Mon. Apr 22nd, 2019

The man who was acquitted of the rape of his daughter and other false genetic clues | Science

The man who was acquitted of the rape of his daughter and other false genetic clues | Science


On November 22, 2016, a man with Spanish nationality sat on the bench of a court in Madrid, accused of a crime of abuse and sexual assault against his own daughter, aged 7. His ex-partner and mother of the girl had denounced him and presented photos of the red-washed children's genitals and a letter in which the little girl wrote: "Daddy played me the chochete".

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The trial painted very badly for Raimundo (fictitious name). A report from the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences had detected "a scarce amount of semen with sperm fraction coincident with the DNA profile of the accused" in the crotch and the back of the girl's panties. The mother's lawyers asked for 10 years in prison and a compensation of 60,000 euros. However, one day after the oral hearing, the Provincial Court of Madrid ordered the acquittal of the suspect.

The case of Raymond is one of the examples of the guide Interpreting forensic genetics, developed by European specialists to raise awareness among judges and lawyers of the limitations of DNA analysis. In the acquittal sentence, the court stressed that the medical reports pointed to "insufficient hygienic habits" as the cause of a vulvovaginitis that caused the observed redness. The girl did not make any comment compatible with sexual abuse, however, the mother constantly photographed the child's genitals before and after visits to her father and often went with her to a pediatrician, who never detected anything abnormal. For the judges, this "allows them to meditate on whether they were obsessed with the subject and therefore doubt the reliability of their testimony." An expert witness testified that the mother was asking "tricky and polluting" questions to the girl.

The DNA of the semen and of the vaginal secretions is transferred between the different pieces of clothing inside the washing machine

Regarding the presence of tiny remnants of semen from the father in the girl's panties, the sentence said that "these results, while being significant, are compatible not only with sexual abuse, but also with many other assumptions, such as the contamination of garments when placed in a basket of the family's common laundry or with the girl occasionally using the same bed as her father. " Neither traces of semen were detected in the little girl's pubis. And the Supreme Court confirmed the acquittal, according to lawyer Luis Cruz Valdajos, who defended Raymond.

"We can know whose DNA is a sample, but in general we can not determine how or when it was deposited", warns the biologist Antonio Alonso, researcher at the National Institute of Toxicology and Forensic Sciences and co-author of the guide. "There may be a cellular item of mine taken by another person to the scene of the crime. When we shake hands between two people, we receive part of the other person's DNA, "explained Alonso a few days ago, at the presentation of the publication in Madrid.

The biologist remembers the case of the double crime of Almonte (Huelva), committed on April 27, 2013, in which an 8-year-old girl and her father were murdered. They received 151 stabs. The only defendant, ex-partner of the murdered girl's mother, was acquitted by the Supreme Court just over three months ago, despite the fact that her DNA was on the towels of the house where the murders took place. In 2016, underlines Alonso, the team of the Canadian medical examiner Sarah Noël showed that the DNA of the semen and vaginal secretions is transferred between the different garments even inside the washing machine.

Rafael Ricardi, at his home in El Puerto de Santa María.
Rafael Ricardi, at his home in El Puerto de Santa María.

"There is a danger that a jury will attach too much importance to genetic testing," warns the guide, devised by scientists of the European Network of Excellence in Forensic Genetics and edited by the British organization Sense about Science. The publication also remembers the case of Rafael Ricardi, a Cádiz-born in 1960 who was arrested in August 1995, accused of raping an 18-year-old girl in El Puerto de Santa María. The victim stated that one of his attackers "had an eye to the virule" and the police went to Ricardi, a well-known homeless person with problems with drugs. It was strabic and his DNA was compatible with that of one of the rapists.

"There is a danger that a jury will give too much importance to genetic testing", warns a new publication

However, in 2008, Ricardi was released from prison. New, more sophisticated DNA tests proved his innocence and incriminated another man, Fernando P. G., a 53-year-old mason. Ricardi he spent 13 years in jail without having done anything. Today, that mistake would be almost impossible. Thanks to new technologies, the probability that two DNA profiles coincide by chance is 1 in 100,000 trillion.

The guide also describes cases in which forensic genetics has changed the course of an investigation. Spain's national DNA database was launched in 2007. It hosts almost 360,000 genetic profiles of suspects, detainees and defendants for serious crimes, in addition to some 100,000 unidentified profiles found in places where a crime has been committed. More than 14,000 coincidences have been detected between biological remains and suspicious persons, according to the guide, in which Ángel Carracedo and Lourdes Prieto, both from the Institute of Forensic Sciences of the University of Santiago de Compostela, and Leonor Sierra physics have also participated. .

One of these 14,000 coincidences allowed the murder of the 19-year-old Rocío Wanninkhof in 1999 to be solved. Dolores Vázquez had already been unjustly condemned after a parallel trial on television. In August 2003, the body of another girl, Sonia Carabantes, was found, and at the scene of the crime a genetic profile of a man was found that coincided with another trace on a cigarette butt found in 1999 next to Wanninkhof's body. The Civil Guard arrested Tony Alexander King, a British citizen with a criminal record who He was sentenced to 36 years in prison for the two murders.

As Alonso explains in the new guide, this case "shows the importance of DNA databases in the prevention of crimes with a high degree of recidivism since, if the DNA profile of Tony King owned by Scotland Yard had been compared with the genetic remains found in 1999 in the place where Rocío Wanninkhof appeared, the murder of Sonia Carabantes in 2003 could have been avoided. "

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