NYC Using DNA to Make Gun Charges Stick With Jurors

Gun charges in New York that hinge on officer testimony often don’t lead to jury convictions. To change that, the city is pursuing an ambitious and expensive plan to collect and test DNA from every gun recovered to build cases based on physical evidence.

For all of New York City’s success in reducing violent crime, only about half of the people arrested for carrying a loaded gun in the city get convicted. Juries like hard evidence and often mistrust cases that hinge on police testimony. To change that, the city is pursuing an ambitious and expensive plan to collect and test DNA from every gun recovered by police, reports The Trace. The goal is to boost the number of successful prosecutions and discourage the carrying of illegal weapons–“to make it radioactive to even pick up a gun,” said Richard Aborn, president of the nonprofit Citizens Crime Commission of New York City.

The New York program, which began in the summer of 2015, is expanding. Last year, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner performed DNA tests for 1,682 gun cases, nearly quadruple the number from 2014. The city this month gave the office an additional $8 million to pay for 55 new employees to process gun swabs, plus training and equipment. That money amounts to about 10 percent of the office’s total annual budget. Police officials and the medical examiner’s office said they could not estimate the total cost of the swabbing and testing program since it would include staff time for police, prosecutors, and scientists, as well as equipment and training in several different departments and agencies.

from https://thecrimereport.org

PA Crime Lab Highlights Issues With DNA-Testing Program

The controversy concerns TrueAllele, a genotyping program used to identify suspects in complex DNA mixtures involving more than one person. Just five of the country’s 250 crime labs use the program, which is central to a legal fight in New York.

Nearly a decade ago, Allegheny County, Penn., officials decided to buy TrueAllele, a new probabilistic genotyping program used to identify suspects in complex DNA mixtures involving more than one person, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But nine years after the $206,000 grant-funded purchase, the program is still not in use. Lab officials shelved it, citing concerns about the program’s complexity and general acceptance in the scientific community. Yet TrueAllele evidence has been presented in more than 50 criminal cases in Allegheny County.

That’s because the district attorney’s office now independently contracts with Cybergenetics, the company that created TrueAllele. It has paid nearly $300,000 since 2013 to have crime scene data produced by the county lab analyzed by the private program. In effect, Allegheny County is paying double for a program rejected by its own crime lab. Only five of the country's 250 crime labs are currently using TrueAllele, although four others in Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana are expected to join them in the next several months. The company is embroiled in a forensics controversy in New York, where its $1.2 million contract with the state police crime lab was canceled.

from http://thecrimereport.org