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There are certain ideas that we like to hold onto, because they help us feel safe and secure, no matter how much experience of the world show us differently. We like to believe that people are fundamentally good, that the truth always comes out, and that the justice system always gets the right person.
In Suspect we delve into the murder of Arapana Jinaga, a bright and vivacious young woman, with a glittering future in front of her, the pride of the family she had left behind in Hydrabad, and popular with all whom she came into contact with in America. Forensically the case was difficult to begin with, the apartment complex where Arapana lived was hosting a Halloween party with guest from all over Washington, not all of whom knew each other – and of course they were all dressed in costumes – which made identifying party goers difficult for police.
Police eventually arrest Emanuel Fair, a young black man not know the those at the party, but already known to police. His previous record, inconsistencies in his story, but most of all it was the DNA that helped send him down. DNA after all in incontrovertible truth.
Not so, it turns out. When DNA was first being used one would need a lot of body fluid to extract it – therefore meaning there was little ambiguity about who and where it had come from. Now a-days though with extremely sophisticated techniques DNA can be matched using very minute traces. So much so that if you hug someone who later that day happens to be at a crime scene, it is possible your DNA could be found at that scene, transferred by your friend, even though you were never there yourself. This is exactly what happened to Emmanuel Fair, and the reason why ultimately, after nine years in jail he was acquitted.
We put so much of our faith in science. We expect it to hold all the answers, but we forget that science never sleeps. It is always evolving and changing, as new discoveries are made, our knowledge grows with each one. But the real flaw in science is the way that humans use it. Scientist themselves have intimate knowledge and can interpret results in the ways us mere mortals can’t. However, those who use the science, the police, lawyers, journalists and the criminal justice system, carry with them their own biases and flaws, and always will, because we cannot be perfect.
And we, the general public, we put our faith in these systems, while not understanding their operations and flaw, because what other choice do we have? We could live in a world where we feel safe and therefore powerful, or we could live in a reality where the good don’t always triumph, where the truth doesn’t always come out, and where a family in Hyderabad sit, with no justice for their daughter.