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Exploring a Complex Question
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Law professor explains 'murder gene' in news column | Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law
Talbott was found guilty of all charges. They talked often about Jay, but in happy, friendly, joking terms. He was forced to accept that there was a good chance the murders would never be solved. He knew there was evidence that could, someday, implicate somebody.
A jacket and a backpack had gone missing , too. Many were ruled out through DNA tests. Behind the scenes Parabon was working on another project, using public genealogy databases to identify suspects through their family ties. Quietly, the lab uploaded the genetic profile to GEDMatch. He had sisters. But he was the only son. The data report returned to the lab on a Friday in late April By that Monday, the genealogist had identified who it belonged to.
Law professor explains 'murder gene' in news column
Until then, police had no reason to suspect Talbott. He was a short-haul trucker with no felony record.
In his spare time, he rode motorcycles, and he was well liked in his circle of friends. Plainclothes officers put Talbott under surveillance on his driving routes for days. A paper cup fell from his work truck on May 8, in south Seattle. It was tested by a state crime lab. His DNA matched the semen. Talbott was arrested and charged with two counts of aggravated first-degree murder. John Van Cuylenborg had been in touch with Snohomish County cold case detective Jim Scharf over the preceding months about the work Parabon was doing.
Scharf called him in May with news of the arrest. Van Cuylenborg had many questions. Again, the DNA matched. Jay Cook, about a year before he was killed. Cook family The trial Defense attorneys did not challenge the legality of police using genetic databases to identify a suspect. Instead, at least in this trial, the genealogy work was treated like any tip that police might follow.
It only showed, she said, that Talbott had sexual contact with her. The deputy prosecutor, Matt Baldock, fired back in his rebuttal. He asked the jury if it was plausible that a teen girl would have sex with a stranger — on an overnight trip with her boyfriend? In the midst of the AIDS crisis? When she was on her period? Attorneys clashed over the credibility of a witness who found further evidence that seemed to link Talbott to the van: a palm print, on a back door. At first, a Washington State Patrol crime lab investigator had ruled out Talbott as a match.
A colleague told forensic scientist Angela Hilliard to look again. She changed her conclusion: The print matched Talbott. At the time of his arrest, he lived in SeaTac. It may be harder for some men, like Bayout, to refrain from criminal violence than it is for others; everyone is subject to genetic, biological and environmental influences and could be said to have genetic and environmental good luck or bad luck. Despite these differences, the legal system holds most people responsible for their actions if they are over the age of criminal responsibility and are sane .
Legal responsibility is a status assigned to an individual not an empirical description, and is key to the operation of the modern legal system Barnes , It is now acknowledged that gene and environmental interactions affect behaviour, and no doubt research will continue to find correlations between specific forms of behaviour, environmental factors and genetic traits that may or may not be replicated. Epigenetics complicates the idea of a gene environment or nature-nurture divide still further with the findings that nurture can influence not only behaviour and health in later life, but also in subsequent generations Buchen , Evidence of genetic traits in the normal range, such as MAOA variants, have most commonly been presented as mitigating evidence in an attempt to avoid a death sentence in the US.
The combination of a genetic trait and childhood maltreatment has been correlated with an increased incidence of violent and antisocial behaviour. It does not provide a causal link between the gene environment interaction and the specific act for which a suspect is put on trial. Since childhood maltreatment and other environmental risk factors are already presented in mitigation in UK courts, particularly where the offenders are children, it seems likely that a defence team will also bring forward evidence of low-activity MAOA in an attempt to help their client.
The jury is out on what the future holds.