Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Malaysian parliament has been trying so hard to get the DNA Bill passed in conjunction with the Sodomy II trial. However, scientists in Israel demonstrated that the DNA can be fabricated. Therefore, will DNA be used as the ultimate evidence in Malaysian court trial now?

DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated, Scientists Show

Published: August 17, 2009

Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

Dr. Frumkin is a founder of Nucleix, a company based in Tel Aviv that has developed a test to distinguish real DNA samples from fake ones that it hopes to sell to forensics laboratories.

The planting of fabricated DNA evidence at a crime scene is only one implication of the findings. A potential invasion of personal privacy is another.

Using some of the same techniques, it may be possible to scavenge anyone’s DNA from a discarded drinking cup or cigarette butt and turn it into a saliva sample that could be submitted to a genetic testing company that measures ancestry or the risk of getting various diseases. Celebrities might have to fear “genetic paparazzi,” said Gail H. Javitt of the Genetics and Public Policy Center at Johns Hopkins University.

Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union, said the findings were worrisome.

“DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints,” she said. “We’re creating a criminal justice system that is increasingly relying on this technology.”

John M. Butler, leader of the human identity testing project at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said he was “impressed at how well they were able to fabricate the fake DNA profiles.” However, he added, “I think your average criminal wouldn’t be able to do something like that.”

The scientists fabricated DNA samples two ways. One required a real, if tiny, DNA sample, perhaps from a strand of hair or drinking cup. They amplified the tiny sample into a large quantity of DNA using a standard technique called whole genome amplification.

Of course, a drinking cup or piece of hair might itself be left at a crime scene to frame someone, but blood or saliva may be more believable.

The authors of the paper took blood from a woman and centrifuged it to remove the white cells, which contain DNA. To the remaining red cells they added DNA that had been amplified from a man’s hair.

Since red cells do not contain DNA, all of the genetic material in the blood sample was from the man. The authors sent it to a leading American forensics laboratory, which analyzed it as if it were a normal sample of a man’s blood.

The other technique relied on DNA profiles, stored in law enforcement databases as a series of numbers and letters corresponding to variations at 13 spots in a person’s genome.

From a pooled sample of many people’s DNA, the scientists cloned tiny DNA snippets representing the common variants at each spot, creating a library of such snippets. To prepare a DNA sample matching any profile, they just mixed the proper snippets together. They said that a library of 425 different DNA snippets would be enough to cover every conceivable profile.

Nucleix’s test to tell if a sample has been fabricated relies on the fact that amplified DNA — which would be used in either deception — is not methylated, meaning it lacks certain molecules that are attached to the DNA at specific points, usually to inactivate genes.

Sunday June 28, 2009
DNA Bill scrapes through

THE controversial Deoxyribo-nucleic Acid (DNA) Identifica-tion Bill was nearly thrown out at the committee stage in the Dewan Rakyat on Mon-day. It only managed to scrape through with one majority, the smallest margin recorded in history.

The verdict was decided through the bloc division voting, with 48 votes from the Barisan Nasional MPs vs 47 from Opposition MPs.

So far, the Opposition has yet to succeed in embarrassing the Government despite requests for bloc division made previously.

Those present in the Dewan during the voting process include most of the Oppo-sition’s heavyweights like Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng (DAP - Bagan), Selangor Mentri Besar Tan Sri Khalid Ibrahim (PKR - Bandar Tun Razak), Mohamed Azmin Ali (PKR - Gombak) and Datuk Kamaruddin Jaffar (PAS - Tumput).

A bloc division was called for after the sound of tidak setuju was louder than setuju.

As the bell rang for two minutes to alert MPs to enter the chamber, it was obvious that there were many empty chairs on Barisan’s side, which include three senators – Minister in the Prime Minis-ter’s Department Tan Sri Dr Koh Tsu Koon, deputy ministers Heng Seai Kie and Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussain.

Being senators, they cannot vote as they are not elected representatives.

There was only a handful of ministers and deputy ministers in the Dewan then. Minister in the Prime Minis-ter’s Department Datuk Seri Nazri Abd Aziz was the 48th Barisan representative to enter the house, giving the one-vote majority before counting closed.

He was furious when the result was announced, and his feelings clearly showed on his face. So angry was he that nobody dared go near the usually jovial minister.

It would have been a terrible slap on the face for Barisan if the Bill had been thrown out due to the shortage of MPs in the house.

The next day, another first was recorded in the House when the Barisan side had to request for a bloc division.

This happened when oblivious Barisan MPs, who were so used to shouting setuju in the House, had given their loud aye to a motion to amend the DNA Bill. Problem was, the motion was tabled by Lim Lip Eng (DAP - Segambut).

Deputy Speaker Datuk Ronald Kiandee had to give several broad hints before the MPs realised their boo-boo. Khairy Jamaluddin (BN - Rembau) was the first to respond by standing up to request for a bloc division to clear the confusion.

This is the first ever bloc division request made by the Barisan side.

This time, the BN representatives came in full force, entering the chamber from all doors.

A beaming Nazri then raised both hands as a sign of victory to Lim Kit Siang (DAP - Ipoh Timor) and Datuk Mahfuz Omar ( PAS - Pokok Sena) even before the result was announced. The motion was dismissed by 99 vs 57 votes.

Debates on the Bill then continued with the Opposition MPs going all out to have several clauses amended, but to no avail except for one. Only the proposal forwarded by Teo Nie Ching (DAP - Serdang) was accepted.

The end result was a clause stating that DNA evidence introduced in court is conclusive was dropped from the final version. This means a judge can now use his discretion over the matter.

On Thursday, a war of words broke out between Kit Siang and Deputy Finance Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussain during the debate on the Finance Bill when the Ipoh Timor MP kept throwing questions about the Port Klang Free Zone project, prompting Speaker Tan Sri Pandikar Amin Mulia to tick him off for raising old issues.

War of words aside, both Barisan and Opposition MPs, however, held a truce when they sat together to enjoy a durian feast hosted by the Agriculture and Agro-based Industries Ministry at the Parliament building during lunch break on Thursday.

A deputy minister was heard remarking that it was a “unity government”, a topic which was hot last week, but which has since taken a back seat.

Missing in action was Nasharudin Mat Isa (PAS - Bachok), who did not turn up for the entire week, prompting Deputy Education Minister Dr Puad Zarkashi to ask whether a missing person report should be lodged.

After questioning the Tourism Ministry on the money allocated to newly appointed Malaysian tourism ambassador Datuk Seri Jean Todt and his fiancee Datuk Michelle Yeoh to promote Malaysia, Azmin Ali (PKR - Gombak) had promised to divulge details about a piece of land in Terengganu supposedly given to the couple later.

The Dewan Rakyat sits again tomorrow.

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