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Rights and Wrongs: The Golden State Killer and Genetic Investigations

After 87 victims, 53 separate crime scenes, and multiple investigations spanning over four decades, the Golden State Killer was finally brought to justice this past August when he was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The key piece of evidence that led investigators to the serial burglar, rapist, and murderer was not a traditional smoking gun, but rather genetic evidence sourced through a public genealogy database. While the positive uses of such investigative techniques are clear, what implications does this new era of genetic detective work have on the wider criminal justice system?

How does this technology work? Are privacy rights at risk? Should there be limits on this new field of DNA forensics as it pertains to criminal investigations? Reflecting the contentious nature of the topic, there are differing answers to all of these questions from public defenders and prosecutors alike. Join us for a thoughtful discussion as we explore the case of the Golden State Killer and the evolving legal landscape of open-source genetic forensics.


Arthur Rizer, Resident Senior Fellow and Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties, R Street Institute

Nila Bala, Resident Senior Fellow and Associate Director of Criminal Justice & Civil Liberties, R Street Institute

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