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SATI e-News: December 11, 2002

  

 
In This Issue:
      
    
     
  Promising Practices: Message From the Desk of SATI Training Director
 
 
  Prosecutors' Latest Tool: Animal DNA
     
 

Prosecutors in the U.S. are increasingly using blood, hair and saliva drawn from household pets to secure convictions. In the last four years, 14 defendants in Washington state, Oklahoma, California, Pennsylvania, Iowa and New Mexico have been convicted of violent crimes based in part on DNA drawn from the blood or hair of a dog that was at the crime scene.
 
In September, a San Diego jury recommended that a man be sentenced to death after DNA tests linked hair found in his trailer home to a Weimaraner owned by the victim. Canadian authorities scored the first murder conviction based on animal DNA in 1996 by linking a bloodstained coat owned by the victim's ex-husband to hair from his cat. Defense attorneys say labs that perform animal DNA tests lack the state and federal standards required of labs that do human DNA tests. They also note that the inbreeding used to produce purebred dogs and some cat lines can reduce genetic diversity and increase the likelihood that a DNA sample could match several different animals. But scientists say that any shortcomings in pet DNA evidence are rapidly being overcome by new research. Since 1999, researchers at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland have been helping the Justice Department develop a database of cat DNA that can match samples with an accuracy of hundreds of millions to one.
 
Source:
 
Reprinted with permission from the November 22, 2002 issue of DNA Legislation & News, published by Smith Alling Lane, a government affairs firm that provides nationwide governmental affairs services to Applied Biosystems: http://www.dnaresource.com. Original source, article in USA Today, November 7, 2002.

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  APRI Offers Guidance on Ensuring Admissibility of Digital Photo Evidence
     
  As more law enforcement agencies and forensic examiner programs convert to digital cameras in evidence collection, the reliability of digital photography has come under intensive scrutiny. While digital photography has numerous benefits, including instant images, crisp detail and decreased cost, defense attorneys have attacked the medium as being easily manipulated and thus unreliable. In the absence of solid precedents, the American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI) weighed in and offered guidance on this issue in their recent newsletter.
 
In the article, APRI staff attorney, Christina Shaw, J.D. reviews the few court precedents, including the Georgia Supreme Court decision in Almond v. State, which found that the procedure for admitting digital pictures was neither different nor heightened over the procedure for admitting traditional photos.
 
The APRI article also examines admissibility rulings in cases of other forms of digital evidence, such as computer-generated charts and graphs and enhanced digital fingerprints. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled that computer-generated evidence is generated under certain conditions: 1) the computer is functioning properly; 2) the input and underlying equations are sufficiently complete and accurate; and 3) the appropriate community of scientists generally accepts the program. Their three-point test has been adopted by at least two other states, according to Shaw.
 
Shaw offers the following guidance to investigators and prosecutors to enhance the admissibility of digital technology: 1) Adopt a protocol or operating procedure for the handling of all image evidence--whether it is digital, photographic or video--to ensure consistent standards; 2) Always preserve the original image in its original format by saving the image on a hard drive, a CD or with image security software; and 3) Always save enhancements of an image to a separate file, instead of replacing the original document; and 4) Establish a reliable chain of custody for handling all image evidence.
 
Finally, Shaw underscores the need for the prosecutor to understand how his or her jurisdiction deals with issues of authentication, requirements for an "original" and the reliability of digital images, in order to craft the most effective argument for admitting digital photographs.
 
Source:
 
"Admissibility of Digital Photographic Evidence: Should It Be Any Different Than Traditional Photography?," by Christina Shaw, J.D., published in the Newsletter of the American Prosecutors Research Institute, National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse," Update, Vol. 15, November 10, 2002.

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  Forensic DNA News From Around the Country
      
  The following news summaries in this section are reprinted with permission from the November 22, 2002 issue of DNA Legislation & News, published by Smith Alling Lane, a government affairs firm that provides nationwide governmental affairs services to Applied Biosystems: http://www.dnaresource.com
 
Los Angeles Police Commission Delays DA's Recommendation on Crime Lab
 
The LA Police Commission has delayed action on a suggestion by the District Attorney to increase the amount of space allotted for DNA analysis in the planned Regional Crime Lab Facility. Under the current design, the DA contends the LAPD's half of the lab will be too small to accommodate the technicians needed to test all the DNA evidence from rapes and sexual assaults projected in Los Angeles. Already, the department does not test all DNA evidence that comes in from such cases, which requires that it be sent out to private labs.
Original source, City News Service, November, 19, 2002.

 
Houston, we have a problem
 
Work by the Houston Police Departments' crime lab will be reviewed after a report by a local TV station that questioned its findings in some cases. The plan includes asking the Harris County District Attorney's Office to conduct an independent analysis of the DNA samples in question, to perform an independent review of the evidence handled internally by police, and to continue to pursuing accreditation of the crime lab. Houston is the largest city in the nation whose crime lab is not accredited by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board.
Original source: The Associated Press State & Local Wire, November 16, 2002.

 
San Diego receives $3 million to help fight crime
 
In California, San Diego County will receive nearly $3 million in state grants for crime-fighting programs. The county Board of Supervisors yesterday formally accepted the state money and allocated it to the Sheriff's Department and the District Attorney's Office. The DA's office will receive about $997,000 to continue various programs, including one that uses DNA testing to re-examine old cases.
Original source: The San Diego Union Tribune, November 13, 2002.

 
Lack of communication between Oregon crime lab and detectives explains trail of unsolved cases
 
In Oregon, State Police crime lab DNA evidence that could have been used to solve dozens of burglary cases failed to reach Portland Police Bureau detectives for the past two years, officials say. The state lab had matched DNA evidence retrieved from burglaries to genetic profiles of 26 convicted felons and forwarded that information to Portland police, but the reports rarely made it to detectives. The problem was discovered in August after police arrested a suspected burglar and the state lab informed officers that DNA analysis had tied the same man to two other burglaries that occurred at least a year earlier. State forensic analysts told officers they had identified other city burglers and were puzzled why police had not been pursuing their leads. Since 2000, the state lab has obtained and analyzed DNA evidence from 86 burglary cases in Portland and 33 of the cases resulted in hits on the DNA database for 26 individual suspects (some individuals were suspects in multiple cases) .
Original source: The AP State & Local Wire, November 14, 2002.

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  Florida Rape Victim Sues City in Handling of Rape Case
     
  A woman who was raped twice within a month's time sued the city of New Port Richey, Florida, alleging that police doubted her accounts of the assaults and failed to properly investigate the cases, according to the St. Petersburg Times. Just two months before the first attack, the perpetrator, John Anthony Casteel, was released from a 14-year sentence for charges that included sexual battery.
 
The lawsuit names the city, as well as the department's chief detective, Jackie Pehote, and the lead detective investigating the first rape, William Barrus, claiming negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
 
The perpetrator first broke into the victim's home on December 5, 1998 and attacked the 41 year-old victim while she was asleep. According to the Times, the victim's eye was swollen shut and her mouth bloody with 15 broken teeth. The victim says that police did not believe that she had been brutally beaten, bound, gagged and raped at knifepoint by a stranger.
 
The Times reported that four days after the first attack, the case records reflect that Pehote told the woman she didn't believe her. The woman alleges in the lawsuit that Pehote shared her doubts with the victim's friends, even asking them to encourage the woman to "tell the truth" to detectives. Two weeks after the assault the investigation was declared inactive.
 
The victim installed a burglar alarm in her home. Less than a month after the first assault, her alarm was triggered. Port Richey dispatched police to her home, but they did not go inside. Minutes later, prosecutors say, the rapist struck again.
 
The victim claims that police doubted the second assault as well, and says that Pehote asked her, "How could you be so stupid to move back into your house?" Pehote denies having made that statement.
 
A review of public documents by the Times shows that police still did little to investigate the case. It was not until the victim spotted her assailant in a convenience store four months later that any action was taken. A jury deliberated one hour before convicting Casteel in August 2001, and he is now serving a life sentence.
 
In a news report from the time Casteel was arrested (May 23, 1999), Barrus is quoted as saying, "We received some information about this guy, and we started looking at this guy, and everything fell together real nice." An internal investigation later cleared Pehote of any wrongdoing, but faulted Barrus for failing to submit the semen sample in a timely fashion. Casteel's DNA had been in a state database since 1996.
 
The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages in excess of $15,000. Civil suits against government agancies in Florida are capped at $100,000, unless the Legislature passes a special appropriations bill for a larger award.
 
"Victim Sues in Handling of Rape," St. Petersburg Times, November 19, 2002.
 
"Man Charged With Raping Woman Twice," St. Petersburg Times, May 23, 1999.

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  Prosecutors Seek Reversal for Convictions in Central Park Jogger Rape
     
  In April 1989, the rape of a white, 28 year-old stockbroker and Central Park jogger shocked the country and made the term "wilding" a household word. Thirteen years later, the country is stunned again, but this time by the revelation that the five young black youths who were arrested and convicted in this high profile case were apparently wrongly accused.
 
By the time the real perpetrator was arrested in August 1989, he had raped and murdered a 24-year old pregnant mother of three and raped three other women, according to Women's enews (WEnews).
 
Last week, Robert Morgenthau, Manhattan's district attorney, asked the judge to vacate convictions of the five young men accused of the crime. Morgenthau was responding to a defense motion, according to a press release from Morgenthau's office, and was based on "newly discovered evidence."
 
The DA's office revisited the case in May of this year when Matias Reyes admitted to the crime after being convicted of another rape. Reyes says he was the sole perpetrator in the Central Park attack, and DNA testing confirmed his tie to the crime. The WEnews speculates that had police compared the DNA sample found at the Central Park crime scene to DNA evidence from a string of rapes on Manhattan's Upper East Side, they would have realized that all the rapes had been committed by the same man.
 
The semen evidence recovered from the victim could not be traced to the DNA of any of the five men who were originally convicted in the case. The victim, who was in a coma and close to death when found, was unable to recall any details of the attack. The five youth ranged in age from 14 to 16 at the time of the attack, and were convicted by two separate juries based largely on their own "confessions," which conflicted greatly in important details such as the weapon, descriptions of the victim's clothing and her injuries.
 
A report on the case by Nancy E. Ryan, chief of trials in the Manhattan DA's office, was critical of the police interrogation, but said nothing about coercion or trickery, according to the New York Times. Her report suggests that the young men may have believed they were making statements as witnesses, but insodoing, their testimony implicated them as accomplices. Ryan's report did not attempt to assign blame for how it happened, nor did it criticize any of the detectives and prosecutors who handled the case, according to the Times.
 
The last of the defendants was released from prison in August. The judge is expected to rule on the motion to vacate the charges against the Central Park Five by February 6. The victim, now 42, married and living in Connecticut, did not make a statement about the latest developments in the case. She has been writing a book about her recovery, entitled, "I Am the Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope and Possibility," which will focus on her recovery, rather than the assault itself. She plans to go public with her name upon the release of the book next spring.
 
News Release from the Office of the Manhattan District Attorney, December 5, 2002
 
Suspects' DNA Ignored in Central Park Jogger Case, Women's Enews, December 5, 2002.
 
"Prosecutor Seeks the Reversal of Convictions In Jogger Case," New York Times, December 6, 2002.
 
"Reversals Sought in Central Park Jogger Case," Washington Post, December 6, 2002.
 
"Leading Life in Private and Poised to Go Public," New York Times, December 6, 2002.

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  LoJack Meets Scotland Yard; U.K. Considers Chip Implants to Track Sex Offenders
     
  Amidst a dramatic increase in reports of child sexual abuse, the British government acknowledged it is considering surgical implantation of electronic chips to track pedophiles through satellite technology. The Observer has obtained documents indicating that the Home Office has already approached Compaq to develop the software, and Tracker--the British equivalent of America's Lo-Jack vehicle monitoring network--to handle the tracking component.
 
Hilary Benn, the Minister responsible for supervision of sex offenders, confirmed the report, and told The Observer that her department is already developing technology to track pedophiles constantly. Civil rights groups were outraged to learn of the proposals outlined in the memos, which range from tracking the movements of the pedophile, to monitoring their bodily functions if they could be found to predict criminal activity. The plan has yet to be debated by the British Parliament, according to a Home Office spokesman, implying that the implementation of this technology is still in doubt.
 
Sources: "Brits Mull Chipping Sex Offenders," Wired News, November 19, 2002.
 
"Surgical Tags Planned for Sex Offenders," The Observer, November 17, 2002.

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  Promising Practices: Message From the Desk of the SATI Training Director:  NIJ Works to address DNA Backlog
  By Joanne Archambault, Founder and Training Director,
Sexual Assault Training & Investigations
     
  Earlier this month, the National Institute of Justice and the Institute for Law and Justice hosted a DNA Evidence and Sexual Assault workshop in Washington DC. The 36-member task force was asked to look at field-based approaches to studying the cost effectiveness of DNA evidence collection and analysis. Many of the participants were original members of the National Commission on the Future of DNA.
 
The group was not only multi-disciplinary but included practitioners with members representing survivors, the rape crisis community, public defenders, prosecution, policy and research, academia, the judiciary, law enforcement, forensic examiners, and forensic science.
 
The dialogue was interesting and challenging. Not surprisingly, I was assigned to the group tasked with addressing apprehension. Our questions included:
  1. What are the anticipated outcomes of using DNA to improve apprehension of the true perpetrator?
     
  2. What activities are related to using DNA evidence to improve apprehension of the true perpetrator?
     
  3. What are the costs associated with these activities?


Two other groups addressed the same questions as they relate to prosecution and the court process, and victims and survivors.
 
My group quickly identified many of the benefits of DNA evidence and analysis. A few of the benefits we listed were:

  • Validation – for the victim, protocols (i.e., the forensic examination), policies and procedures (i.e., evidence collection and storage procedures), and prosecution
     
  • Credibility – for the victim, the community, law enforcement and prosecution
     
  • Evaluation of programs and the effectiveness of those programs, i.e., the cost of the forensic examination and its value
     
  • Shattering myths about sexual assault victims and sex offenders
     
  • Solving cases, identifying and exonerating suspects
     
  • Saving lives
     
  • Preventing sexual assault
     
  • Successful prosecution

Costs were also fairly easy to identify in that we recognized that many laboratories would need to hire additional personnel or retrain personnel to analyze DNA evidence and money to purchase new equipment. Increased attention to forensic science has also encouraged many laboratories to seek full accreditation, another costly and labor-intensive process. In addition to the costs of DNA analysis from the forensic unknown component, many states are still working diligently to obtain and upload known offender profiles into their state databases. Aside from the costs of doing the actual DNA analysis, we also recognized the costs associated with funding the forensic examination for survivors and appropriately training law enforcement to correctly collect the DNA evidence from crime scene(s) and suspects.
 
Although there was some disagreement as to who should be included in a known offender database and some cautionary words about not directing all sexual assault money to DNA analysis, the group overwhelming agreed about the incredible benefits of DNA analysis. How could anyone who knows anything about sexual assault not see the benefit?
 
A friend of mine once said that her audiences’ eyes glaze over just at the mention of DNA. If this is true, something is dreadfully wrong. I waited my entire career to be where we are today. States across the country are solving current sexual assault cases and cold cases. Numerous people, mostly women and children, would be alive today or at least would not have to have been robbed of their life as they knew it, if law enforcement had been able to analyze evidence that was available at the time an attack was first reported to them.
 
The most difficult task in front of us was to measure the cost effectiveness. I for one could not find the words. I have difficulty evaluating how much it would be worth if the suspect who sexually assaulted and killed two little boys in San Diego had been identified, apprehended and convicted, after sexually assaulting and killing a woman in Florida years earlier. How much is it worth to a man who is wrongfully convicted and exonerated by DNA? Fortunately, NIJ allowed us to identify the costs with promises that they would continue to work on the cost analysis. It’s moments like these that I feel lucky to be in the law enforcement profession. In this case, my job is much easier.

   
  For a list of upcoming conferences and training events, please view the Training Schedule.
   
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