Category Archives: Forensic DNA

Journal articles relating to forensic DNA including disaster victim identification.

Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence: Third Edition (2011)

National Academies Press  ISBN: 978-0-309-21421-6

The Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Third Edition, assists judges in managing cases involving complex scientific and technical evidence by describing the basic tenets of key scientific fields from which legal evidence is typically derived and by providing examples of cases in which that evidence has been used.

First published in 1994 by the Federal Judicial Center, the Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence has been relied upon in the legal and academic communities and is often cited by various courts and others. Judges faced with disputes over the admissibility of scientific and technical evidence refer to the manual to help them better understand and evaluate the relevance, reliability and usefulness of the evidence being proffered. The manual is not intended to tell judges what is good science and what is not. Instead, it serves to help judges identify issues on which experts are likely to differ and to guide the inquiry of the court in seeking an informed resolution of the conflict.

The core of the manual consists of a series of chapters (reference guides) on various scientific topics, each authored by an expert in that field. The topics have been chosen by an oversight committee because of their complexity and frequency in litigation. Each chapter is intended to provide a general overview of the topic in lay terms, identifying issues that will be useful to judges and others in the legal profession. They are written for a non-technical audience and are not intended as exhaustive presentations of the topic. Rather, the chapters seek to provide judges with the basic information in an area of science, to allow them to have an informed conversation with the experts and attorneys.

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Differentiating between monozygotic twins through DNA methylation-specific high-resolution melt curve analysis

Analytical Biochemistry Available online 10 February 2015;  doi:10.1016/j.ab.2015.02.001

Although short tandem repeat profiling is extremely powerful in identifying individuals from crime scene stains, it is unable to differentiate between monozygotic (MZ) twins. Efforts to address this include mutation analysis through whole genome sequencing and through DNA methylation studies. Methylation of DNA is affected by environmental factors; thus, as MZ twins age, their DNA methylation patterns change. This can be characterized by bisulfite treatment followed by pyrosequencing. However, this can be time-consuming and expensive; thus, it is unlikely to be widely used by investigators. If the sequences are different, then in theory the melting temperature should be different. Thus, the aim of this study was to assess whether high-resolution melt curve analysis can be used to differentiate between MZ twins. Five sets of MZ twins provided buccal swabs that underwent extraction, quantification, bisulfite treatment, polymerase chain reaction amplification and high-resolution melting curve analysis targeting two markers, Alu-E2F3 and Alu-SP. Significant differences were observed between all MZ twins targeting Alu-E2F3 and in four of five MZ twins targeting Alu-SP (P < 0.05). Thus, it has been demonstrated that bisulfite treatment followed by high-resolution melting curve analysis could be used to differentiate between MZ twins.

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Case of the month – Academic Forensic Pathology

*Please click on the title link to request a copy of the article* (QH staff only)

Volume 5, number 1. March 2015

Acute coronary artery thrombosis associated with synthetic cannabinoid intoxication / Stephanie A. Dean [et al…]

Postmortem diagnosis of primary small bowel volvulus in an adult / F. Garavan & H. Hameed

 Beyond the boundaries of forensic toxicology – the use of an atypical consultant in a rare case of cerberin poisoning / E. R. Severson [et al…]

Homicide versus hypothermia? An unusual case of hypothermia related to colloid cyst of the third ventricle / E. J. Schafer & J. A. Prahlow

The importance of genetic testing in a case of sudden death in hypertrophic cardiomyopathy due to troponin I mutation / Vivian Snyder [et al…]

 

Forensic intelligence: articles from Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences Volume 47, Issue 1, 2015

Forensic intelligence: commentary

The term ‘forensic intelligence’ and the benefits it brings do seem somewhat axiomatic; however, my perspective on this has evolved from my time as a police director of intelligence and a scientific support manager, followed by six years as the UK Forensic Science Regulator (for details of the role see http://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/forensic-science-regulator). Having lived through the introduction of the UK national intelligence model I have seen at first hand the benefits of well modelled intelligence strategies and systems. I have long believed that forensic practitioners and methods, both within the police and their supporting forensic science laboratories, have endless potential to feed timely and accurate information into the investigation and detection of crime at all stages of the process. The police objective of community safety is achieved through a range of actions that, in modern policing, involves much more than crime investigation and detection. We have learnt the benefits of proactive approaches that feed into and from intelligence that is focused and timely. Sadly, though, forensic science has remained largely a reactive tool that is deployed after the event and in support of a particular investigation. This series of papers seeks to change this paradigm and is to be applauded for the visionary use of forensic science as an intelligence tool that breaks free from the traditional reactive model.
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Introduction

Intelligence began as a military tool and has been in practice for centuries. David Kuhn1 refers to Sun Tzu who is credited with writing ‘The Art of War’ in the sixth century AD and quotes Tzu as saying:
Now the reason the enlightened prince and the wise general conquer the enemy wherever they move and their achievements surpass those of ordinary men is foreknowledge.
Intelligence has also been a law enforcement tool over many years. References date back to policing practices in the time of Louis XIV of France (1667) and Thames policing in the UK in the eighteenth century. David L. Carter2 refers to law enforcement intelligence units in US police forces in the 1920s producing dossiers on known criminals as early forms of the tool and there are many other examples through history.
The production and use of intelligence from a forensic science perspective is more recent again. It was brought into focus through a study ‘Using Forensic Science Effectively’ by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the Forensic Science Service (FSS)3 in 1996. This was at a time when the DNA database was being established in the UK.
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Elements of a forensic intelligence model

Intelligence began as a military tool and has been in practice for centuries. Relatively speaking, forensic intelligence is in its infancy as the focus of forensic science has traditionally been the courts and the resolution of crime. The focus for forensic intelligence is crime prevention, crime disruption and a reduced fear of crime and there is an emphasis on quick results. The usual chronic backlogs that haunt forensic science prevent quick results and so the default position is courts and crime resolution. However, in a number of jurisdictions in Australia, the introduction of at-scene or on-submission triaging and the digital capture, transmission and comparison of fingerprints is leading to a marked reduction in turnaround times for forensic science results; particularly those that are effective sources of intelligence. Aspects of forensic science service delivery such as organisational structure and culture, IT capability, the relationship between police and scientists and interim reporting need to be re-considered as key elements in a forensic intelligence model. However, forensic intelligence should not stand on its own. It should become an integral part of the overall investigative tool and intelligence-led strategies.
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The landscape of forensic intelligence research

Criminology, forensic science and policing scholars have a significant role to play in exploring new developments and directions in modern policing. Yet while the concept of forensic intelligence has caught the attention of a number of policing agencies around the world, it has yet to become a mainstream undertaking. In part this is an artefact of a pragmatic policing culture that only institutes new practices based on demonstrable, research and practice-based effectiveness. Here, we seek to draw attention to efforts in the scholarly community to accumulate a body of evidence on the efficacy of forensic intelligence. The article describes the international landscape of research pertaining to the development of forensic intelligence. We outline the key use of digitised, triangulated data on biometrics, scene of crime and illicit substances. In doing so, we draw attention to the challenges remaining for scholars and professionals to further understand and advance the use of forensic intelligence in mainstream policing.
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Forensic informatics enabling forensic intelligence

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

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.
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Education and training in forensic intelligence: a new challenge

From recent calls for positioning forensic scientists within the criminal justice system, but also policing and intelligence missions, this paper emphasises the need for the development of educational and training programmes in the area of forensic intelligence. It is argued that an imbalance exists between perceived and actual understanding of forensic intelligence by police and forensic science managers, and that this imbalance can only be overcome through education. The challenge for forensic intelligence education and training is therefore to devise programmes that increase forensic intelligence awareness, firstly for managers to help prevent poor decisions on how to develop information processing. Two recent European courses are presented as examples of education offerings, along with lessons learned and suggested paths forward. It is concluded that the new focus on forensic intelligence could restore a pro-active approach to forensic science, better quantify its efficiency and let it get more involved in investigative and managerial decisions. A new educational challenge is opened to forensic science university programmes around the world: to refocus criminal trace analysis on a more holistic security problem solving approach.
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Forensic intelligence: deregulation or return to the roots of forensic science?

This paper presents an overview of forensic intelligence through historical, operational and academic considerations. While forensic intelligence is thriving through new traceability of human activities, theoretical developments in policing and innovative technologies, it should mainly be seen as an opportunity for forensic science to contribute to making policing more ‘scientific’ in the broad sense. This paper supports the development of a modern framework to holistically use the information conveyed by forensic case data to inform policing processes, support decision-making and ensure transparency. It is argued that the scientific information, the trace, has to be privileged, rather than rejected from current debates, despite the potential fears prompted by the misinterpretation of the term ‘intelligence’. Ultimately, forensic intelligence enables the emergence of a modern conception of forensic science.
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The applied use of forensic intelligence for community and organised crime

This paper describes the implementation of Forensic Intelligence (FORINT) practices over a two-year period within the Australian Federal Police. As an example of this, it looks at FORINT as applied to community crime within the capital city of Canberra and an innovative FORINT approach to combatting the use of the parcel post system by organised crime to import illicit goods into Australia. The paper explores the optimal environment required to enable FORINT to survive and thrive within a policing and forensic laboratory context.
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DNA contamination minimisation – finding an effective cleaning method

Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences Published online: 18 Feb 2015

Recent environmental monitoring studies have highlighted a need to confirm cleaning procedures are performing to suitable levels for highly sensitive STR kits such as PowerPlex 21. To ensure that DNA contamination minimisation procedures are adequate, we have investigated the efficacy of sodium hypochlorite and a commercial, non-corrosive alternative, Virkon, at a range of concentrations for their DNA decontamination ability. Cleaning solutions were trialled across a range of body fluids and surface types, to cover the variety of potential contamination circumstances encountered within typical forensic laboratories. Given all factors tested, it was concluded that a 1% solution of sodium hypochlorite, sprayed on the surface and left for 5 min before drying and wiping with 70% ethanol, was able to remove DNA, saliva, blood, semen and skin cells from both smooth and pitted surfaces. However, safety testing revealed that the combination of hypochlorite and ethanol produced levels of gaseous chlorine at or above the recommended exposure limits. Subsequently, a cleaning protocol of 1% hypochlorite followed by distilled water was tested for efficacy, and subsequently introduced throughout the laboratory.

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Validation Studies on DNA Mixtures Using the PowerPlex® Fusion 6C System Webinar [Slides Available]

Promega Webinar by Dr Antonio Alonso Alonso 5 February 2015

This presentation will describe the validation studies conducted with the PowerPlex® Fusion 6C System using an Applied Biosystems® 3500 Genetic Analyzer for fragment detection, with special emphasis on the analysis of DNA mixtures. DNA mixture analysis included two DNA mixture series of female (major component)/male (minor component) and 15 body fluid mixed samples from previous GEDNAP (http://www.gednap.de) and GHEP-ISFG (http://www.gep-isfg.org) proficiency exercises.

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Click here to read the related article in Forensic Science International : Genetics

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New in the Library Reference Collection – Expert Evidence

Expert evidence : law, practice, procedure and advocacy, 5th ed. / Ian Freckelton & Hugh Selby (2013)

Expert Evidence: Law, Practice, Procedure and Advocacy is the acclaimed work of first resort for analysing the complex law and practice surrounding expert witnesses and expert evidence in personal injury, commercial, criminal and family law litigation.

As well as setting out and interpreting the complex common law and statutory criteria for expert evidence admissibility, the book also provides guidance in relation to how most effectively expert witnesses can provide their opinions and how they can be made accountable for their views. It scrutinises disciplinary and civil law repercussions for substandard expert evidence and analyses  the forensic application of codes of ethics for experts that have been promulgated in all jurisdictions.

The 5th edition is revised to accommodate the increasing application of the uniform evidence legislation and also deals with a wide range of new areas of scientific, medical, financial and social science evidence that are being adduced in Australia’s courts.

This text has been added to the Library’s Reference Collection and is available for use in the Library.

If you are interested in purchasing this latest edition for your laboratory or work area, please contact Information & Research Services for pricing and availability.