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The Genetic Imaginary

The Genetic Imaginary: DNA in the Canadian Criminal Justice System

Series: Digital Futures
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 350
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  • Book Info
    The Genetic Imaginary
    Book Description:

    DNA testing and banking has become institutionalized in the Canadian criminal justice system. As accepted and widespread though the practice is, there has been little critique or debate of this practice in a broad public forum on the potential infringement of individual rights or civil liberties. Neil Gerlach'sThe Genetic Imaginarytakes up this challenge, critically examining the social, legal, and criminal justice origins and effects of DNA testing and banking. Drawing on risk analysis, Gerlach explains why Canadians have accepted DNA technology with barely a ripple of public outcry.

    Despite promises of better crime control and protections for existing privacy rights, Gerlach's examination of police practices, courtroom decisions, and the changing role of scientific expertise in legal decision-making reveals that DNA testing and banking have indeed led to a measurable erosion of individual rights. Biogovernance and the biotechnology of surveillance almost inevitably lead to the empowerment of state agent control and away from due process and legal protection.The Genetic Imaginarydemonstrates that the overall effect of these changes to the criminal justice system has been to emphasize the importance of community security at the expense of individual rights. The privatization and politicization of biogovernance will certainly have profound future implications for all Canadians.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8135-4
    Subjects: Law

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-2)
  4. 1 Introduction: Risk, Biogovernance, and the Genetic Imaginary
    (pp. 3-33)

    Imagine a society where violent crime rates have quadrupled over the past century, inexorably rising to levels that would be incomprehensible to previous generations. Imagine that the nature of violent crime seems to have changed, taking a turn toward casual sociopathy where the representative crime has become calculated serial murder rather than the one-off crime of passion. Imagine the resulting level of public fear, rampant to the point where civic- mindedness is replaced by a fortress mentality, walled communities, pervasive video surveillance, and electronic monitoring as the public sphere is virtually abandoned as too risky. In this imaginary society, the...

  5. 2 Creating the Conditions of Possibility: Scientific, Social, and Legal Contexts
    (pp. 34-66)

    In 1983, in a town in Leicester, England, a young woman was sexually assaulted and murdered. Three years later, in 1986, in a neighbouring town, another young woman suffered the same fate. In the intervening years, however, there had been a revolution in crime detection. In 1985, Alec Jeffreys and a team of geneticists at the University of Leicester reported a technique for DNA testing of forensic evidence. All men of a certain age range in the three surrounding communities were asked to submit to DNA testing, but no matches were found to the seminal material left at the crime...

  6. 3 Framing DNA: Negotiating the DNA Warrant and Data Bank System in the Public Sphere
    (pp. 67-97)

    In 1994 the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its first decision on the gathering and use of DNA evidence. In this crucial case,R. v. Borden,the accused had been identified and arrested as the perpetrator of a sexual assault in 1989. The police asked him to provide a DNA sample for that offence, which he agreed to do. DNA from the sample matched that from a semen sample found at the crime scene. However, the police also suspected Borden of a previous sexual assault on an elderly woman in a nursing home. She had been unable to identify her attacker...

  7. 4 Corrective Justice: Media Events and Public Knowledge of DNA in the Criminal Justice System
    (pp. 98-132)

    In July 1993 an incident took place that seemed incredible, considering that it involved the ordinarily staid, ′peace, order, and good government′- oriented citizens of Canada. Bystanders heckled a judge as he entered his courtroom. This happened at the trial of Karla Homolka, who with her ex-husband, Paul Bernardo, was accused of kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and murdering two teenage girls in St Catharines, Ontario, and dismembering one of them. Over the course of the trial, as Homolka testified against her ex-husband, Mr Justice Francis Kovacs ordered a temporary publication ban on the evidence heard in the courtroom. The stated purpose...

  8. 5 Opening and Closing the Black Box: DNA Typing as a Regime of Practice
    (pp. 133-157)

    After twenty three years in prison, a reopening of the case in front of the Supreme Court of Canada, a cautious stay of proceedings on the part of the Saskatchewan government, a final exoneration through DNA evidence, and the conviction of the real murderer of Gail Miller, David Milgaard ultimately had his case come to a satisfying conclusion.The same cannot be said for the Guy Paul Morin case. Morin′s conviction was overthrown as a result of DNA evidence, but the real killer has never been found, and Christine Jessop′s family must live with not knowing. From the perspective of those...

  9. 6 From Crime Control to Crime Management: DNA and Shifting Notions of Justice
    (pp. 158-193)

    On 21 September 2001, the Alberta Court of Appeal handed down its decision onR. v. S.A.B. The appellant had been convicted of sexually assaulting a fourteen-year-old girl, who became pregnant as a result of the assault. She had an abortion, and police seized fetal tissue for DNA testing. Subsequently, the police obtained a DNA warrant to take a blood sample from the accused. Based on the resulting DNA analysis, forensic technicians identified the accused as the father. He was arrested, charged, convicted of sexual assault, and sentenced to six years′ imprisonment.

    The defence lawyer, Larry Anderson, appealed the conviction...

  10. 7 Conclusion: Toward Genetic Justice
    (pp. 194-220)

    In 1992, a woman in the small town of Kipling, Saskatchewan, went to the local RCMP station and told them that her doctor, John Schneeberger, had administered a stupefying drug during an examination and then sexually assaulted her. In 1997 he was accused again of doing the same to a teenage patient. These shocking accusations were difficult for local people to believe. Schneeberger was a South African doctor who had set up practice in the town a few years earlier. He was a model citizen - a community leader and a family man. Three times, RCMP officers obtained blood samples...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 221-230)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-246)
  13. Index
    (pp. 247-254)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)