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Forensic Test Predicts Eye and Hair Color From DNA

Soulskill posted about a year and a half ago | from the accurate-to-some-amount-of-decimal-places dept.

Biotech 73

An anonymous reader writes "A forensic test that has been developed to help police nab perpetrators of crimes can predict a suspect's eye color, hair color, and ethnic origin. The test's ability and the science behind it has been outlined in Forensic Science International: Genetics (abstract). Developed by Susan Walsh and other researchers from the Netherlands, Greece, and Poland, the test uses phenotypes from DNA to ... predict a suspect's appearance using 'low amounts of template DNA, as well as degraded DNA,' which means that the DNA does not need to be perfect in order for the system to read it."

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73 comments

Abortions ahoy! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41155885)

What about the one for being a freetard so we can make sure to abort them?

Re:Abortions ahoy! (3, Interesting)

iONiUM (530420) | about a year and a half ago | (#41155943)

Well, actually people may misuse this in a different way. Cosmetic abortions: aborting because the DNA in your baby seems to indicate it will grow up to be an ugly person.

Re:Abortions ahoy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156087)

Or worse: a ginger.

Re:Abortions ahoy! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41163819)

s/gin/nig/

well, it IS a severe disability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41160685)

Everything about your life is affected by your looks, often in subtle denyable ways.

It affects your employment, even when everybody involved is same-gender hetero. It affects a cop's decision to give you a warning or a ticket. It affects your ability to sell fundraising junk as a kid. It changes how much your grandma gives you for Christmas. It can determine if you get beat up on the playground. Most obviously it affects your mate, which is a core aspect of one's life.

Over the long term, this affects mental state. It may mean suicide or murder.

Re:well, it IS a severe disability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41163835)

Are you serious? So, you're trying to tell me that it's better to kill someone with brown eyes just because their parents think that they will be ugly and that they will end up killing themselves anyways? In addition, what happens when the test is wrong or messed up?

Example: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d9/Bill_gates_portrait.jpg?uselang=es - Bill over there doesn't look too hot and he's still alive

We swear your honor... (4, Funny)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year and a half ago | (#41155919)

The DNA doesn't lie! Sure it was degraded and we had to amplify and replicate degraded copies.. but it said the rapist would have brown hair and blue eyes.. and look.. does the suspect not have brown hair and blue eyes?
Later, in the jury room... DNA is always right.. GUILTY!!!

Re:We swear your honor... (4, Interesting)

willie3204 (444890) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156049)

The OJ verdict disagrees with that line of thought

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

Desler (1608317) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156167)

If the glove doesn't fit you must acquit!

Re:We swear your honor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156437)

If the glove doesn't fit you must acquit!

If you believe that, I have this nice bridge between Brooklyn and Manhattan that I can sell you.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156511)

OJ will get zero
'Cause he was a hero
Who carried a ball
In September through fall
Entertaining the twit
Who will vote to acquit!
    - The Capitol Steps

Re:We swear your honor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156971)

If the shoe fit you must marry cinderella, so what's your point?

Re:We swear your honor... (2)

mr100percent (57156) | about a year and a half ago | (#41160277)

Interestingly enough, at the time his defense lawyers actually tried to make the claim that perhaps some of OJ's DNA could have wafted from the test tube with his blood into the other tube containing the crime evidence. I guess the public was so new to the idea of DNA that some thought it possible.

Re:We swear your honor... (2, Interesting)

Kenja (541830) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156127)

So the question is, if the tests say he has blue eyes, but he actually has brown, can that be used as evidence in his defense? If not, then why would it be usable by the prosecution if he has blue?

There's not much "science" in forensic science. You'll be hard pressed to find a single peer reviewed study that shows finger prints to be a valid means of identification (at least of the sort used in forensics where only a few points need to line up).

Re:We swear your honor... (3, Insightful)

Dr. Tom (23206) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156245)

You'll be hard pressed to find a single peer reviewed study that shows finger prints to be a valid means of identification

challenge accepted

http://lpr.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/2/87.short [oxfordjournals.org]

Re:We swear your honor... (2)

Kenja (541830) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156335)

Close, but that only shows that the validation method holds up legally. It does not show that no two people in the world have the same fingerprints much less the same 2-5 whirl markers used for comparison by law enforcement.

Re:We swear your honor... (2)

Dr. Tom (23206) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156403)

You're right.

Not to mention that it is possible to wear fake fingertips that give you somebody else's fingerprints ...

Also a problem with degraded DNA: if you find some DNA at the crime scene that codes for a person with blue eyes, that doesn't mean the blue-eyed DNA is related to the suspect, just that somebody with blue eyes had been there some time in the past ...

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156987)

Not even that. I can collect someones hair clippings or dandruff in a salon and leave them somewhere.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157275)

To be fair, hair clippings wouldn't provide DNA and it would become quite obvious that they were planted when every hair found at the crime scene was found to be snipped rather than pulled/fallen out.

Re:We swear your honor... (2)

Sooner Boomer (96864) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157723)

To be fair, hair clippings wouldn't provide DNA and it would become quite obvious that they were planted when every hair found at the crime scene was found to be snipped rather than pulled/fallen out.

You obviously haven't been to my hair salon!

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

swell (195815) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157525)

"Not to mention that it is possible to wear fake fingertips that give you somebody else's fingerprints ..."

This is why I also carry a vial of my ex's DNA when I'm doing crimes.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

davester666 (731373) | about a year and a half ago | (#41161489)

So you walk around with a turkey baster filled with his semen, just waiting for the opportunity to use it?

Re:We swear your honor... (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157787)

On the other hand, if said DNA comes from fresh blood at the crime scene, or semen, or skin flakes under the victim's nails, or [etc, etc, etc]. There are plenty of times when you can say, if not for certainty, then at least beyond a reasonable doubt, that the DNA came from the perpetrator (or at the very, very least, a witness).

Re:We swear your honor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156821)

Close, but that only shows that the validation method holds up legally. It does not show that no two people in the world have the same fingerprints much less the same 2-5 whirl markers used for comparison by law enforcement.

It doesn't have to eliminate every other person in the world. It only has to include/exclude likely suspects.

Re:We swear your honor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41157375)

Except now they can use a fingerprint database search to build their list of likely suspects.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157503)

Except now they can use a fingerprint database search to build their list of likely suspects.

So what?

Prints found on the murder weapon point to the most likely suspects.
Why would you have them look elsewhere than at the most likely suspects?

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157743)

It does not show that no two people in the world have the same fingerprints

Would you require proof that there's no teapot orbiting the Earth before you'll accept that it's probably not there?

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about a year and a half ago | (#41158793)

Would you require proof that there's no teapot orbiting the Earth before you'll accept that it's probably not there?

If the Chinese have a manned space program, you can be sure there's a teapot orbiting the Earth.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#41163297)

Racial stereotype FTW. And of course all the American astronauts wear stetsons and cowboy boots.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

turkeyfeathers (843622) | about a year and a half ago | (#41164187)

No, all Americans are too fat to fit into their cowboy boots anymore ;=)

Re:We swear your honor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41164755)

No, all Americans are too fat to fit into their cowboy boots anymore ;=)

Fail [news.com.au].

One could write an entire article [adelaidenow.com.au] about what you don't know about US fashion.

I kid, of course.

Re:We swear your honor... (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157649)

You'll be hard pressed to find a single peer reviewed study that shows finger prints to be a valid means of identification

challenge accepted

http://lpr.oxfordjournals.org/content/7/2/87.short [oxfordjournals.org]

Counter example: [pbs.org]

In 2004, cognitive neoroscientist Itiel Dror set out to examine whether the process of fingerprint analysis, long considered one of the most reliable forms of forensic science, can be biased by the knowledge examiners have when they attempt to find a match for prints from a crime scene... Dror constructed an experiment using the case of Brandon Mayfield. Mayfield, an Oregon lawyer, was at the center of international controversy in 2004 after the FBI and an independent analyst incorrectly matched his prints to a partial print found on a bag of detonators from the Madrid terrorist bombings.

Dror asked five fingerprint experts to examine what they were told were the erroneously matched prints of Mayfield. In fact, they were re-examining prints from their own past cases. Only one of the experts stuck by their previous judgments. Three reversed their previous decisions and one deemed them “inconclusive.”

Re:We swear your honor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41162651)

let's put it this way. It is a wonderful technique and it has many uses. But in the end, like DNA testing, the results are interpreted by humans.

There is the famous case of Shirley McKie http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_McKie

It resulted in a public inquiry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fingerprint_Inquiry

The interesting conclusions of this inquiry:

9. Fingerprint examiners are presently ill-equipped to reason their conclusions as they are accustomed to regarding their conclusions as a matter of certainty and seldom challenged.
10. There is no reason to suggest that fingerprint comparison in general is an inherently unreliable form of evidence but practitioners and fact-finders alike require to give due consideration to the limits of the discipline.

Re:We swear your honor... (2)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156845)

So the question is, if the tests say he has blue eyes, but he actually has brown, can that be used as evidence in his defense?

Once you catch the suspect, you can run a full DNA match. This test will only tell you how does the suspect *probably* look like. It can probably miss those features that depend on multiple genes or perhaps are influenced by some other factors or conditions, but this is for manhunts, not for the court room.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157237)

So the question is, if the tests say he has blue eyes, but he actually has brown, can that be used as evidence in his defense?

Once you catch the suspect, you can run a full DNA match. This test will only tell you how does the suspect *probably* look like. It can probably miss those features that depend on multiple genes or perhaps are influenced by some other factors or conditions, but this is for manhunts, not for the court room.

If you think it won't be used in the courtroom by overzealous prosecutors and police, with paid forensic 'scientists' to spout out 'scientific' reasons the results are right to confuse the jury, I have some prime tropical real estate for sail in Nova Scotia.

Re:We swear your honor... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41160087)

The problem is that DNA in forensics is so interpretive that I would dismiss DNA evidence, if I was on a jury. DNA mismatch can show innocence, but it does not prove guilt.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

Baloroth (2370816) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157063)

Ahem: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/04/18/1018707108 [pnas.org]. First result on Google. Short version: false positives at a .1% rate, false negatives at 7.5%, independent review caught every single one. I'd say that is reasonably accurate.

There is a ton of science in forensic science. Obviously, it is not 100% nor is it "hard" science where you can get 99.9995% confidence using a thousand or more trials for each match like you can in, say, physics. That is why you have a trial, and "beyond reasonable doubt", not beyond all doubt.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

tnk1 (899206) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157185)

Yes, I think this would probably be impeachable in a trial if used as actual evidence. A prosecutor may well try to get it in, if they wanted to try and play to the CSI Effect, but I don't think it would stick.

However, if it is only used to locate a subject who can then be more completely tested and investigated, there is no need for this process to appear in trial.

Of course, it might enter the legal system if it is used as probable cause to get a warrant for a search or some other investigative purpose. For those purposes, I think you still would need to give something more than hair color or ethnic makeup, unless the field has already been narrowed down in some other way as well. In that case, the investigative burden is much less because no one is being arrested or charged, but you still need enough evidence to narrow it down sufficiently so it isn't a blank check to search any blonde, blue eyed female Caucasian in a 5 block radius.

Re:We swear your honor... (1)

Sulphur (1548251) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157495)

The DNA doesn't lie! Sure it was degraded and we had to amplify and replicate degraded copies.. but it said the rapist would have brown hair and blue eyes.. and look.. does the suspect not have brown hair and blue eyes?

Later, in the jury room... DNA is always right.. GUILTY!!!

Worse, he resembles the CGI rendering. A lot of talented forensic artists will be seeking employment elsewhere in a few years.

--

Or was it brown eyes and blue/orange hair?

Re:We swear your honor... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41162941)

To the contrary! In 2002-2003 the negro serial rapist-killer Derrick Todd Lee was incorrectly wanted as a white for several months, based on failed profiling and confused eye-witness testimony. While a white man was sought in vain by all police, the negro monster raped and killed two more white ladies. Then came Dr. Tony Frudakis, who checked the sperm DNA sample with his own unique apparatus and determined the perpetrator to be of afro-caribbean stock. Then the truth has suddenly dawned on the cops: they have known such an exact black junk for years, he had a history of armed robbery and indecency. He was arrested, his garden dug up and seven female bodies came to light.

Said negro is now sitting on the death row, but political pressure from liberal pro-coloured, pro-criminal groups has since forced Fudakis' lab out of operation, because they can't accept that dark-colured races, like the negro, gipsy, aussie abo are more problemful than the industrious and civilized whites, jews, koreans. Look at what happened to Sud-Africa since 1994 and you will see that whites build, while the negro demolish all life and civlization, including their own. They are a failed race and some of the more enlightened among them are now asking european colonialists to return and take control back, so blacks can live without hunger and civil war, even if that means becoming slaves again.

Ethnic origins (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41155973)

only white people have a variety of possible eye colors and hair colors anyway.

Re:Ethnic origins (2)

kneeslasher (878676) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156137)

Is this a joke? Have you never seen the red/blonde haired blue/green/grey eyed people in northern South Asia? Or the blonde Aborigines? Or black people with blue eyes? The iconic ancient painting of (maybe) Tocharians with red hair and blue eyes? Sure, the diversity increases in (northern) Europe, but it assuredly exists elsewhere (the Nazis had problems explaining it).

Re:Ethnic origins (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157835)

Is this a joke? Have you never seen the red/blonde haired blue/green/grey eyed people in northern South Asia? Or the blonde Aborigines? Or black people with blue eyes? The iconic ancient painting of (maybe) Tocharians with red hair and blue eyes? Sure, the diversity increases in (northern) Europe, but it assuredly exists elsewhere (the Nazis had problems explaining it).

Surely you have heard of recessive genes, and the decreasing chance of being Black or Asian and having blue eyes.
Without a blue eyed person in the family tree of BOTH parents your chance of having blue eyes is slim to none.

Try here for a simplistic (but still pretty good) explanation [thetech.org].

It turns out its not quite as simple as that because eye color is not controlled strictly by one gene, and there are more than one path to blue eyes [cosmosmagazine.com] (and all of them are recessive genes).

There are rare mutations that can spontaneously cause blue eyes as well. These are even rarer.

That you can point to a few individuals that have unexpected eye and hair color means nothing.

Re:Ethnic origins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156719)

But we're all just the same! Equal! EEEEEEQUALLLL!!

Re:Ethnic origins (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156739)

As you're indicating, they don't actually mean "ethnic origins".
Ethnicity means culture; it's non-biological and totally orthogonal to what they're talking about, but they don't want to use the discredited word "race".

Some Background (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156647)

Reading through higher noise means higher background ...

A good excuse for police ethnic profiling (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156761)

Police Commissioner: "Our officers are NOT stopping and checking people because of their ethnic background. Our officers stop and check based on the DNA of the people. It's all scientificously based."

Re:A good excuse for police ethnic profiling (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156869)

In other words, they now have another good reason to do something that they already had a good reason to do in the first place.

Hair coloring (2)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#41156833)

I guess hair colouring and coloured contact lenses will be getting more popular for criminals ...

Re:Hair coloring (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41156907)

That'll make it much more easy to detect aspiring criminals ...

Re:Hair coloring (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | about a year and a half ago | (#41170443)

That'll make it much more easy to detect aspiring criminals ...

Sure, because no non-criminal colours his hair ...

eye color (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41157175)

95% of the world's population has brown eyes, and 98% have "near brown" eyes.

Only about 1% have blue or green eyes.

Re:eye color (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41157223)

So in many countries the "eye color" part is less useful.
But in the countries where these tests are being developed...

Re:eye color (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41159269)

The hair color part isn't useful in about as much of the world. Huge groups have black, and most have some shade of brown. This is only really useful when you're seeking a blonde or red haired person with light colored eyes, which is highly unlikely and growing even less likely. With skin tone you still only have maybe 100-200 years before it'll be completely useless as humans homogenize more and more. "This just in: Police are looking for a suspect with brown eyes, brown hair, and medium-brown skin. If you've seen this person, please call 911 immediately."

Re:eye color (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157341)

If this is true, the people I know must make up one heck of a screwed up sample because it is not what I see when I look around those I interact with on a regular basis.

Re:eye color (1)

wonkey_monkey (2592601) | about a year and a half ago | (#41157881)

the people I know must make up one heck of a screwed up sample

That by itself is probably true for 99% of people in the world. I don't currently know anyone who isn't caucasian.

But - there's "no such thing as race"... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41157435)

... right?
Oh, the humanity! You mean that RACE exists, and is clearly shown in our DNA? But the T.V. said 'There's only one race - the Human Race'... LOL.

Yes, only 1% of the world's population have blue eyes, and the other 99% are trying to GENOCIDE us out of existence, due to hatred and jealousy.

Re:But - there's "no such thing as race"... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41158205)

"Antiracist" is a code word meaning "antiwhite".

Re:But - there's "no such thing as race"... (1)

Tuidjy (321055) | about a year and a half ago | (#41158561)

Yes, you caught us. I'm doing my part in trying to 'genocide' you. Due to hatred and jealousy, I married a blue eyed woman, and am thus doing my part in insuring that there are fewer blue eyed people in the next generation.

It runs in the family - my father was also led by hatred and jealousy to marry my green eyed mother. I wonder whether this means that I carry the hated genes myself... I better go and drown myself... in beer.

Ethnic Origin? (1)

ve3oat (884827) | about a year and a half ago | (#41159795)

Let's see, is that the ethnic origin of my father' father, or of my father's mother, or of my mother's father, or of my mother's mother? Or of all four of them? Or of all eight of their parents? Or maybe it just tells the police what color my skin is?

Predict? (1)

Shavano (2541114) | about a year and a half ago | (#41159801)

This is misuse of the word. A right word is "discover." But hair color is often not the same as the genes might suggest.

Re:Predict? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41161099)

It can predict the eye and hair colors of an unborn child and allow the mother to abort any who she finds unsatisfactory.

Crown Fried Chciken (1)

Mana Mana (16072) | about a year and a half ago | (#41162573)

I doubt it! NPR's Radio Lab had spoke on this recently. The best science can do is predict probability. Likelihood your nose, iris, cheekbones will look like X rather than Y.

Actually not very helpful... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41165223)

Turns out the perp has Black hair, brown eyes, and is of African-american origin... but you knew that already

Hard On Crime (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#41167495)

Crime employs and also causes massive employment. With it becoming ever more difficult to be a career criminal we are shutting off a lifetime of employment and fun for many of our socially deprived and psychopathic citizens. You just can't get away with it any more. It doesn't matter a bit if you are a mother stabber, a baby raper, or a safe cracker. You just are going to get caught these days.
                    There may be a reversal in this trend when computers get to the point that they can investigate quietly the books and paper work of the white collar people as they usually have enough power to make good law enforcement tools illegal. Besides, if we arrest all the white collar criminals there won't be any left to run the nation.

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