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New DNA Tool is Helping to Crack Old Cases

July 27, 2017, on Criminal Investigations |

Scientific evidence can present challenges for accused defendants who are hoping to earn acquittals by defending against a prosecutor's case. The problem is, many members of the jury believe scientific evidence is reliable and should be decisive in determining whether to find a defendant guilty, as all of these misconceptions are perpetuated by television crime shows. A New York criminal defense lawyer can help to raise doubts about the strength and quality of scientific evidence to maximize a defendant's chances of a not guilty verdict, even when there is DNA or other so-called “proof” of wrongdoing.

Now, there may be new tools allowing law enforcement to be even more effective at using scientific evidence in their investigations. In particular, a new DNA tool could be helpful in cracking cold cases.  However, the scientific technique that would be necessary to effectively utilize the DNA tool is still being refined, as NBC News reports.

New DNA Tool Could Help Solve Cold Cases

According to NBC News, the new DNA tool that is increasingly being experimented with is called DNA phenotyping.  When DNA phenotyping is utilized, DNA is collected from a crime scene and is analyzed. The analysis can identify the key distinguishing characteristics of the person to whom the DNA belonged. In particular, with DNA phenotyping, it is possible to determine the color of someone's skin, the color of someone's eyes and hair, and other key physical characteristics that could make identification of defendants easier. 

This is a vast expansion of what DNA can do, as early DNA forensic analysis techniques simply treated DNA like fingerprints which either matched or didn't match. Unless the DNA was a match to someone, the only thing that could be gleaned from an analysis was whether the killer was male or female.

Early tests of DNA phenotyping have proved successful in finding defendants accused of wrongdoing. In one double murder case, a killer had left five blood droplets on the staircase, but the DNA wasn't a match for anyone currently in the system. When authorities finally contacted a company offering DNA phenotyping several years after the double murder, they were able to find the killer's ancestry, as well as the fact he had fair skin and dark hair.

Detectives were able to use this information to determine the identity of the person who had committed the murders. He pled guilty to the offenses and is serving two life sentences in prison now, as NBC News explains.

If you are arrested because of an analysis of old DNA at an old crime scene, or if you are under investigation for any reason, you should contact a New York criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. You may have options for effectively casting doubt on the evidence that a prosecutor wishes to use against you, even if that evidence is scientific evidence. Don't hesitate to get help from a legal advocate who can make it harder for a prosecutor to prove his case -- contact The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC today.

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