The arrest of Bryan Kohberger, the man who almost certainly will be convicted of murdering four University of Idaho students in November 2022, came as a great relief to the families and local community first of all, but also to myself and every other American who thinks murder is a bad thing. For me and certainly countless others, the weeks between news of the slayings and the capture of the likely killer were often filled with thoughts about how awful it would be if the perpetrator were never found, the families of the four souls slain in the prime of their lives never to see justice on this side of heaven.
After all, an astonishing percentage of violent crimes go unsolved to the tune of well over half, including two out of every three rapes and almost 40% of murders. Because of the seeming randomness, the likelihood that this particular killer would never be found seemed to increase as the weeks progressed. But he was found, thanks in no small part to DNA evidence found at the scene and matched to a genealogy service sample once submitted by Kohberger’s father.
When I first heard that part of the story, I’ll admit it struck me as a bit unsettling. While Kohberger’s capture is worthy of celebration, could one possibly imagine a slippery slope here? Ann Coulter, one of my longtime favorite conservative writers and someone I agree with more often than not, dismissed such notions in a column last week titled, “Dead End for Serial Killers.” In it, Coulter lauds the rise of DNA and surveillance cameras as one way the world is getting “better,” because criminals, particularly random serial killers who might have gotten away with their crimes before, will find it much more difficult to avoid capture.
“Between the ubiquity of surveillance cameras and DNA, any budding Ted Bundy can commit one hideous murder, but then he'll get caught,” she writes. “No more victims cut down in the prime of their lives, destroyed families, or terrified communities. Monsters like Kohberger get one shocking crime, not a series.”
Coulter goes on to lament “pro-murder” opposition by the ACLU and others to the usage by law enforcement of DNA data collected by services like Ancestry.com and others.
In a sane world, these genealogists would be taking a bow, accepting the eternal gratitude of the victims' parents and everyone living in Moscow, Idaho, as well as the dozens of future victims this butcher will never be able to kill now.
Instead, they're about to have the murderer lobby screaming at them for violating a psycho killer's "privacy." The pro-murder crowd has already intimidated the largest DNA database, Ancestry.com (owned by Blackstone Group), into refusing to help law enforcement solve murders. 23andMe also refuses to cooperate with murder investigations.
To me, this is a gray area without a lot of concrete answers. On the one hand, I want to see killers caught. I’d also like to see every motorist who whizzes by me going 90mph in a 45mph zone get immediately pulled over by police, but that would require a level of surveillance I’m not comfortable with. At what point does massive DNA collection lead to an Orwellian police state where the negatives to personal freedoms outweigh the benefits of an increased likelihood that criminals get caught?
In this excellent Twitter thread, podcaster Clint Russell lists several potential negative ramifications of the government being able to harvest DNA at will, from bioweapons to medical tyranny to the ability to frame someone for a crime they didn’t commit simply by placing DNA at the scene. He even includes examples from current events that show that, in this case, the slippery slope isn’t a fallacy. It’s scary stuff, and if it isn’t already here it’s not that far off.
I have zero intention of committing any sort of violent crime, ever. On the other hand, I’m also not comfortable with the government having my DNA. Are you? The old retort to this from many was just to refuse to submit DNA samples to genealogy services. But remember, Kohberger was caught due to his father’s sample, not his. How can someone keep their entire family from wondering about their ancestry?
For a peek into the mind of someone who is a bit too pro-authority for their good, consider the words of this presumably ‘conservative’ Townhall commenter below Coulter’s post: “I've often wondered if the U.S. will ever pass a national law that requires a DNA sample to be taken from every live birth in this country. What a boon that would be to law enforcement agencies 15 years from now.”
If a comment like that doesn’t make you a bit uneasy, you are entirely too far removed from the spirit of our nation’s founders, who distrusted government most of all and set up a justice system where guilty people going free was far preferable to an innocent person being unjustly punished.