Using Genealogy and DNA to Catch Golden State Killer

James Joseph DeAngelo, the so-called “Golden State Killer”, has been caught using a very controversial method: genealogical DNA testing. See here, and here. DeAngelo is accused of committing rapes and murders over many years.

The short explanation of the method is this: When a person submits a DNA sample to a genealogical organization (and pays the fee), it is done with the intention of learning more about their biological relatives. Even previously known and distant relatives can be found. 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th cousins can now be identified using this technique.

Quite understandably, people submitting DNA to ancestory organizations do so in order to see who they might be related to. Certainly, no one does so with the intention of providing evidence or at least a lead against other distant relatives. This was never meant to be a police tool.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

But here, it gets a bit more complicated. Even if one argues that using DNA set aside for genealogical testing violates that person’s 4th Amendment rights, it is that person’s rights being violated, not the actual target’s rights.

Understandably, many are upset over a clear breach of their agreement.

While DeAngelo certainly deserves to be caught and tried, the method of DNA identification sends chills to many. It will be interesting to see what, if any policies and laws come as a result of this. There will likely be a followup article

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