.

Still, I second brylun's question. What evidence is there, other than the accuser's word? Presumably the second stripper corroborates the story. Might one or more of the players have done so? There is word that more DNA tests are being conducted, as well.

I don't think there is enough public information to make strong judgments about the strength of the case. If someone says they're 60/40 one way or the other, I think that's reasonable. If they're 90/10, I'm pretty sure they've gone beyond the evidence.

Knucklehead said...

I don't think our legal system has yet sorted out how much value we will place upon DNA evidence or, perhaps more difficult yet, the absence of DNA evidence.

The presence of DNA evidence may be enough to convict (or acquit if the DNA evidence points to someone else), but is the absence of DNA evidence enough to acquit?

Morgan said...

knucklehead:

Treat them like fingerprints. The presence of either locates a person at the crime scene, and requires explanation.

The value of thier absence depends on the likelihood of the crime being committed without leaving them behind, and varies with the specifics of the alleged crime.

brylun said...

La Shawn Barber's Corner is live-blogging here.

terrye said...

I still fail to understand why we are talking about this. This whole thing makes me feel kind of sick.

Is the asumption that without DNA the females must be lying? What about all the years when there was no DNA testing, should we have assumed that without witnesses the women were just screaming rape?

Everyday in this country women are raped. It happens. They are not all liars and whores.

I think that we need to leave this alone and let the high priced lawyers the families of these poor abused little boys will hire to make a case for their clients.

Nobody is getting strung up here.

Maybe no one even really knows what happened. It could be they were all too messed up to tell the authorities just what took place.