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DNA Sampling - Case Study Example

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British backpacker Joanne Lees' and her boyfriend, Peter Falconio, had a struggle with a stranger at night on a lonely remote highway. It resulted in death of Falconio and Bradley John Murdoch was declared guilty of the murder. This article outlines the legal tools utilized during the three-month search for Murdoch and a two-month court battle over his DNA sample…
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Download file to see previous pages The police, because of legal concerns, refuse to pursue this lead by acquiring samples from each of the thousands of persons of interest to it. The investigators' second-best lead was the footage shot at a truck stop on the night Falconio vanished. Bradley Murdoch was interviewed because his appearance and match with truck video, and passed over for DNA sampling. But Murdoch provided an apparent excuse to the police and he was declared innocent.
After six months, the Broome police pulled over Murdoch's former flat mate and business partner, James Hepi. This was Taskforce Regulus' third big break, after the t-shirt DNA and the truck stop video. As a consequence of Hepi's arrest, the police was offered the identity of the suspected killer of Falconio.
In Australia, arrest and DNA sampling powers are typically restricted by a requirement that the police have objective investigation specific justification for using force. Murdoch was deliberately avoiding the Falconio investigators, so it was doubtful that, even if they found him, they can not touch him without his consent. At the same time Hepi was a first-time informant and, moreover, had much to gain (and nothing to lose) from pointing Murdoch. Without any grounds to trust Hepi himself, Taskforce Regulus took considerable efforts to verify claims made by Hepi. But every claim proved to be off-key.

According to Senior Sergeant Megan Rowe, the head of Taskforce Regulus' intelligence cell, Murdoch was the only man not 'eliminated' out of the nominated by the public as men in the truck stop video, hot prospects identified by Rowe, and persons 'of interest' to the investigation. Hepi's tips were of some hope, but Taskforce Regulus' ability to lawfully take Murdoch's DNA sample, once he was found, was in doubt. So Taskforce Regulus opted for a different way of testing Murdoch's link to the t-shirt smudge. They approached Murdoch's older brother, Gary, for his DNA sample. Gary's consent for sampling yielded a partial DNA match. The partial match - to be expected if a blood relative of Gary's was the source of the smudge - was certainly enough, in combination with the other information gathered by Taskforce Regulus, to objectively narrow the investigators' suspicions to Murdoch himself. But, when Murdoch was located, two weeks later, none of the information gathered by the investigators was used, because of some legal concern, to justify either his arrest or the taking of his DNA sample.

A phone call on 28 August 2002 was the final major break in the Falconio case. A mother and her daughter had been raped and kidnapped by Murdoch a week earlier. After this call Murdoch was arrested, and thus provided a new way for lawfully acquiring his DNA sample. However, the Australian jurisdictions require that the objective justification for a proposed DNA sampling should cover, not only who is sampled but also the investigative utility of sampling. So, to force Murdoch to provide a DNA sample to investigate the allegations by the mother and daughter, the police needed reasonable grounds to expect that obtaining Murdoch's DNA sample would make a difference to that investigation. DNA sample of a suspect rapist ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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