privacy concerns

DNA Solves 1984 Murder of Christine Jessop

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Toronto Police have announced that they have identified a suspect in the 1984 murder of nine-year-old Christine Jessop (“Christine”).

Investigators used a DNA investigative technique to identify Calvin Hooper (“Hooper”), 28 years old at the time of the murder, as the individual who sexually assaulted and stabbed Jessop to death.

Decades after her death, a DNA sample found on Christine’s underwear was determined to have belonged to Hoover.

THE DISAPPEARANCE AND MURDER OF CHRISTINE JESSOP

Christine went missing on October 3, 1984 in Queensville, Ontario.  She had plans to meet up with a friend that evening at a nearby park, however, she never showed up.  She was last spotted buying a pack of gum at a local convenience store.

Christine’s remains were found three months later on New Year’s Eve in a wooded area in Durham Region, approximately 56 kilometres from her home.  It was discovered that Christine had been raped and murdered. 

Police charged Christine’s neighbour, Guy Paul Morin (“Morin”), in 1984.  He was acquitted in 1986 before a new trial was ordered.  Following a second trial, Morin was found guilty and successfully appealed in 1995.  After serving 18 months in prison, Morin was exonerated due to the advancement in DNA testing.

Following the latest development in Christine’s murder investigation, Morin made the following statement:

I am relieved for Christine’s mother, Janet, and her family, and hope this will give some peace of mind.  They have been through a dreadful ordeal for 36 years since they lost Christine in 1984 …

I am grateful that the Toronto Police stayed on the case and have now finally solved it.  When DNA exonerated me in January 1995, I was sure that one day DNA would reveal the real killer and now it has.

HOW DOES GENETIC GENEALOGY WORK?

Genetic genealogy involves DNA analysis combined with matching a sample to a database of DNA to determine a familial relationship.  Investigators can upload a suspect’s DNA to a genetic lineage database, such as 23andme or GEDmatch.  They can then build a family lineage of other known samples that share the same DNA characteristics.  Investigators can search through related names and cross-reference them with their proximity to the crime scene, their relationship to the victim or their family. 

Traditional forensics can identify approximately 20 genetic markers.  In the Jessop case, Toronto Police sent a DNA sample to Othram, a lab in the United States which uses cutting-edge technology to identify hundreds of thousands of genetic markers that can help identify very distant relatives.  Unfortunately, there are no labs in Canada that specialize in genetic genealogy.

The DNA findings from the genetic genealogy test helped investigators in the Jessop case to create two potential family trees.  Investigators plowed through numerous detailed reports and documents and eventually discovered Calvin Hooper, who had a relationship with the Jessop family.

Staff Supt. Peter Code of Toronto Police Services explained:

Simply put, it is not a DNA match.  What it is, is it provides a potential and I must stress a potential family lineage from a DNA sample.  Then it is up to a police investigator to build from that potential family lineage.

Hoover’s wife was Jessop’s father’s co-worker.  According to Kenney Jessop, Christine’s brother, he and his sister played with Hoover’s children.

Hoover died by suicide in 2015. 

Although genetic genealogy is not widely used in Canada, this latest conclusion to the Jessop case may change how investigations take place.

According to Sean Sparling, a former police chief and present of the Investigative Solutions Network:

This is going to be a new emerging technology for Canadian law enforcement.  You’re going to see a lot of cold case units where they have unsolved homicides, unsolved serial rapist cases, they’re going to be turning to this technology.

Genetic genealogy has helped solve several cold cases in the United States, such as the identity of a woman killed near a Lake Tahoe hiking trail in 1982 and the exoneration of a man in California who was falsely accused of murdering a newspaper columnist and spent 14 years in prison.

Genetic genealogy has its fair share of critics warning that there are privacy risks involved in using this technology for investigating crimes.  Many individuals who use genealogical websites may not realize what they are consenting to when they sign up to use them online.  In some cases, when you consent to use a genetic database you are also consenting for your children and their unborn children. 

If you are facing criminal charges or have any other questions or concerns about your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting their client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services.  We are available when you need us most.

Privacy Commissioner Concerned by the use of Facial Recognition Software by Police

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Facial recognition technology is becoming increasingly popular and being used throughout airports, shopping centres and even by law enforcement.  However, many are concerned about issues of privacy, safety and legislation regarding the use of this type of technology.

In a recent announcement, privacy commissioner Daniel Therrien, along with ombudsmen from British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, will jointly investigate the use of facial recognition technology supplied by the U.S. firm Clearview AI in Canada.  The investigation will examine whether the firm’s practices comply with Canadian privacy laws.

Police services in Durham, Toronto, Peel and Halton have all confirmed that they have stopped using the controversial Clearview AI facial recognition technology as they await further direction from the government. 

WHAT IS FACIAL RECOGNITION?

A facial recognition system is technology that maps an individual’s facial features mathematically and stores the data as a faceprint.  The technology measures variables of a person’s face including, the length or width of the nose, the depth of the eye sockets and shape of the cheekbones.  The software uses algorithms to compare a digital image to the stored faceprint in order to identify an individual’s identity. 

Facial recognition can be used in a variety of ways, including:

  • For consumer security by mobile phone manufacturers, such as Apple;
  • For law enforcement through the collection of mugshots to be compared against databases from local, provincial and federal resources;
  • Through social media, such as Facebook, to tag individual in photographs;
  • For security purposes to recognize those that are granted entry into buildings; and
  • For marketing to determine age, gender and ethnicity to target specific audiences.

WHAT IS CLEARVIEW AI TECHNOLOGY?

Clearview AI provides law enforcement with technology to access images from social media and other websites to cross-reference uploaded images of individuals to assist with an investigation.  It is reported that there are three billion photos on the database. 

Facial recognition databases can be used by police to help identify possible criminal suspects.  The technology searches through images, such as mug shots, and algorithmically compares them with other images, such as images captured from a store’s surveillance camera, to identify an individual believed to have committed a crime.

Cleaview AI’s technology allows for the collection of a vast number of images from numerous sources that can assist police and financial institutions to identify people.  The technology requires nothing more than a photograph to provide an individual’s name, phone number, address or occupation.  This program is not available for public use.

THE TROUBLE WITH FACIAL RECOGNITION TOOLS

One of the problems of using facial recognition tools is the low accuracy.  The program may wrongly identify an innocent individual as a suspect or a person of interest. 

According to a U.S. government study released late last year, facial recognition systems misidentify people of colour more often than white people. 

The study completed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that many facial recognition algorithms were up to 100 times more likely to misidentify Asian and African American people than Caucasians.   Native Americans had the highest false-positive rate of all ethnicities.  They also found that there were higher rates of false positive results for African American females in the situation where searches are used to compare an image to others.

The report, Face Recognition Vendor Test (FRVT) Part 3:  Demographic Effects, reviewed 189 software algorithms from 99 developers.  The study used 18.27 million images of 8.49 million people from State Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI databases.  The study focused on how well an individual algorithm performed one-to-one matching (confirming whether a photo matches a different photo of the same person in a database) and one-to-many matching (determining whether the individual in the photo has any match in a database). 

Ontario’s privacy commissioner, Brian Beamish, admitted that he was unaware that the police were using Clearview AI’s products until February 5, 2020 and has been advised that it has been stopped.  In his statement, Beamish expressed the potential dangers and privacy concerns over the use of facial recognition technology:

The indiscriminate scraping of the internet to collect images of people’s faces for law enforcement purposes has significant privacy implications for all Ontarians.  We have made it clear in the past that my office should be consulted before this type of technology is used.

We will continue to follow the investigation into the use of facial recognition technology by police in Canada and will report any updates in this blog.

In the meantime, if you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, it is recommended that you contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer.  The lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP have many years of experience defending a wide variety of criminal offences.  Contact our office today online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.