125th SEMI-ANNUAL SEMINAR (Spring 2015)
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF CRIMINALISTS
May 4-8, 2015
THE ROLE OF FORENSIC MICROSCOPY IN THE SOLUTION OF THE GREEN RIVER SERIAL MURDERS
The Green River Murder Case was, in terms of the number of victims involved, the largest serial murder case in U.S. history. At the height of the investigation, it was believed that the killer had murdered between 64 and 104 young women. After nearly 20 years, a suspect named Gary Ridgway was arrested and charged with four of the murders based on DNA evidence. Ridgway steadfastly denied his guilt and the prosecution turned to trace evidence for help in determining if there was any connection to the many other victims that had not been charged to him.
Microscopic evidence, two orders of magnitude smaller than the particles the police had been working with, was discovered on the remaining clothing of several of the as yet uncharged victims. The particles were microscopic spheres of spray paint of an unusual chemical composition. The story of how these particles were located, isolated and analyzed to identify their source and how this information ultimately led directly to the confession of Ridgway to 48 of the murders will be described in this presentation. The little known story of how Ridgway was very close to being tracked down within three years after the first victims were discovered by these same particles will also be explained as a reminder of the often unrecognized value of properly analyzed microscopic trace evidence as investigative aids in serial crimes.
UPDATE OF OSAC - THE ORGANIZATION OF SCIENTIFIC AREA COMMITTEES
Mark D. Stolorow
The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) has more than 500 members including forensic science practitioners, academic researchers, measurement scientists, statisticians, lawyers, judges, psychologists and accreditation experts. The consensus-based documentary standards and guidelines approved for posting on the OSAC Registry of Approved Standards and Registry of Approved Guidelines will be considered by laboratories as standard methods for specific analyses, potential discipline specific standards for consideration by accrediting bodies offering accreditation services in the forensic industry, and officers of the court when evaluating processes employed and testimony given by forensic science experts.
This presentation will update the OSAC infrastructure, membership and operational functions. There are five Scientific Area Committees (SACs) including 1) Biology/DNA, 2) Chemistry/Instrumental Analysis, 3) Crime Scene/Medicolegal Death Investigation, 4) Digital Evidence/Multimedia, and 5) Physical/Pattern Interpretation. There are 24 discipline-specific Subcommittees assigned to the 5 SACs. Over 540 subject matter experts (volunteers) have been appointed to OSAC and the first public meetings to disclose the 2015 action plans were presented at the American Academy of Forensic Sciences Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida on February 16-17, 2015. An update of OSAC activities will be provided to the CAC membership.
A LABORATORY DIRECTOR'S PERSPECTIVE ON MEETING THE DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO CONFRONTATION OF SCIENTIFIC WITNESSES
Dr. Barry Logan
Over the last six years there have been a series of cases from the US supreme court further interpreting the sixth amendment right to confrontation outlined in Crawford v Washington, specifically with respect to forensic science testimony, and revolving around the issue of who does the state need to produce to meet its constitutional burden for confrontation by the defendant of his accusers. The cases, Melendez Diaz, Bullcoming, Williams and Briscoe, all agree that forensic science evidence is testimonial and needs to be introduced by a competent and relevant witness. The US Supreme Court however, has not yet provided a definition of whom that witness is. This has left the forensic science community, and state supreme courts reading the tea leaves and coming up with a patchwork of rulings that have addressed some case specific facts, but lacking any broader guidance. This presentation evaluates the options that laboratories and the courts have for entering scientific reports into evidence, and balances those against day-to-day operational challenges in forensic science; running the lab, supervising and developing people, scheduling work assignments, and managing backlogs and deadlines imposed by court dates. Keeping in mind the truth-finding function of the courts, what are workable solutions that accommodate the defendant's rights, and don't create unmanageable burdens for the lab?
FUTURE OF CRIME SCENES
There have been tremendous strides in forensic science and crime scene analysis in the past 100 years in both the science and the application of technology. In this lecture, we will explore what current research is being performed and what crime scenes of the future will be like for law enforcement and laboratories.
REGIONAL INTER-AGENCY PARTNERSHIP WITH CODIS
Brian Burritt and Shelley Webster
In this presentation, the speakers will discuss new efforts in the San Diego region that attempt to increase the value of existing DNA testing and CODIS matches. These efforts involve coordination and teamwork between the San Diego Police and Sheriff's laboratories and the San Diego County District Attorney's Office, as well as additional coordination between units within the laboratories.
These efforts include the regular sharing of Suspect's DNA profiles between the two regional crime laboratories, communication of CODIS hit information to the San Diego County District Attorney's office for incorporation into their Case Management System and to allow DA's office follow-up with investigators, and the creation of a single database for cross checking of DNA and Fingerprint matches. The presenters hope to provide information that could inspire similar programs in other jurisdictions.
MEANWHILE, DOWN AT THE COURTHOUSEâ€¦
This presentation will address current legal issues of interest. Topics may include litigation over arrestee DNA samples at the California Supreme Court, a new state law addressing expert testimony in habeas corpus proceedings, admissibility of psychological diagnosis and expert medical testimony, rape kit backlog legislation, and federal forensic science "reform" efforts.
THE OSAC HUMAN FACTORS COMMITTEE
Dr. William Thompson
Human Factors is a field that studies ways to improve human performance, particular on tasks involving complex judgment and decision making. Human Factors is also about improving the efficiency, accuracy and morale of organizations and reducing the potential for error, bias and misconduct. This presentation by the vice-chair of the OSAC Human Factors Committee (HFC) will discuss ways the HFC is working with OSAC subcommittees to address various human factors issues in forensic science, including quality control and error management, reduction of the potential for contextual and cognitive bias, assessing fitness for duty, and maintaining an organizational culture conducive to scientific independence, quality work, and high morale. One focus will be the design of context management systems that can reduce the potential for contextual bias while assuring that analysts have access to all information that is relevant to their scientific judgments.
THE ST. JOHN VIANNEY CHURCH ARSON
Det. Ed Nordskog
This case study highlights the two year investigation into the massive, $10 million church arson of the St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Hacienda Heights. It will demonstrate a high level blend of forensic efforts, combined with street detective work and a very unique and sophisticated undercover operation that resulted in the conviction of an incredibly sophisticated arsonist.
LESSONS LEARNED? HOW ALLEGATIONS OF UNETHICAL BEHAVIOR MAY LEAD TO CHANGES FOR THE CAC
Over the past five years, allegations of unethical behavior have been filed against a few current and former CAC members. None of these allegations have resulted in a finding of an ethical violation at an ethics hearing. In response to the allegations and issues that came up during the subsequent investigations, the CAC Ethics Committee embarked on a process to review sections of the Bylaws, the Code of Ethics, and the Code of Ethics Enforcement Procedures to determine if changes were warranted. This presentation highlights this review process and provides a preview of possible upcoming changes to these documents.
COMBINED AUTOSOMAL STR AND Y-STR MULTIPLEX SYSTEM
The PowerPlexⓇ Fusion 6C System is a 6-color STR system for simultaneously amplifying 23 autosomal loci, three Y-STR loci, and Amelogenin. The twenty required (Amelogenin, D18S51, FGA, D21S11, D8S1179, vWA, D13S317, D16S539, D7S820, TH01, D3S1358, D5S818, CSF1PO, D2S1338, D19S433, D1S1656, D12S391, D2S441, D10S1248, DYS391) and three recommended (TPOX, D22S1045, SE33) proposed expanded CODIS core loci are combined with Penta D, Penta E, DYS570, and DYS576 to give this system a discriminatory power (PI = 1.80 x 10-32) that is over 108-fold higher than that for the twenty required expanded CODIS core loci (PI = 9.35 x 10-24). With DYS391 and nine autosomal loci being less than 250bp, the additional genetic information obtained with this 27-loci STR system will be extremely useful for analyzing degraded samples, where even a partial profile would be informative.
The DYS391 locus is included in the proposed expanded CODIS core loci for verification of gender in amelogenin null samples. However, it has one of the lowest locus variability values and does not significantly increase discriminatory power. In contrast, DYS570 and DYS576 have two of the highest locus variability values within American subpopulations and contribute more to the system's discriminatory power than DYS391. Additionally, because they are rapidly mutating Y-STRs, DYS570 and DYS576 provide the potential for separating close male relatives and further improving useful information from a single STR analysis. These three Y-STR loci will allow more confident determination of the number of male contributors in complex mixtures without the need for a separate Y-STR analysis, thus saving time and money.
This system is designed for 1ng of optimal input DNA template. The average peak height ratio is over 90% with 1ng DNA template and remains high (80%) with as low as 100pg DNA template. It is very sensitive and is capable of calling 98 ± 21% (average ± SD) of alleles with 100pg DNA template. Even with as low as 50pg DNA template, 77 ± 17% (average ± SD) of alleles are called. The system is also resistant to very high concentrations of PCR inhibitors. One-hundred percent of alleles are called in reactions containing up to 0.5mM hematin with this system. Improved resistance to humic acid and tannic acid is also observed.
To improve laboratory workflow efficiency, this system is designed for use with both casework samples as well with reference and database samples. Direct amplification of blood or buccal samples on multiple substrate types such as FTAⓇ card, nonFTA cards, and swabs eliminates the extraction process, which saves time and money. To further save time and improve efficiency, automation methods are available for multiple liquid handling platforms which result in over 95% first-pass success rate and minimizes potential cross-contamination.
APPLICATION OF RAMAN SPECTROSCOPY TO THE FORENSIC ANALYSIS OF DRUGS
Dr. Sergey Mamedov
Raman spectroscopy is a light scattering technique used for the identification of compounds. The scattered light which is specific to a particular compound is funneled to a detector enabling chemical identification. Raman analysis has been recognized to have potential for solving a wide variety of problems associated with forensic science.
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate some of the forensic applications of Raman spectroscopy, in particular, the capability of Raman spectroscopy to differentiate between compounds of similar structure. That is, Raman spectroscopy has the capability of detecting even slight differences in the chemical composition of a compound and, therefore, plays a vital role in helping to determine when drugs for example have been illegally manufactured. In order to illustrate the above mentioned, spectra of the two main forms of cocaine (cocaine hydrochloride and cocaine base) will be highlighted in this paper, as well as the ability of Raman spectroscopy to identify compounds in plastic bags/containers.
Raman spectra will be presented and method development including statistical analysis will be described. It will be shown that commercial software package is available and can provide quick identification of materials whose spectra have been collected in a library, or by comparison of samples that are suspected to be similar.
THE CHALLENGES OF EVIDENCE COLLECTION
Forensic nurse examiners are specially trained to integrate practical nursing with forensic knowledge to collect evidence from victims and perpetrators of sexual assault. Essentially, the human body functions as the crime scene. Appropriate collection and preservation of evidence is of utmost importance. The nurse examiner conducts a thorough head to toe examination to obtain every possible detail, ranging from those visible with the naked eye to detectable only at the microscopic level. As new collection techniques evolve, forensic nurses expend countless hours researching, peer reviewing, and consulting to ensure collection methods are up to date with best practice standards.
There are many obstacles a forensic nurse faces while collecting evidence from a victim. Unfortunately these obstacles may result in poorly collected evidence that may irreversibly damage the overall case. Ensure successful outcomes by understanding the challenges encountered in the acute setting and by fostering better collaborative relationships between the forensic nurse examiner and criminalist.
THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFF'S FORENSIC SCIENCE LABORATORY AND A BRIEF LOOK AT THE PIONEERING CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF CRIMINALISTS.
Dr. Peter R. De Forest
The founding of the Ventura County Sheriff/Coroners Lab took place in 1957. The first laboratory director was Elliott B. Hensel. At the time William Bill Hill was the sheriff and Dr. Gerald Ridge was the county coroner. The laboratory proper was a former ceramic tiled shower room for resident deputies in an earlier era. It was located in a third floor corner of what was then the Ventura County Courthouse on Poli Street in the City of Ventura. The historic building is now the City Hall for the City of Ventura.
The Laboratory was simple and crude. The laboratory benches and the fume hood were homemade. I was still a chemistry student when Elliott Hensel hired me. I started work toward the end of August in 1960. During the daytime we were the only laboratory personnel. On Saturday I worked alone. The Saturday hours allowed me to have a flexible schedule during the week to accommodate my coursework. At night a medical lab technician was on the graveyard shift to draw blood from DUIs. About a year later, Elliot Hensel resigned to accept a job with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), where he advised on setting up forensic science laboratories in several nations around the world. Thomas Weiland (from the LASD laboratory) was then hired to replace Elliott as laboratory director. Clearly, by modern standards, the laboratory was extremely low-tech. In addition to microscopes, the most sophisticated instrumentation was a Beckman single-beam UV/VIS spectrophotometer. Toward the end of my first year there we did acquire a packed-column gas chromatograph. The experience in the Ventura lab introduced me to criminalistics and changed the direction of my life. Elliott and Tom were wonderful mentors. I learned a great deal and became aware of Dr. Paul L. Kirk and the Criminalistics Program at the University of California at Berkeley. I discussed some of these early experiences in my Founders Lecture.
I don't have exact figures for the number of forensic science laboratories in the early 1960s, but my understanding at the time was that there were about 30 laboratories nationwide half of which were in California. The California laboratories were set up by the pioneering criminalists who founded the CAC. The CAC has continued their pioneering and visionary work. The contributions of the CAC and its members are legion.
A MOMENTOUS AND MOVING CASE
Lucien Haag and Alexander Jason
A recent civil trial arising out of an officer-involved shooting which resulted in a fatality focused on two important issues, a rearward movement of the subject's body purportedly caused by bullet impact and the time required to make an arm movement during the interval between the officer's two shots, both of which struck the subject with one of these shots striking the arm in question.
This presentation will discuss these issues and the methodology employed to make determinations relating to momentum transfer, perception-reaction time and reflexive movements. It will conclude by posing some thought-provoking questions to the attendees regarding the requirements and possible obligations of forensic practitioners who intend to present demonstrative tests in trials.
NATIONAL & UNIVERSITY LABORATORIES: AN IGNORED FORENSIC SCIENCE RESOURCE
Billions of dollars of tax payers' money is spent every year for the operation of national and university research laboratories. This is good! It is essential the United States maintain its edge in technology. However, as far as the examination of forensic evidence (not just research), these resources are today being ignored by the forensic science community. This is not just bad! It is extremely wasteful and does not serve justice. This presentation will examine how this situation came about, how it may be remedied, and provide examples.
DNA FINGERPRINTING OF CANNABIS SATIVA
Dr. Maria A. Mendoza
Cannabis sativa has been used throughout history for its stems in the production of hemp fiber, for its seed for oil and food, and for its buds and leaves as a psychoactive drug. Marijuana is a cannabis plant with high delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) content and it is the most frequently used of all illicit drugs in the United States. Short tandem repeats, STRs, provide an excellent method to assess genetic variation owing to their high information content, ease of genotyping, co-dominancy, high discriminatory power, and reproducibility.
In this study six STR markers previously described for Cannabis were multiplexed into one reaction. The six-plex was able to individualize 98 Cannabis samples (14 hemp and 84 marijuana, authenticated as originating from 33 of the 50 United States) and detect 29 alleles averaging 4.8 alleles per loci. Marijuana and hemp samples are too genetically similar and cannot be distinguished on the basis of the STR genotypes using this six-plex. Samples from the same geographical location (state) did not correlate to each other. Samples with similar cultivation methods, indoors versus outdoors, did not associate to one another. Plants with similar THC content did not group together based on their DNA profile.
The STR six-plex described was found to be reproducible, simple, efficient, and cost-effective. The ability to individualize marijuana samples to such a degree could serve as a forensic tool by using plant evidence in criminal casework and potentially aid in the identification of clonal marijuana, linking the major marijuana growers and distributors. The success of cannabis DNA typing illustrates how botanical evidence could be an added tool for criminal and civil casework.
BALLISTIC TRAJECTORY STUDY
Analysis of the trajectory of shots fired from a single, stationary weapon is often used to pinpoint the location of the shooter, as well as the relative posture and orientation of the target. Previous work by other investigators suggests that any individual trajectory, when traced back from the target to the shooter's location, has an approximate error rate of ± 5 degrees in predicting the shooter's location. This results in a 5 degree cone of possible shooter locations. When the shooter to target distance is large, the 5 degree cone of possibility can result in a potential area that is so large that making a functionally useful determination of the shooter's location is difficult or impossible. In cases where there are multiple shots fired, the power of statistical analysis can be used to better determine the shooter's location.
The study investigated the ability to predict the location of a shooter's weapon based upon trajectory analysis of multiple shots into a stiff substrate from a single location. The previous claim that the geometric center of the overlapping area of 5 degree cones is the statistically most likely location for the shooter's weapon was tested. In addition, the variability and error rates were compared for different calibers and angles of incidence. Laser-aligned trace back was performed on each trajectory rod and detailed with the 5 degree cone. The overlap of these cones was visualized and the known location of the weapon bore compared in 3D to the overlap area, to determine if and how close it lies to the geometric center of the overlap areas. The results will prove useful to the criminalist and ballistics analyst and will provide benchmarks for the variability and precision of these types of measurements common in shooting recreation.
BLOODSTAIN PATTERN INTERPRETATION AND TIME OF DEATH: A FRESH LOOK AT OLD PROBLEMS
This presentation is on current research at CSULA to advance bloodstain pattern analysis and forensic pathology. Three projects will be discussed:
- the use of miRNA tissue markers to correlate bloodstains with wounds;
- the development of an imaging system for area-of-origin determination; and
- the evaluation of hyperspectral imaging as a method to estimate time of death.
Bloodstains can be discovered during the course of an investigation, but their relationship to the crime is in question. The blood is often in low quantities and exhibits non-specific bloodstain patterns. However, we have demonstrated that bloodstains can contain trace amounts of wound cells, which on identification can provide information on the circumstances under which the blood was shed. At this presentation, we will discuss research on the use of miRNA tissue markers to identify wound cells in bloodstains resultant from gunshot wounds and stab wounds.
The area-of-origin of bloodstains can be estimated by the string and tangent methods. However, the methods are laborious and assume straight-line trajectories of blood drops. At this presentation, we will discuss the development of an imaging and computational system for the on-site determination of area-of-origin. The research and development is ongoing, and represents a collaboration between criminalistics and engineering faculty and students. Preliminary data shows the system to be greater in accuracy and speed than the manual tangent method.
Current methods to determine time-of-death are overall inaccurate, and many methods required invasive procedures and laboratory instrumentation. At this presentation, we will discuss our investigations on the use of the HyperMed OxyVu Hyperspectral Imaging System to determine time-of-death. The OxyVu Imaging System is a non- invasive spectroscopic instrument that measures dermal oxyhemoglobin (oxy) and deoxyhemoglobin (deoxy) levels. Human amputation specimens and rat carcasses have been examined with this instrument. One human specimen showed a linear relationship (R2 = 0.9374) between oxy/(oxy + deoxy) values and the time elapsed after amputation over a 58 hour period (the last time point collected). Rats examined for a period of four days after death showed a polynomial relationship (mean R2 = 0.9201) between oxy/(oxy + deoxy) values and the postmortem interval. Further research is needed to fully evaluate the application of the OxyVu system for time-of-death determinations.
BY A HAIR
Bill Haney, Margaret Schaeffer, and Dennis Fitzgerald
This presentation will outline the homicide investigation of Beatrice Bellis, an 87 year old woman who had been deaf and mute since her early childhood. In the presumed safety of her apartment at a senior living complex in the City of Port Hueneme, California, Mrs. Bellis became the victim of a brutal deadly attack. We will follow the chronological path of this years-long cold case investigation from the perspectives of the lead detective, the criminalist assigned to the case and the Deputy District Attorney who prosecuted the accused killer. This case demonstrates the necessity of crime scene documentation and on-scene evidence collection, proper handling and storage of particularly trace evidence, and serves as an example of the importance of inter-agency cooperation and team work in such a situation.
THE SIMULTANEOUS PROCESSING OF DNA, FINGERPRINTS, AND IGNITABLE LIQUID EVIDENCE ON MOLOTOV COCKTAILS
Kristin Allard, Kent Adamson, and Kristin Rogahn
The Ventura County Sheriff's Office Forensic Sciences Laboratory commonly receives Molotov cocktails as evidence from arson cases. In an attempt to obtain as much information as possible from each piece of evidence, the arson investigators submit requests for the items to be analyzed for DNA, fingerprints, and ignitable liquids. Our laboratory did not have a documented protocol for which analysis should be conducted first. This study was designed to test the detrimental effects of each analysis on the other types of evidence and determine the semi-quantitative extent to which they occur. With the results, an order of analysis would be determined for Molotov cocktails. Molotov cocktails were created in the laboratory by applying known amounts of DNA, fingerprints, and a gasoline soaked wick to each bottle. The bottles were then separated into three groups: survivability, in which the bottles were not exposed to any fire; self-extinguish, in which the wicks were lit and allowed to self-extinguish; and fire scene, in which the fire engulfed bottles were extinguished with water. Each of these groups was then divided into three subsets to alter the order of analyses and compare results. For DNA analysis, the mouth/neck of the bottles was swabbed with a moist cotton swab. The cotton swab was extracted using the QIAgen EZ1 Advanced XL BioRobot with an elution of 40 µL. The DNA extract was quantified using the Applied BiosystemsⓇ QuantifilerⓇ Trio DNA Quantification Kit on a 7500 Real-Time PCR System. If necessary, extracts were concentrated with Microcon Forensic Fast Flow filters. DNA was amplified with the Applied BiosystemsⓇ GlobalFiler™ PCR Amplification Kit and analyzed on a 3500 Genetic Analyzer. For fingerprint processing, the bottles were fumed with cyanoacrylate for 15 minutes and then dusted with bi-chromatic powder. Visible fingerprints were lifted onto white fingerprint cards. Some prints were "baked" into the soot on the bottle; these fingerprints were visually evaluated. For ignitable liquid analysis, bottles were sealed in non-porous nylon bags with an activated carbon strip for approximately 6 hours at 80°C. The carbon strip was eluted in CS2 and then analyzed on an Agilent GC/MS. The results of the study showed that fingerprint evidence can be degraded by prolonged exposure to gasoline in a sealed container, such as what is done during ignitable liquid analysis. The quantity of DNA evidence and ignitable liquid evidence both diminished with exposure to the fire, but were not significantly impacted by the order of analysis. Following this study, our laboratory recommended that arson investigators do the following:
- photograph a Molotov cocktail as collected from the scene,
- package the wick in a sealed, non-porous container for separate ignitable liquid analysis, and
- package the bottle/bottle remnants in a porous container for DNA analysis of the mouth of the bottle and fingerprint processing of the sides of the bottle.
Due to the sensitivity of the new GlobalFiler™ kit, it is recommended that DNA swabs be collected from the bottle prior to fingerprint processing to limit any possible contamination.
NEW TECHNOLOGIES FOR THE ANALYSIS OF CHALLENGING SAMPLES
Gina Pineda Murphy, M.S.
Typically, forensic DNA samples present multiple challenges including limited quality, limited quantity, the presence of PCR inhibitors and issues with result interpretation. These factors make it difficult to obtain interpretable profiles. Therefore, there is a need for more robust, highly sensitive, reproducible methods for DNA quantitation and typing when profiling these difficult samples. Downstream processing decisions, such as targeting amplification DNA amount based on quantitation results and the typing system best suited for a sample based on the quality of the DNA, are crucial in obtaining a typing result from these challenging samples.
We report here utilization of a combination of two recently developed technologies to improve the success rate for obtaining informative results from forensic samples, including highly compromised, degraded and trace samples. A quality/quantity sample assessment can be effective in determining which typing system to use, as well as how much DNA to take forward to the typing stage with the highest chance of first pass success rates, eliminating the need for repeat analysis.
A new DNA quantitation kit, InnoQuant™ is designed to generate more accurate and reproducible information about casework samples. This next generation DNA quantitation kit allows accurate quantitation at picogram levels (~1 pg) of two autosomal targets: a "short" Alu based target of 80 bp in size, and a "long" target from a separate retrotransposon of 207 bp in size. The large copy number of the selected targets (>1000 copies/genome) provides high sensitivity while minimizing the effect of variation between individuals, enabling high reproducibility for low level samples. Studies presented will demonstrate the ability of the InnoQuant™ kit to enable confident screening of negative samples and guide selection of optimal downstream typing methods and input DNA target amount, based on the sample's quantitation and degradation index (DI) values.
Additionally, the correlation between quantitation values, DI and profile recovery with property crime samples will be presented.
Once the determination is made for how much DNA to take forward to the typing stage with the highest chance of first pass success rate, several systems are now available to enhance a laboratory's ability to obtain a usable, interpretable DNA profile. One of these systems, the InnoTyper™ kit, is a small amplicon DNA typing system for challenging forensic samples that is compatible with currently used PCR/CE instrument platforms. The system contains 20 Alu retrotransposon element bi-allelic markers, ranging in size from 60-125 bp, making the assay highly sensitive for extremely degraded and/or low-level forensic samples, and enabling recovery of discriminating results from samples that would typically require mtDNA sequencing. The application of the InnoTyper™ system to challenging samples such as rootless hair shafts and degraded skeletal remain samples, will be presented.
Using data generated from multiple studies with real casework samples, this presentation will demonstrate the utility and efficacy of the InnoQuant™ and InnoTyper™ kits to improve processing decisions, prevent the consumption of limited samples, and increase workflow efficiency while increasing success rates with extremely challenging forensic samples.
STUDY OF CRITERIA INFLUENCING THE SUCCESS RATE OF DNA SWABS ANALYSIS IN OPERATIONAL CONDITIONS: A CONTRIBUTION TO AN EVIDENCE-BASED APPROACH TO CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION AND TRIAGE
Dr. Simon Baechler
DNA is nowadays swabbed every day to investigate serious and volume crimes, but research is surprisingly scarce when it comes to determining the criteria that may have an impact on the success rate of the analysis of DNA swabs performed on different surfaces and situations. In order to investigate these criteria in operational conditions, it was decided to consider retrospectively the analysis results of 4772 swabs performed - using the double swab technique â€“ by the forensic unit of a police department in Western Switzerland over a 3.5 year period (2012-2014) in volume crime cases.
A representative and random sample of 1236 swab analyses was selected to be extensively examined and codified, describing several criteria such as if the swab was performed on the scene or in the lab, the zone of the scene where the swab was performed, the kind of object or surface that was swabbed, if the target specimen was a touch surface or a biological fluid, and if the swab targeted a single surface or combined different surfaces. The impact of each criterion and of their combination was assessed in regard to the success rate of DNA analysis, measured through the quality of the resulting profile (number of loci out of the 16 of the NGM kit; one donor, mixture or not usable), as well as if the profile resulted in a hit in the national database or not.
Results show that some situations lead to a significant increase in the success rate of DNA analysis, indicating for instance that swabs performed on broken window/door handles, on glove prints, or on the surface of stones thrown through windows have a higher success rate than average swabs. Conversely, other situations lead to a marked decrease in the success rate, which should discourage further analyses of such swabs. Results also confirm that targeting a DNA swab on a single surface is preferable to swabbing different surfaces with the intent to aggregate cells deposited by the offender.
Such results assist in predicting the chance that the analysis of a swab performed in a given situation will lead to a positive result. The study could therefore be used to inform an evidence-based approach to decision-making at the crime scene (what to swab or not) and at the triage step (what to analyze or not), contributing thus to save resource and increase the efficiency of forensic science efforts, in particular in volume crime investigations.
UNUSUAL FINDINGS COMPOUNDED IN A PEDIATRIC FATALITY
FLOATING SUICIDE DEATHS
THE HISTORY OF DNA EVIDENCE AND THE RULE OF LAW; SCIENCE AND THE LAW, THREE DECADES, HOW HAS THE LAW CHANGED AND WHAT DOES A CALIFORNIA CRIMINALIST NEED TO KNOW?
Hon. Christopher J. Plourd
The goal of this presentation is to carry out a historical analysis of the development of Forensic DNA testing as it occurred in the United States and demonstrate the causal interplay and corresponding change to significant legal doctrines in the American judicial system. A review of key legal decisions that have direct application to California criminalist forensic practice will give insight as to how the legal landscape will be evolving in our Golden State. The California criminalist practitioner will learn what new law they need to know as expert witnesses.
The use of DNA evidence has had a profound effect on the adjudication of cases within our adversarial legal system. As a product of the unique power of DNA testing to correctly resolve factual issues, long held legal principals have been re-examined, both legislatively and through decisional law. Forensic Science is simply defined as the application of science to the law or legal matters. Through the scientific method of study, a scientist systematically observes physical evidence and methodically records the data that supports the scientific process. The law, on the other hand, starts out with at least two competing parties who use the courthouse as a battleground to resolve factual issues within the context of constitutional, statutory, and decisional law.
DNA analysis has set a high standard against which other forensic sciences are now being judged. Not only has DNA identity testing redefined the standard of acceptability of other scientific evidence, it has also fostered an awareness among juries that non-DNA based identification techniques are less supported scientifically. The2009 NAS report was critical in its assessment of some forensic disciplines. Lack of research supporting the basic tenets of techniques was noted. The gist of the NAS report was that the admittance of a scientific technique into the courtroom when there is very little to support its validity can have consequences that are potentially disastrous. As a result of the NAS report efforts are now being made to improve forensic science. The National Commission on Forensic Science and, more importantly for the California forensic practitioner, the Forensic Science Standards Board (FSSB) has been organized to improve the practice of the forensic sciences. The FSSB has started a Guideline and Standard Development process that will strengthen Forensic Science.
The catalyst for DNA's effect on the American legal system was the development and acceptance of DNA identification genetic testing which began in the 1980's. The use of DNA took firm root in the 1990's and was entrenched by the early 2000's. DNA is considered to be the proverbial "gold standard" of biological human identification. DNA profiling over the past three decades was the most significant advance in forensic Science since the development of fingerprinting in the 1900's. New types DNA are being evaluated along with related technologies, notably the continued development and expanded use of DNA data bases. Soon "Rapid DNA testing" technology will be emerging. The DNA revolution fundamentally changed what is Science.
A NATIONAL PERSPECTIVE ON FORENSIC SCIENCE: HOW THE NCFS WILL IMPACT OUR WORK
Dean M. Gialamas
The National Commission on Forensic Science was created in February 2013. This unique partnership between the US Department of Justice (US-DOJ) and the US Department of Commerce's National Institutes for Standards and Technology (NIST) formed a new era in oversight of the forensic sciences. Since the first meeting in February 2014, there have been many issues raised and discussed. There have also been formal positions and recommendations that the Commission has voted upon for review by the US Attorney General. This presentation will review the current status of the Commission dealings with a discussion on how this will impact laboratories as well as the bench- level criminalist.