New DNA technology offered in NY murder case

As a general principle, I believe that the accuracy of criminal justice outcomes increases as forensic science advances. However, new or novel methods and technologies shouldn’t be rushed into court prior to full vetting.  The post-conviction exoneration cases reveal that unreliable forensic evidence is a primary cause of wrongful conviction.  Appropriate scrutiny at the trial stage will reduce this problem.

Each new forensic method/technology needs to be reviewed and validated before being admitted as trial evidence.  The vetting process should be transparent and open, not secretive. I have had the experience of receiving stacks of computer generated “findings”  or “results” from a prosecutor, asking for the software or methodology that generated the records, and getting the reply “it’s some kind of proprietary software .”  In such situations, we are asked to accept technology without being able to question how it works.

True Allele, a new computer-assisted technology is being offered as prosecution evidence in a New York murder case. This DNA mixture analysis uses mathematical formulas to pinpoint individual human DNA on an item that may have been touched by many people.

However, the software prosecution expert Perlin uses “is largely secretive and needs more vetting by independent scientists.” Further, “since 2004, the New York State Police has paid $3.32 million to Perlin’s company, Cybergenetics.”

This technology cannot be offered as accurate while the software remains secret. As stated by UC Irvine professor of criminology William Thompson: “there needs to be consideration by independent scientists on whether the method has been adequately validated.”


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