Do you consider yourself a professional armchair detective? Are you a true crime connoisseur? An heir hunter in training?
If so, riddle me this:
TRUE OR FALSE?
“Identical twins have identical DNA.”
Think you know the answer?
Down some more…
The answer is…
True! Identical twins do have the same DNA (with a few technical caveats and exceptions).
This is something that came up in my research for Fatal Game, my newest Jess Kimball thriller.
While it’s fascinating from a genetic angle, this whole matching-DNA thing can really impair detectives’ ability to solve a crime.
Here are three times when identical twins complicated a crime:
1. Because twins’ DNA is practically identical, a pair of twins in Malaysia escaped the death penalty. One of them had been picked up by police in Kuala Lumpur for transporting over 350 pounds of cannabis and over 3.5 pounds of raw opium. The other twin was arrested in connection with the crime, but with a lesser charge. But by the time the case got to court, there was reasonable doubt about which twin was which! According to BBC:
“A DNA test that might usually have been able to link a suspect to the car was of no use.”
The judge ruled he couldn’t risk giving the wrong twin the death penalty — which is the mandatory sentence for a convicted drug trafficker in Malaysia. So neither twin was convicted.
2. Police in Grand Rapids, Michigan have been unable to solve a rape case because the DNA from the crime matches twin brothers, both of whom have records for sexual assault.
Detectives used various interrogation techniques on the brothers, even putting both in the same room in hopes that the truth would come out in conversation between the two. No such luck. Police still are unable to charge Tyrone or Jerome Cooper with the crime.
3. Which man stole $6.5 million of merchandise from a jewelry store in Berlin? The 2009 heist was pulled off by three men in masks. When investigators ran DNA that was left behind at the scene through the database, a pair of twins came up as a match. Both twins were in the database because both had previous records for theft and fraud. But investigators could not determine with certainty which brother matched the DNA at the crime scene — so both brothers had to be released.
If detectives had found fingerprints at the scene, it’s possible they could have charged one of the twins. Did you know that identical twins have different fingerprints even though they have the same DNA?
My thriller novel Fatal Game, which deals with the subject of the DNA of identical twins, releases May 20, 2017.
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In Fatal Game, a heart surgeon is in jail. His wife kidnapped. Her driver murdered. The police files are thick. Video footage and telephone calls. Statements and witnesses. The evidence is obvious, but the doctor claims it’s not true. Out of options, he begs Jess Kimball to nail the ruthless killer whose crimes are the ultimate game.
But Jess isn’t playing. Not now. Not ever. Because justice is never a game.