NY District Court Denies Motion to Preclude DNA Software Analysis

February 6, 2020 — A U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York has denied a defendant’s motion to preclude expert testimony regarding the results of a DNA analysis produced by using STRmix – forensic software used to resolve mixed DNA profiles.

Noting that “courts have overwhelmingly admitted expert testimony based on STRmix results,” District Court Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. rejected defense concerns over the DNA analysis of a hat and bandana allegedly worn by the perpetrator of an attempted robbery in Eastern District of New York v. Tambhia Tucker (18 CR 0119 (SJ)).

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for New York City determined with a high degree of support that the defendant was included as a contributor to the DNA recovered from both the hat and the bandana.

In denying the motion to preclude, Judge Johnson pointed out that STRmix “is currently in use in over 40 states and federal laboratories in the United States and in at least 13 other countries.”

The order went on to state, “The software and its underlying principles have been peer-reviewed in more than 90 articles,” while “knowledgeable bodies,” such as the DNA Subcommittee of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science, “have evaluated the software and approved its use.”

While the court recognized there may be gaps in the understanding of the full reliability of STRmix and probabilistic genotyping more broadly, it concluded, “In recent years, confidence in the reliability of STRmix has only grown.”

The defense motion relied largely on a September 2016 report by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) which highlighted shortcomings in the field of forensic science, including DNA testing. The court, however, noted that the PCAST report’s concerns over DNA testing applied to DNA mixtures from three or more contributors. Mixtures in the current case came from only two contributors.

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