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Touch DNA and the Massereene Barracks attack investigation

M.W. Perlin and J. Galloway, "Touch DNA and the Massereene Barracks attack investigation", Allegheny County Courthouse, Pittsburgh, PA, 17-Feb-2012.


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Judicial Decisions

TrueAllele Admissibility
Guilty and Not Guilty


Abstract

In 1998, the Good Friday agreement implemented a power sharing and mutual disarmament accord that ushered in a new era of peace in Northern Ireland. This calm was ruptured on the night of March 7, 2009 when two hooded gunmen emerged from a car outside the Massereene Barracks with assault rifles. In the first attack on British soldiers in over ten years, the assailants fired more than 60 rounds at unarmed soldiers and civilians, killing Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar who were collecting a Domino's pizza delivery. The Real IRA paramilitary organization claimed responsibility for the attack. The action was universally denounced by all parties in Northern Ireland, and actually strengthened the peace process.

The abandoned getaway car was burned to destroy personally identifying evidence, but trace amounts of touch DNA were left on a few items. This low-level and mixed DNA evidence associated two Republican dissidents, Colin Duffy and Brian Shivers, with the vehicle or its torching. Their nonjury Belfast trial began in November, 2011 before Judge Anthony Hart, and lasted two months, presenting considerable forensic evidence (witnesses do not testify in such cases). Pittsburgh-based Cybergenetics TrueAllele® computer system provided DNA match statistics for several of the getaway car evidence items, which human review could not.

After three days of expert testimony and cross-examination, Judge Hart admitted the computer interpretation method and match results into evidence, opening a new era of forensic computing in the United Kingdom. Brian Shivers was convicted of homicide and sentenced to life imprisonment. While the DNA was not in question, Colin Duffy was found "not guilty" since the available circumstantial evidence did not establish criminal intent.

In this CLE course, Detective Chief Inspector Justyn Galloway will show the attack as it unfolded, and recount the forensic investigation conducted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Dr. Mark Perlin, Chief Scientist of Cybergenetics, will describe how a computer can reliably interpret touch DNA evidence, and review the courtroom testimony that led to TrueAllele's acceptance and use in the Massereene trial.