Equal before the Law: On the Machinery of Sameness in Forensic DNA Practice

Science, Technology, and Human Values 38 (4):542-565 (2013)
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Abstract

The social and legal implications of forensic DNA are paramount. For this reason, forensic DNA enjoys ample attention from legal, bioethics, and science and technology studies scholars. This article contributes to the scholarship by focusing on the neglected issue of sameness. We investigate a forensic courtroom case which started in the early ’90s and focus on three modes of making similarities: creating equality before the law, making identity, and establishing standards. We argue that equality before the law is not merely a principle but a practice. In the context of DNA research, equality refers to using standardized technology and procedures to identify the criminal suspect. Our case shows the work at stake in introducing a new technology into the courtroom and serves as a lens, magnifying how contingencies and uncertainties are managed and ordered in everyday court practices to arrive at an equal treatment of the suspect.

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