Native Writes: Testing one’s DNA

Some drugstores and big boxes have DNA kits one can do at home and television ads suggest that just one swab in the cheek can find an illustrious ancestor, long lost cousin or even a “baby daddy.”

One kit I saw even suggests it can tell if my metabolism will grow up to be fat or thin. I needed that about 50 years ago when my frame still had a chance.

Tuesday, I approached with excitement the day’s testimony in a Conejos County homicide case. After all, TV detectives just need a cigarette butt or discarded paper coffee cup to get a lead on a homicidal character.

A beautiful young woman with enough credentials to paper the courtroom began by explaining how she needed more “contributors” before she could narrow one drop of spit down below some 800 trillion human possibilities.

With two test persons and a spare, she could tell that the men weren’t blood relatives and a copious amount of blood tested belonged to one of them.

Almost everyone in the room already knew that.

She continued with a very pleasant, in-depth education of the judge, jury, defense, prosecution and a handful of people just there to watch.

A partial DNA profile taken from a large piece of evidence yielded three contributors, but no conclusions could be drawn due to lack of information, but blood samples from a mattress could be traced to one man and no one else among septillions of humans, while DNA from a piece of clear packaging tape matched the suspected killer, but not his alleged victim.

But how did the DNA get there? It was hard to say and it could have been in the suspected murder scene for a long time.

Tell that to the staff of any popular detective show. It takes them about 15 minutes to trace the contributor, another 15 to have him or her under arrest and then the rest of the show for a trial.

The producers seem to believe in miracles.

I sat amazed. I have been thinking of having my DNA tested to see if my grandma was right when she said our ancestors walked across a Bering Strait ice bridge, birthed a generation or two and then were herded like cattle to the bleakest part of Oklahoma. Actually, science has debunked the ice bridge theory, but the smartest experts haven’t determined just where the native tribes emerged.

Listening to the testimony, I changed my mind about an individual test. I know the family folk legends of about 10 generations and don’t want to find even a half septillion long lost cousins. I have a bunch in Oregon I have yet to meet.

All kidding aside, though, I left the courtroom aware that fingerprints, body fluids and DNA testing could prove someone was involved or even in a room where a homicide took place, especially if there were no other direct witnesses.

Just as each of us has a set of fingerprints that are uniquely ours, so we have a body whose fluids are also one of a kind.

I told the pathologist I had no intention of sending DNA to a company advertising on television and she said what she did was nothing like that. Her work is legal proof for the system of justice.

Take that, Maury Povich. He’s not the “baby daddy.”