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16-Sep-2016

Cybergenetics responds to President’s PCAST report on forensic DNA

Pittsburgh, PA

President Barack Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) drafted a report proposing sweeping changes in forensic science and courtroom testimony. The report affects DNA, fingerprint, firearm, footwear and hair evidence. Their findings on DNA mixtures reject the combined probability of inclusion (CPI) match statistic, and acknowledge newer validated computer methods.

Parts of the report have merit. However, many think that PCAST has a nonscientific agenda to undermine reliable forensic evidence. Cybergenetics wrote to PCAST, commenting that some of their DNA proposals ignore published scientific results, while other findings do not go far enough.

Cybergenetics scientist Dr. Mark Perlin wrote: "The objective TrueAllele® process achieves your stated goals, and is backed by extensive validation. The defense can test the system for free. You properly decry the use of unfounded cutoffs and subjectivity in DNA interpretation. Yet you propose imposing such arbitrary limits … on a scientifically validated solution."

Regarding the FBI's DNA database, he wrote: "Police, defenders, courts and innocence groups share a common problem – FBI regulations prevent them from using CODIS to solve crime. When crime lab mixture interpretation fails, and outsiders produce scientifically validated DNA information, the FBI won't let the better science search CODIS. This is bad science and bad policy that impedes justice and harms innocent people. Your Report should recommend open access to CODIS."

Links

  • Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods – Report to the President
  • National District Attorneys Association slams President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology report – Press Release
  • Cybergenetics response to PCAST - Letter
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