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05-Oct-2010

Historic Homicide Trial Explained

How Cybergenetics Computer Cracked DNA Crime

PITTSBURGH, PA, October 5, 2010

On Friday afternoon, October 8, Pittsburgh-based Cybergenetics scientist Mark Perlin, Senior Deputy Attorney General Anthony Krastek, and Allegheny County Assistant Public Defender Michelle Collins will teach a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course on "Forensic DNA Analysis: An Introduction" in The Cyril H. Wecht Institute of Forensic Science and Law at Duquesne University.

The course will introduce computer interpretation of DNA evidence, and its courtroom admissibility. The case example is the recent Blairsville dentist homicide, where a computer extracted a million times more DNA identification information than FBI review of the same data.

On the night of April 12, 2006, dentist John Yelenic was brutally murdered in his Blairsville, PA home. A year later, Pennsylvania State Trooper Kevin Foley, boyfriend of Dr. Yelenic's estranged wife, was charged with the crime. Under the victim's fingernails was a mixture of DNA containing mainly the victim, plus a trace amount (6.7%) of an unknown contributor.

The FBI's interpretation of the DNA evidence gave a 13,000 chance of match with Foley, relative to a random person. Considering that almost 13 million people reside in Pennsylvania, this statistic was not overwhelming. However, some mixture interpretation methods can make better use of DNA data, and produce a more informative result.

Prosecutor Krastek asked Dr. Perlin to re-examine this DNA mixture using Cybergenetics TrueAllele® computer approach. The computer mathematically processed the fingernail DNA data, and found a more accurate match statistic of 189 billion. A third DNA review by an independent expert yielded a match statistic of 23 million.

In March of 2009, the human and computer DNA mixture interpretations were all admitted into evidence and presented to the jury. Commonwealth v. Foley was the first time that advanced mathematical computing was used in a trial for interpreting DNA evidence. Three DNA match statistics, one verdict.

Dr. Perlin and SDAG Krastek will describe the science and law surrounding this testimony. APD Collins will join them for a panel discussion. The course will explain DNA evidence and expert testimony, give a computer walk-through of the crime scene, and show how DNA is admitted into court. For more information, visit http://www.cybgen.com/information/Duquesne2010forensics.shtml