The DNA Dragnet

To find a killer, a town asks all its men to give a sample. Savvy policing or invasion of privacy?

In the summer of 1847, a panicked mother in a small village in Barnstable, Mass., on Cape Cod, reported her 10-week-old son missing. The townsfolk fanned out to search for him. Within hours, his body was found floating in the harbor. Because no strangers were visiting that day, the villagers knew the killer was one of them. At the funeral the next day, each resident was asked to approach the tiny open coffin, lay hands on the body and declare his or her innocence, a scene described by Evan J. Albright in his book Cape Cod Confidential. The villagers were looking...

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