Hundreds of state prisoners have successfully used DNA evidence to win exonerations in the past three decades — except in 13 states.
The states are Alaska, Arkansas, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Vermont. Exonerations have occurred in the 13 states, but none in which DNA evidence was central to proving innocence, according to the Innocence Project and the National Registry of Exonerations.
Just two years ago, GEDmatch was still an obscure genealogy website, known only to a million or so hobbyist DNA sleuths looking to fill in their family trees. The site was free, public, and run by two guys with a knack for writing algorithms that helped relatives find each other. All in all, it was a pretty controversy-free place.
That all changed in April of 2018, when news broke that police had used GEDmatch to identify a suspect in the 40-year-old Golden State Killer case. As the site emerged as a crime-fighting tool, some users and privacy experts began to worry about how people’s genetic data might ensnare them in criminal investigations, when all they wanted was to learn about their family history. The transition has been rocky for GEDmatch. One drama after another has engulfed the website: Police searches have grown increasingly invasive; the site’s owners tried to react with changes to its terms of service that ended up backfiring; and white-hat hackers pointed out glaring security flaws. But starting Monday, that’s all someone else’s problem.
Big Names. Big Science; a Big-Time CLE Experience!
Don’t miss this great opportunity for a no-nonsense, national networking CLE featuring the leading faculty in their respective fields. This two-day event is produced in partnership with the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice (CACJ).
The Georgia Capital Defenders had scheduled a great October CLE program in Savannah captioned “Telling the Client’s Story,” but had complications which prevented them from going forward. We contacted GCD and offered to put on their program in Orlando with the always helpful Barry School of Law as hosts. Next, our partners at the National Center for Forensic Science joined the party with their support. The final, special ingredient came with friend of PD9, Professor Richard Rogers, agreeing to join us on Friday.
So, with all this energy and collaboration we are presenting this program on Friday, Nov. 8, all day Saturday, Nov. 9 and a Sunday, Nov. 10 morning closing session. Please review the agenda. You will find a very thorough Daubert program as well as the modified Georgia program.
Pricing will be in the $200 range for the entire event. CLE credit calculations are pending. To register, please click here.
Sexual assaults are an unfortunate reality in modern society. While DNA is the go-to forensic evidence in sexual assault cases, the reality is that the use of condoms is increasing in an effort to minimize the type of DNA left at the crime scene, e.g. sperm/semen. Therefore, in the absence of DNA, it is necessary to identify other types of evidence that could be used to link the three points in the criminal triangle, i.e. victim, suspect and crime scene.
One such type of evidence that has not been explored is lubricant analysis. Identifying novel capability that assist laboratories in making determinations in lubricant analysis would aid the crime lad to make connects to the assailant. Another type of evidence that commonly overlooked are cosmetic particles that may transfer during physical contact, e.g. glitter and shimmer particles.
This talk will discuss current efforts that we are conducting to understand the evidentiary value of lubricant and cosmetic evidence and appropriate analytical methods to analyze and characterize unknown samples collected in a sexual assault or physical assault cases.
New York City detectives questioning a boy facing a felony charge last year offered him a McDonald’s soda. When the boy left, they took the straw and tested it for his DNA.
Although it did not match evidence found at a crime scene, his DNA was entered into the city’s genetic database. To have it removed, the child’s family had to petition a court and file an appeal, a process that took more than a year. The boy was 12.
Larry Swearingen is scheduled to be executed Wednesday by the State of Texas.
It was 19 years ago that Swearingen was convicted of the abduction, rape and murder of Melissa Trotter. This is the sixth time that Swearingen had a date with death in the Texas prison system. But lingering questions about his guilt have caused the courts to repeatedly step in.
It started as a way to trace family history. It evolved into a tool to help solve decades-old cold cases. Now, for apparently the first time, a genealogy database is expected to lead to charges being dropped against an Idaho man convicted in a decades-old rape and murder case.
There is “clear and convincing evidence” that Christopher Tapp, who served 20 years in prison, was wrongfully convicted in the 1996 killing of 18-year-old Angie Dodge, Bonneville County Prosecutor Daniel Clark wrote in a court filing last week.
In a unanimous decision released Friday afternoon, the state Supreme Court threw out the 1989 murder convictions of two New Milford men and delivered a stinging rebuke to renowned forensic science expert Henry Lee, whose inaccurate testimony put them in prison for decades.
Both Sean Henning and Ralph Birch were convicted in separate trials for the bloody murder of Everett Carr, who was stabbed 47 times, his throat slit and his blood tracked through the house. They were convicted partially based on the testimony of Lee who told jurors that a towel in the bathroom of Carr’s home had a spot on it that he had tested and found was “consistent with blood.”
Since April 2018, when police announced they had apprehended Joseph DeAngelo, the man they alleged to be the long-elusive Golden State Killer, the floodgates have opened.
The key insight responsible for DeAngelo’s arrest came courtesy of a then-little-known forensic technique known as genetic genealogy: a method in which investigators try to link crime scene DNA to DNA from biological relatives in the hopes of generating leads for identifying suspects or remains. The science behind the technique has been around for a while. Yet the real potential to get hits in these searches has only been made possible by the recent advent of online, easily accessible DNA databases like GEDmatch (where police got a match for a distant relative of DeAngelo’s) and FamilyTreeDNA—sites that now boast more than 1 million user profiles each. Many of these come from individuals who uploaded their own genetic data from popular consumer DNA testing kits like 23andMe and AncestryDNA.
At 9:00 a.m. last December 14, a man in Orange County, California, discovered he’d been robbed. Someone had swiped his Volkswagen Golf, his MacBook Air and some headphones. The police arrived and did something that is increasingly a part of everyday crime fighting: They swabbed the crime scene for DNA.
Normally, you might think of DNA as the province solely of high-profile crimes—like murder investigations, where a single hair or drop of blood cracks a devilish case. Nope: These days, even local cops are wielding it to solve ho-hum burglaries. The police sent the swabs to the county crime lab and ran them through a beige, photocopier-size “rapid DNA” machine, a relatively inexpensive piece of equipment affordable even by smaller police forces. Within minutes, it produced a match to a local man who’d been previously convicted of identity theft and burglary. They had their suspect.
POLICE FOUND 19 spent shell casings scattered in the San Diego street where Gregory Benton was murdered on April 12, 2014. Benton and his cousin had gone to buy cigarettes, a witness later said. As they returned to a family party, two men pulled up in a car behind them. They got out, and at least one of them opened fire.
Witnesses didn’t get a good look at the men or the car, so when police sat down to review their leads, the shell casings were the best evidence they had. They sent the casings to the San Diego Police Crime Lab, which just happened to be trying out a new DNA testing technique.
One night in November 1999, a 26-year-old woman was raped in a parking lot in Grand Rapids, Mich. Police officers managed to get the perpetrator’s DNA from a semen sample, but it matched no one in their databases.
Detectives found no fingerprints at the scene and located no witnesses. The woman, who had been attacked from behind, could not offer a description. It looked like the rapist would never be found.
The Orlando Police Department is seeking state funding to buy a new DNA-testing technology that would allow officers to test and compare evidence in less than two hours, without shipping it to a state lab.
In its pitch for $250,000 to Orange County’s legislative delegation, the agency said the technology, known as Rapid DNA, “has the potential to change the paradigm for law enforcement and its capacity to solve cases,” including by identifying suspects or linking crime scenes.
March 5, 2019 @ 2:00 p.m. Eastern, 60 minutes
This session will focus on helping your client navigate the landscape of DNA dystopia. Learn about DNA collection of minors; expansion of rogue databases; spread of Rapid DNA; the mining of genealogical databases by law enforcement; and the linking of forensic databases with genealogical ones. Attend this session and learn how to fight these threats to your clients’ privacy rights in the age of genetic surveillance.
Thursday, February 21, 2019
7:30-8:30 Continental Breakfast provided
8:30- 8:45 Opening Remarks- Tania Alavi
8:45-10:15 DNA for Dummies- Deborah A. Goins
10:15-10:30 Networking Break
10:30-11:30 Effectively Working with Experts- Kate O’Shea & Dr. Heather Holmes
11:30-12:30 Case Law Update- Peter N. Mills
12:30-1:30 Lunch on your own
1:30-2:30 National Trends- Emily Olson-Gault
2:30-3:45 Preservation Capital Record- Valerie Linnen
3:45-4:00 Networking Break
4:00-5:00 The Art of Storytelling: What modern Story Theory reveals about structuring our clients’ narratives in ways that inspire understanding and empathy in jurors- Melissa Fay Greene Keynote Speaker
Friday, February 22, 2019
8:00-9:00 Continental Breakfast provided
9:00-9:15 Opening Remarks- Tania Alavi
9:15-10:45 Latest developments in Neuroimaging- Dr. James R. Merikangas
10:45-11:00 Networking Break
11:00-12:00 Roper Extension- Karen M. Gottlieb and Dr. Neena Malik
12:00-1:00 Lunch on your own
1:00-2:00 Death Penalty Practice from a Prosecutor’s Point of View- Brian Cavanagh and Catherine Vogel
2:00-3:30 Jury Selection- Matt Rubenstein
3:30-3:45 Closing Remarks
Last week, the National Association for Public Defense (NAPD) hosted a webinar on DNA basics.
DNA no longer means do not acquit. This presentation will help you understand the steps of DNA testing; the different DNA statistics used in cases; the charts in a typical DNA file; and challenges that you could be making against DNA evidence.
DNA labs are increasingly turning to sophisticated computer programs to unravel increasingly complex DNA mixtures. This webinar will help you understand how probabilistic genotyping systems work, explore the limitations of these programs and discuss legal challenges that could be made to them.