Ethical questions, then and now
While the series mostly focuses on the scientists and law enforcement involved in the first use of DNA fingerprinting in a criminal case, it also touches on some of the media and the public’s reactions to the new technology, and the mass DNA testing conducted as part of the investigation. In one scene, a man at a press conference headed by Baker and Jeffreys shouts that he feels the testing paints every man as guilty until proven innocent. Additionally, a reporter seen throughout the series often questions whether DNA fingerprinting is “rubbish,” and several others question whether the “experiment” of DNA testing is a complete waste of resources.
DNA collection and testing continues to raise concerns from the public about privacy, even as the technology continues to be one of the most vital forms of evidence used in today’s criminal cases.
For example, in 2005 in Truro, Massachusetts, police began collecting DNA samples from hundreds of men in an attempt to make a match to the killer of 46-year-old fashion writer Christa Worthington, leading to a rebuke from the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts in a letter that called the campaign “a serious intrusion on personal privacy,” CBS reported. Worthington’s killer was ultimately discovered through a DNA sample taken from him during an initial investigation, before the mass testing campaign, but had never been tested due to laboratory backlog, according to CBS.