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THE MURDER GENE COMPUTATION PROBLEM

Updated: Jul 29

[Authored by Nagakishan V J, 2nd year B.A LL.B (Hons.) student at Christ University, Bengaluru.]

The human body is as complex as a mathematical problem which helps solve extraordinary physics problems. But the former essentially boils down to one simple idea for existence, and that is “Genes” or “Genetic material” but the later goes on to define the universe. Both of which are in two varying spectrums of science, but have a fundamental overlapping to them. All of us have seen the movie “The Matrix” and all of us have been fascinated by the idea of being governed by the laws of numbers or in other terms everything we see is the result of the binary code, which is just information which has been processed and the end result being the spectacular images which we see on the screen in the form of the matrix. Similarly, our genetic material is information [1] which has been stored, not in hard drives, but in a complex thread like compounds called as DNA, which is short for “Deoxyribonucleic Acid”. And hence, all the information which makes us “US” is stored within our bodies and come from our parents who are actually responsible for our very existence. There are a lot of sayings which tell us that, people inherit traits from their parents. And so, I take this question from William Landy, who writes his next novel on this very topic, in his blog he says “We are quite comfortable with the idea that certain benign traits may inherit – musical talent, athleticism. Why not a talent for violence? [2] ” and hence that is the question that I ask today, for a long time, use of identification methods have been used to apprehend offenders, why not use Genes to apprehend them?

Since the discovery of DNA by Fredrick Griffith in 1928 [3], this subject of genetic

material has taken a lot of people’s minds by storm and ever since becoming a topic of

interest in various sections of the society. Various criminology studies, some of which

gained traction is “The Genetic Theory of Crime” which brought to light, the genetic

responsibility of criminals in the acts of committing a crime. A number of studies have

shown that genetic information can be a very important and crucial element in

implicating the guilt of the victim [4].


Some of these studies were done, to understand more about the genetic necessity in criminal activities. A number of studies were conducted and the most interesting one was the Adoption Theory, which was conducted not in one, but in

three different countries namely, the USA, Sweden and Denmark. The general idea of the

study was, to understand if there would be a genetic factor that comes to play when

the adoptee is separated from their biological parents and given up for adoption,

which would help to prove the play of the gene. In all three countries, there has

been a significant emphasis on the anti-social behavior of the adopted child.[5] And that

helps us to understand, a new perspective on what triggers the urge to commit a crime.

And the main attraction of this is the case which got a verdict that reduced the

sentence of a criminal from the Italian court, which when showed the presence of a

a bad gene which is responsible for the actions done by the criminal, the sentence was

reduced.[6] This becomes ideal and substantial proof that there are courts which

accept the usage of genetic information to be the reason for such actions to take place

and this caused the abnormal behavior. All of these activities are happening

because of the lack of existence of a gene called “MAOA gene” or “Monoamine

oxidase A” this is a gene which is responsible for the information for the formation of

an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A and that is responsible for breaking down

certain simple protein molecules and from which a set of neurological connects take

place and signals are transmitted.[7]. And when there is no need for any more

connections, the enzyme stops formation and the rest of the body continues to

the function just as usual.

The major issue which exists is when there is a deficiency of this certain gene and this

happens when there is a mutation in the gene which is responsible [8] and this leads to behavioral abnormalities and increased levels of aggression and is responsible for

many violent breakdowns of people and hence comes to the name “MURDER GENE”.

And now, I go back to my Matrix analogy. When I say, the ma

trix is made up of binary information which when processed becomes the world of the matrix and the same applies in this case when the MAOA gene instructs for the formation of the

the enzyme, everything is normal, when the gene mutates because of certain

abnormalities, that is when everything goes south. There have also been studies which

have been significantly relied upon by criminologists that provide substantial inference

which concludes, genetic material could also be responsible for behavioral

happens when there is a mutation in the gene which is responsible [8] and this leads to many violent breakdowns of people and hence comes the name “MURDER GENE”.

And now, I go back to my Matrix analogy. When I say, the matrix is made up of

binary information which when processed becomes the world of the matrix and the

same applies in this case when the MAOA gene instructs for the formation of the

the enzyme, everything is normal, when the gene mutates because of certain

abnormalities, that is when everything goes south. There have also been studies which

have been significantly relied upon by criminologists that provide substantial inference

which concludes, genetic material could also be responsible for behavioral

abnormalities and signs of raised levels of aggression in criminals and offenders.[9]

One more important thing which has to be kept in mind is that, the environment in

which people live in is also responsible for making who they eventually become who

they become.[10] So, before summarizing my stance on this issue, one thing must be put

across. Every person on this planet is made of a material which is not only inherited by

him from his parents and grandparents, but also from the food we eat [11] and the places

we live in, the conditions we endure as we live and most importantly the people we

live with and hence it becomes important that, we live in harmony and peace which in

turn hypothetically reduces or helps in getting down the number of crimes which

happen.


In conclusion, what I would like to say is that there is a very huge influence of the

genetic material which makes a person or which makes us people. And through the

various studies and the various depictions and the understanding which we have tried

to bring in through these years, we essentially try to understand why a criminal does

what he does? And we might have gotten examples, we might have gotten theories

which suggest that, but we have not yet received the true understanding of that

question right there. When we look at the case mentioned above, for instance, genetics is

used as an excuse to get away from something and be acquitted for a crime that you may or may not be innocent in. And that very grey area, which exists. Is a very

scary part. Because the reliance on something which is not that well established,

which is not that well analyzed and something which is a topic that we humans have a

lot to understand from, relying on that would be a very essential and very moral

downfall of telling one what is right and what is wrong. And hence, even though there

may be various situations and explanations which explain the genetic influence in a

crime. It is essential to try to get the aspect of what we truly understand and truly

appreciate and emphasize on must be the aspect which must be considered while

making a decision. The culpability of a person is only and truly established when they

are with evidence pinned as guilty, but until then, we have all the possibilities which

may rule them out as one. And as a movie buff, I again go back to The Matrix’s “Red

pill-Blue pill” situation, would you prefer to know the entire truth or would you be

willing to let go of everything and stay where you are and live the reality which you

think is true?

[1] Lee M. Silver, The Meaning of Genes and “Genetic Rights”, 40 Jurimetrics 9, 11 (1999)

[2] William Landay, The Murder Gene, William Landay, (May 11, 2010),

https://www.williamlanday.com/2010/05/11/the-murder-gene/

[3] OpenStax CNX, The History of DNA, Lumen Waymaker, (May 20, 2020, 3:31 pm),

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-biology1/chapter/reading-the-history-of-dna/

[4] Morley, Katherine Hall, Wayne, Is there a genetic susceptibility to engage in Criminal acts, Australian Institute of Criminology (Oct 1, 2003), https://www.aic.gov.au/publications/tandi/tandi263

[5] Crime Causation: Biological Theories, Genetic Epidemiological Studies, JRank (Jun. 19, 2020),

https://law.jrank.org/pages/784/Crime-Causation-Biological-Theories-Genetic-epidemiological-

studies.html

[6] Emiliano Feresin, Lighter sentence for murder with “bad genes”, Nature (Oct. 30, 2009),

https://www.nature.com/news/2009/091030/full/news.2009.1050.html

[7] MAOA Gene, Genetic Home Reference, (May 12, 2020), https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MAOA

[8] Id.

[9] D. J. West, Psychological Contributions to Criminology, BJC 77, 86 (1988).

[10] Douglas Allchin, Genes “R” US: What sense do genes determine identity, The American Biology Teacher 244, 245 (2005)

[11] Lee Supra note 1, at 2.

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