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posted by martyb on Friday April 08 2016, @05:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the combine-with-automated-facial-recognition dept.

KOMO TV (Seattle) is carrying a story about unsolved "Cold Case" murders in Tacoma that occurred in 1986.

TACOMA, Wash. - Using cutting-edge technology not available until now, investigators have released composite sketches of two men suspected of abducting and killing two young Tacoma girls in 1986.

Police say they are determined to solve the two horrific murder cases, which have gone cold after three decades - and they are hopeful the new technology will help lead them to the killers.

There were no witnesses. But DNA samples were found. So how were the sketches made?

The "composite sketches" were generated by a computer based on a process called DNA Phenotyping which is the prediction of physical appearance, using information extracted from DNA which accurately predicts genetic ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape in individuals from any ethnic background, even individuals with mixed ancestry.

"These are composites much like a witness giving a description and a computer program making a sketch based on known appearance factors," Loretta Cool of the Tacoma police said in a prepared statement. "These composites will not be exact but the outcome is a visual reference that may look similar to what the suspects looked like in 1986."

The process was developed by Parabon Nanolabs and the process is explained on their web site.

How close are the predictions?

Parabon's website has some examples generated from DNA contributed by known volunteers. You can compare the sketches with photos of the volunteers and judge for yourself. Personally, I think Yolanda McClary's actual IMDB photo is virtually a dead ringer for the computer prediction.

Original Submission

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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08 2016, @10:12AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08 2016, @10:12AM (#328898)

    The criminal gets caught.

    Unless they are displaying a picture of the actual DNA - and everyone is walking around with a picture of their own DNA on it - there's a good chance that some poor schmuck is going to get dragged in by the police because he looks like a picture of someone that the police made up out of thin air. I'm sure some lawyer will be able to claim that requiring a DNA test based on a picture that isn't real, of a person that is conjured out of a computer's imagination, violates one of those pesky Amendments. And this is very different from a sketch because any witnesses will be presented with lineup cards (or an actual lineup) where they can see a collection of society's selected few that resemble the sketch. There's a big difference between taking someone's picture (or making them stand in a lineup) and forcing a DNA sample based off a picture a computer pulled out of its ass.

    Can you imagine the cross examination? It will make Chief Wiggam look competent.
    Defense Lawyer: Why did you bring the defendant in for questioning?
    Law Enforcement: We had probable cause. He looked like the person in the wanted poster.
    Defense Lawyer: And where did this picture come from? Specifically?
    Law Enforcement: Um ... I think it came out of the Lieutenant's printer.
    Defense Lawyer: Okay. And where did the Lieutenant's printer get it?
    Law Enforcement: One of the computers made it up. I don't know how it works. The IT guys can never explain how anything works.
    Defense Lawyer: Made it up? Do you often "make up" probable cause?
    Law Enforcement: I don't know. The DA's office can never explain how anything works.
    Defense Lawyer: Would you have arrested the Lieutenant if the unknown computer had made up a wanted poster that looked like him?
    Law Enforcement: I don't think the Lieutenant would have given it to us if it looked like him.
    Defense Lawyer: You don't, do you?
    Law Enforcement: We usually keep those kinds of things in house.
    Defense Lawyer: Obviously.

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  • (Score: 3, Informative) by frojack on Saturday April 09 2016, @03:12AM

    by frojack (1554) on Saturday April 09 2016, @03:12AM (#329266) Journal

    there's a good chance that some poor schmuck is going to get dragged in by the police because he looks like a picture of someone that the police made up out of thin air.

    That happens with eye witness identifications every day, and you don't even have to even vaguely look like the actual perpetrator for that to happen.

    In order to do what you say is a "good chance" the police are going to need other evidence, such as:
    1) you were in the area, of the crime, and
    2) your DNA would have to match the DNA used to generate the picture

    Actually, you can pretty much forget number 1, if they got Number 2.

    Even if you DON'T look much like the generated picture but the DNA matches you are is serious shit.

    So you see, your assertion is pretty much totally bogus, because it doesn't work that way. They don't make up people out of thin air, they use DNA. Or did you not bother to read even the summary, let alone TFA?

    No, you are mistaken. I've always had this sig.
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 09 2016, @06:17AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday April 09 2016, @06:17AM (#329307)

      Creating a picture of someone base only on DNA is the same as making a picture up out of thin air. No matter how good they get at DNA "creativite imaging" it can't determine facial hair, weight, dental issues or changes, scars or tattoos, among other physical attributes. These all can and do affect how a person's face looks.