In The News


2015-01-30 | Next-Gen Sequencing Maps ‘Highly Degraded’ DNA
Researchers obtain a more robust analysis of the DNA samples by analyzing short tandem repeats (STRs), along with other valuable genetic markers, like single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced “snips”) that regulate physical traits like eye and hair color, in the same data sets. With more information being examined from “highly degraded” samples, NGS technology can be critically important in cases concerning missing persons or unidentifiable human remains and in mass disaster situations, Holt said. With SNPs, the analysis can also determine valuable physical traits that can be useful to police for finding persons of interest, or limiting suspect pools in ongoing investigations. “There’s less money involved, less time and less effort,” Holt said, “with better quantitative and qualitative results at the end of the workflow.” The technology, once accepted in the forensic community, is the next step forward in DNA sequencing, she said.

2015-01-29 | NIST Forensic Science Standards Committees to Hold First Public Meetings
In December 2014, OSAC subcommittees began reviewing a NIST-developed preliminary inventory of forensic science standards, guidelines and related documents. That review marked the start of OSAC’s work toward developing an OSAC Registry of Approved Standards and an OSAC Registry of Approved Guidelines.

2015-01-15 | DNA and case preparation
DNA mixtures introduce a whole new level of complexity, and a recent ‘hot topic’ has been how to interpret complex mixtures from low-level, incomplete samples [2]. Here, the conventional (and transparent) methods of analysis break down. Reporting analysts have been unable to provide any statistical basis for the possible inclusion of a match to a suspect’s profile within such mixtures.

2015-01-14 | Sharing of crime lab services spurs call to merge Omaha Police Department, Douglas County Sheriff's Office
The discussion comes a week after Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine renewed his call for a metropolitan crime lab certified by a national association of crime lab directors. This follows a series of crime lab controversies — the suspension of the Douglas County crime lab director, who had been brought in to clean up after her predecessor was convicted of planting evidence; and the revelation in court last week that an Omaha crime lab technician had misidentified a fingerprint. It’s not clear whether ideas for further consolidation will gain political traction.

2015-01-11 | Lawmaker says reducing delays at crime lab will be priority
Between January 2010 and the first half of 2014, 35 departing scientists, or 28 percent of the lab’s case working scientists, gave “better employment” as an explanation for leaving, according to the annual report by the State Crime Lab, dated Oct. 1. “Factoring in selection, hiring, training, salary and other Lab costs, it is estimated that the state’s loss from the departure of these 35 scientists to other employment reaches a stunning $4,011,875.”

2015-01-09 | In two cases — including Erica Jenkins trial — defense lawyers question lab’s fingerprint slip
Douglas County Public Defender Tom Riley had succeeded in getting a delay Wednesday in the murder trial of Mitchell Wynne because, a judge ruled, prosecutors took too long to notify Riley of the 2012 fingerprint mistake.

2015-01-08 | Thousands of Drug Convictions at Stake in Massachusetts Case
The ACLU and the committee estimates over 40,000 convictions are linked with the drug lab scandal, but prosecutors suggested the number is closer to 20,000. "We're two and a half years out from this (scandal) and we're still no closer to providing relief," said Benjamin Keehn, the committee's lawyer. "It could be 20,000, 30,000 or 40,000 people. We don't know."

2015-01-08 | Backlog of evidence is slowing justice process
Although high priority evidence can now jump to the front of the line and get processed quickly, lower priority cases keep getting pushed back, causing a back log. "Property crimes and DNA testing can be about up to 3 years and sometimes we're pushing the envelope as to the statute of limitations in getting DNA evidence back on a property case," says Millsap. The most troubling delay is regarding sexual assault cases. "To get the evidence back that we need in a sexual assault case often takes anywhere from 9 months to a little over a year," says Millsap. He says the delay is having an effect on the justice process.

2015-01-08 | Crime labs’ slips spur new calls for joint Omaha-Douglas County lab
Omaha police’s misidentification of a fingerprint two years ago caused all kinds of ripples Wednesday. It delayed the first-degree murder trial of Mitchell Wynne after a judge determined that prosecutors should have been quicker to report the misidentification to Wynne’s defense team.

2015-01-07 | Vermont Crime Lab Struggles to Stay Legit
Vermont's forensic laboratory missed a December deadline to qualify for a key accreditation, potentially throwing into doubt the admissibility of evidence in hundreds of criminal cases across the state.

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