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In-Depth Interview: Journalist Steve Horn Raises Questions About DNA Evidence Raised in Golden State Killer Investigation

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Steve Horn has shifted to criminal justice reporting from the environmental beat, and returns to talk about the implications of DNA evidence obtained via genealogy web sites in Golden State Killer investigation.Horn previously reported on environmental issues for DeSmogBlog, and he now writes for Criminal Legal News and Prison Legal News.  You can find his report on the Golden State Killer case here.

We open with a discussion of the issues raised by the investigation, where detectives created a fake genetic profile at that led them to a relative of the suspect in custody, Joseph DeAngelo.  DeAngelo was fired as a police office for a small town in the Sierra Foothills in the 1970’s and the suspect may have been involved in a dozen murders, 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries.

Since this is a high-profile cold case, many people overlook the implications of the use of DNA data that people posted to research their family history, and many of the users of GEDmatch likely didn’t read the terms of service, which say that law enforcement has the authority to tap into the DNA repository for criminal investigations.

Civil liberties advocates have a range of concerns, from privacy to 4th and 5th Amendment issues.  We discuss these along with other tech tools used by police, from body cams and dashcams to Stingray surveillance.  While many citizens seem unconcerned and say they “have nothing to hide”, the unintended uses of data need to be carefully considered.

Near the end, Horn talks about his shift from environmental reporting to criminal justice, and explains his frustration in 2016, when politics prevented him from reporting critically on Obama and Clinton, because enviro journalism is largely funded by Democrat-aligned foundations.