Archive | DNA

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

In Summary Order, Circuit affirms use of low copy number DNA evidence at trial

In United States v. Morgan, the Second Circuit affirmed the conviction despite the defendant’s challenge to the use of Low Copy Number DNA evidence at trial.  The Circuit concluded that “although LCN analysis is supported by significantly weaker evidence of reliability than traditional DNA analysis, the district court did not abuse its discretion in this case in holding that the proffered expert evidence met the reliability standards of Rule 702: We cannot say that its ruling here was ‘manifestly erroneous.'” The Circuit did say that it expressed “no opinion on the propriety of admitting the results of LCN testing in other cases and note[d] that OCME is discontinuing its use of LCN testing in favor of newer technology that produces reliable results in most of the sensitivity range for which it previously employed LCN testing.”  Hopefully, this limits the already-limited applicability of this summary order in future cases.

The …

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Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

White House Report: “Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature Comparison Methods.”

The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology today released a report entitled “Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature Comparison Methods.”  You can access the report here.  According to a White House press release, “the study aims to help close the gaps for a number of ‘feature-comparison’ methods — specifically, methods for comparing DNA samples, bitemarks, latent fingerprints, firearm marks, footwear, and hair.”  The report contains a number of recommendations directed at the FBI Laboratory, the Attorney General, and the judiciary as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

In cases with feature comparison evidence that was not gathered and evaluated as recommended in the report, the report may support the exclusion of the evidence or provide a fruitful area of cross examination.  It should also help limit the opinions …


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Friday, April 6th, 2012

DNA Claim IS DOA

United States v. Pitera, No. 10-1564-cr (2d Cir. April 3, 2012) (Jacobs, Miner, Katzmann, CJJ)

In this opinion by the late Judge Miner, the circuit rejected the claim of Thomas Pitera, formerly of the Bonanno crime family, that the district court erroneously rejected his application for DNA testing of “newly discovered” evidence.

Pitera was convicted in 1992 of various racketeering and CCE offenses that were predicated on seven murders, and received a life-plus-thirty-year sentence. Since then, he has regularly sought post-conviction relief. Most pertinent to the issues on this appeal is a 1999 habeas petition in which Pitera unsuccessfully alleged that evidence seized from one Frank Gangi, the main cooperator against him, would prove that Gangi was the “true killer.” The district court denied relief, noting that Gangi had admitted at Pitera’s trial that he was a participant in many of the murders, and explained that he had done them …

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