Category Archives: Forensic DNA

Journal articles relating to forensic DNA including disaster victim identification.

‘Unreliable’ Articles, ‘Trial By Literature’ Revisited

New York Law Journal 12 May 2014

This column revisits a challenging topic that cuts across the spectrum of complex litigation—the reliance upon and use of unreliable hearsay literature by expert testifiers. Often these are technical or scientific articles published in some journal with a claim that the published work product has been “peer reviewed.”

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See also  ‘Unreliable’ Articles: More on Peer Review’s Frailties

 

DNA Analysis of Fingernail Clippings An Unusual Case Report

Am J Forensic Med Pathol 2014;35: 96-99

The case of an unusual DNA analysis of fingernail clippings
is described. A 20-year-old woman died of strangulation, and her former
boyfriend entered the police’s sight as suspect through rapid investigation
and inspection. Genomic DNA from debris scraped underneath the
suspect’s fingernail was extracted 2 days after the incident using the
modified DNA pretreatment method. Finally, mixed DNA profiles were
observed from the suspect’s fingernail clippings, one of them originating
from the victim, which is consistent with the result of criminal investigation.
With the support of strong evidence, the suspect soon confessed.
In this case, it was really unusual in practice that fingernail debris
extracted from the suspect was used to accuse the suspect himself. This
case demonstrates the usefulness of the modified DNA pretreatment
method and the possibility of getting DNA profiles from fingernail
clippings with 2 days’ lapse between the incident and recovery of the
evidential material.

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Hospital wet mount examination for the presence of sperm in sexual assault cases is of questionable value

 

Journal of Forensic Sciences  Volume 59, Issue 3, pages 729–734, May 2014;  DOI: 10.1111/1556-4029.12398

Many protocols for the examination of sexual assault victims include the preparation of vaginal wet mount slides to determine whether sperm are present and if so, whether the sperm are motile. We have reviewed findings in 501 case reports to compare the efficiency of sperm detection on wet mounts to subsequent crime laboratory results of sperm searches on vaginal swabs. Sperm were detected on wet mounts in only 41% of cases in which sperm were detected in the crime laboratory. Motile sperm were observed in only 12% of cases reporting a 0–9 h postcoital interval; in three cases, motile sperm were seen at 15 h and beyond, indicating that motile sperm are not reliable evidence of a short postcoital interval. These findings demonstrate that wet mount examinations are of little value in guiding subsequent analyses in the crime laboratory or in corroborating other investigative aspects of the case.

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Retrospective study of the impact of miniSTRs on forensic DNA profiling of touch DNA samples

Science & Justice Available online 17 June 2014;  DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2014.05.009

The theoretical advantages of miniSTRs are undeniable. Several studies show that miniSTRs are more sensitive and robust in the analysis of low template and degraded DNA. In this study we want to show the overall benefit of using miniSTRs in real forensic casework samples and show the percentage of samples that benefit from analysis with additional miniSTR loci in terms of resulting in a useful profile. The considered samples were 3064 touch DNA samples, analyzed in our accredited routine forensic DNA profiling laboratory between mid 2009 and mid 2013. Of these 3064 samples, 618 samples were analyzed using 13 loci, 532 samples using 15 loci and 1914 samples using 20 loci of which 5 were the mini- and midi-STR loci that were added to the extended European Standard Set (ESS). The retrospective results show a small increased success rate after implementation of extra loci and an even smaller increase after the implementation of the mini- and midi-STR analysis. The percentage of touch DNA samples that benefit from the analysis of additional mini- and midi-STR loci is limited.

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Forensic DNA databases: Ethical and legal standards: A global review

Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences Available online 7 June 2014;  DOI: 10.1016/j.ejfs.2014.04.002

Background

The Forensic Genetics Policy Initiative (www.dnapolicyinitiative.org) is a civil society-led project which aims to set human rights standards for DNA databases around the world, by establishing best practice and involving experts, policy makers and members of the public in open debate. The authors have collected a comprehensive data set of information on the state of forensic DNA profiling and the development of DNA databases for policing purposes in more than 100 countries. The information is available in wiki which can be expanded, updated or corrected by interested persons (http://wiki.dnapolicyinitiative.org).

Results

A summary of the current global situation and issues for debate highlights: (1) a growing global consensus on the need for legislative provisions for the destruction of biological samples and deletion of innocent people’s DNA profiles, following the European Court of Human Rights’ judgement on this issue in 2008; (2) emerging best practice on scientific standards and standards for the use of DNA in court which are necessary to prevent miscarriages of justice; (3) ongoing debate regarding the appropriate safeguards for DNA collection from suspects; restrictions on access, use and data sharing across borders; and data protection standards.

Conclusion

There is an ongoing need for greater public and policy debate as DNA databases expand around the world. Some safeguards are implemented at the national or regional level but there is an ongoing lack of global standards and a need for more societal engagement and debate.

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Forensic informatics enabling forensic intelligence

Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences Troy O’Malley Published online: 03 Jun 2014

The utility of forensic informatics gained momentum in Queensland over a decade ago and was instrumental in identifying leakage points in forensic performance, the removal of backlogs and the provision of real-time feedback to forensic practitioners and investigating police. This paper provides insight into the evolution of forensic practice in Queensland, highlighting both the organisational challenges and the information system architecture, which established workflows tailored to the timely production of forensic intelligence to reduce, disrupt and prevent crime.

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Forensic data exchange: ensuring integrity

Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences Published online: 12 May 2014

A growing chorus of forensic professionals believe that forensic science has undersold its potential contribution to crime reduction and has a more significant role to play in policing, with collation and analysis of forensic information used to inform policing tactics, operations or strategy. Domestic law enforcement agencies, as producers, consumers and purveyors of forensic information and intelligence, are also responding to political pressures to expand and accelerate their technological abilities to gather and disseminate forensic information and intelligence within expanding operational boundaries. For example, there are a number of agreements that promise the automated exchange of forensic data internationally, in particular fingerprints and DNA profiles, and many that share other law enforcement information via a variety of channels. However, there is yet to be any detailed consideration of the multifaceted issues raised by the production of forensic intelligence, and the impact of direct access and/or exchanges of forensic intelligence. While technologies are increasingly interoperable, traditional parameters restraining law enforcement information sharing are increasingly inadequate. The lack of oversight of the transnational flows of law enforcement information mean that current processes lack transparency and, consequently, citizens’ ability to know of, understand, and challenge exchanges of their data is almost non-existent. Yet the expectation is that the power to generate, gather, store and share forensic intelligence will be used with integrity. Integrity is essential for generalised trust among not just the direct consumers of forensic intelligence, but also the public. For the integrity of forensic intelligence to be maintained, critical attention must be paid not only to the viability of forensic intelligence production and sharing, but also to its legitimacy and acceptability.

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Response to Recommendation 2 of the 2009 NAS Report—Standards for Formatting and Reporting Expert Evaluative Opinions: Where Do We Stand?

Forensic Science Policy & Management: An International Journal Volume 5, Issue 1-2, 2014 Published online: 04 Jun 2014

Over four years ago, the 2009 US National Academy of Sciences report on forensic science was published, revealing that few formal standards existed in the forensic sciences. The second recommendation of the NAS report related to the language of reporting. This two-fold recommendation urged that templates for expert reports be developed and that the language and terminology of the reports and related expert testimony be standardized. This paper offers a response to Recommendation 2 of the NAS report and a research update. Since the release of the NAS report, Standards Australia has developed a set of forensic standards, including one for reporting. In light of Recommendation 2 of the NAS report and the Australian Standard for reporting, we outline current reporting practices of forensic science in the Australian context, and review research about the communication of forensic science, highlighting recent Australian research undertaken at two universities. We discuss the progress made to date in the development of best practice in expert reports and language use, introduce new directions for developing communicative excellence amongst forensic scientists, and suggest future research directions.

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DNA and RNA analysis of blood and muscle from bodies with variable postmortem intervals

Forensic Science, Medicine, and Pathology June 2014

The breakdown of DNA and RNA in decomposing human tissue represents a major obstacle for postmortem forensic molecular analysis. This study investigated the feasibility of performing PCR-based molecular analysis of blood and muscle tissue from 45 autopsy cases with defined postmortem intervals ranging from one to more than 14 days. It was not possible to collect blood from 38 % of the autopsy cases due to severe coagulation and hemolysis, whereas muscle tissue was available for all cases. PCR-amplifiable DNA could be extracted from 96 % of the frozen muscle specimens and from 93 % of the formalin fixed and paraffin embedded (FFPE) muscle specimens. A quality assessment of muscle-derived DNA showed increased fragmentation with advancing body decomposition and generally more fragmentation in DNA from FFPE tissue than in DNA from frozen tissue. It was possible to amplify 1,000 basepair (bp) DNA fragments from all samples with postmortem intervals below 3 days whereas 400–600 bp long fragments typically could be amplified from the most decomposed muscle specimens. RNA was less stable than DNA in postmortem muscle tissue, yet selected mRNA molecules could be detected by reverse-transcriptase PCR in all samples up to 3 days after death. We conclude that analysis of DNA from bodies with a wide postmortem interval range is usually possible whereas the consistency of RNA analyses decreases considerably 3 days postmortem. We showed that muscle tissue is a highly usable source of DNA and RNA for postmortem forensic molecular analysis as well as for retrospective research projects based on archived FFPE specimens.

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The Victorian missing persons DNA database – two interesting case studies

Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences Published online: 10 Jun 2014

The investigation of missing persons often requires the reconciliation of what is known about the missing person in life (ante-mortem information) with information obtained from the post-mortem examination of unknown deceased persons, when the missing person is presumed deceased. In most missing persons cases, the ante-mortem information will include personal information as well as any dental and medical records; with some also including fingerprint information. In Victoria, this information is captured by Victoria Police using PlassData, as a repository of information. Whilst PlassData can be used to record vital DNA profiling information, what is lacking is the ability to conduct direct or kinship searches to look for matches between missing persons cases and unidentified deceased. In 2010, the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, in collaboration with Victoria Police, established the Victorian Missing Persons DNA Database – capable of conducting kinship and direct searches using both nuclear and mitochondrial DNA profiling data. Here we describe two interesting case studies; the first highlights the need to conduct at least two types of DNA analysis – such as nuclear and mitochondrial DNA analyses – to confirm a match; and the second, the importance of such a database to identify cold cases.

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