I had a weird dream the other night. (It was random and dream-like, like dreams often are, but for the purposes of this post I’ll pretend like it was more understandable than it really was; the gist of it is the same.) I was the judge of a no-jury court case. It involved a man who had stolen priceless paintings. All of his illegal activities of breaking and entering and stealing these paintings from a museum were all recorded by security cameras. His face could be seen very easily.
Unfortunately he had an identical twin brother. They were both sitting there in the court room before me, both claiming innocence, both with the same solid alibi of walking around a bookstore that night, which was also caught on camera. They both knew exactly what one of them was doing at the bookstore. I questioned them separately (I’m not sure if that’s really something a judge would do, but I did), and they both told the same story, which supported what was on camera.
There was no DNA evidence left behind by either man.
Lastly, I did not have the lie detecting skills of that guy in Lie to Me, so I couldn’t do anything very dramatic involving catching one of them in a lie or giving them the Prisoner’s Dilemma.
And in the dream I thought it was a riddle, as if there definitely was a way to solve the conundrum and I just had to figure it out.
But I woke up with the riddle unsolved.
Is there an answer? Or is that the perfect way to get out of a crime?
The dream made me wonder if DNA would really help such a case anyway. It might! According to this article from Scientific American:
The discovery of this genetic variation gives hope for an obscure but pressing issue in the case of a criminal suspect who is an identical twin. “If one twin is a suspect and the whereabouts of the other twin cannot be determined, then the jury is often left without the ability to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt” in cases that rely on DNA evidence, says Frederick Bieber, a pathologist at Harvard Medical School.
“If the twin issue comes up in a criminal investigation it’s possible that if there are [copy number variants] that differ between the two twins that might help sort that out,” Bieber says.
Given that there are 80 pairs of identical twins in Virginia’s convicted offender database alone, this might not be as small an issue as it may sound. And such genetic variation also matters to the population at large.
Ha! Not a very original idea for a dream at all, I guess. Subconscious fail.