At the core of Marshall University Forensic Science Center’s mission of providing critical assistance to the criminal justice community is our Forensic DNA Laboratory. Nationally recognized and accredited, MUFSC’s Forensic DNA Laboratory provides important analysis services to state and local criminal justice systems, including: analyzing CODIS samples for the state of West Virginia, performing forensic DNA casework for agencies across the country, processing criminal relationship testing samples, and engaging in innovative DNA projects.
DNA has become increasingly important in the prosecution of crimes, both civil and criminal in nature. As a result, pressure has increased on state and local crime laboratories to process an increasing number of new cases, while simultaneously trying to reduce existing backlogs. Because of our accreditation by Forensic Quality Services (FQS), MUFSC is able to handle forensic casework for these laboratories. MUFSC has formed several partnerships with organizations from across the country and provides unique advantages to these partners.
MUFSC has a highly-educated and proficiency-tested staff, all of whom have received a Master of Science Degree. These individuals are dedicated to following well-defined quality assurance policies while performing Forensic DNA Analysis in our state-of-the-art laboratory.
Our Forensic DNA Laboratory is accredited by Forensic Quality Services (FQS), which is the longest established provider of ISO accreditation to forensic science testing laboratories in the United States. Our laboratory is an ISO/IEC 17025 compliant testing laboratory. In addition, our Forensic DNA Laboratory provides databasing services to the forensic science community; our laboratory accreditation, by FQS, recognizes our compliance with federally mandated Quality Assurance Standards for the analysis of DNA-STR by capillary electrophoresis for database samples.
In 2007, MUFSC began a project to study the effectiveness of DNA testing on property crimes. Due to limited resources, many crime laboratories are only able to perform DNA testing on evidence stemming from violent crimes. In order to test the effectiveness of DNA as a means of solving and reducing the number of property crimes, MUFSC has partnered with three law enforcement agencies servicing small, medium, and large urban populations.
Law enforcement personnel from these agencies collect DNA samples from the scene of suspected property crimes. The samples are then sent to MUFSC’s DNA laboratory to be analyzed and prepared for comparison to CODIS. By utilizing DNA as a tool to prosecute property criminals, MUFSC is playing an important part in reducing the societal and economic impacts of these crimes.
MUFSC is pleased to offer criminal relationship DNA testing services. Relationship DNA testing is one of the more well-known applications of forensic DNA technology. While relationship testing is common in the form of parentage analysis (also called paternity testing), MUFSC can provide special case analysis upon request. MUFSC is particularly proud to provide relationship analysis for criminal cases to the law enforcement community.
As an FQS accredited laboratory, MUFSC’s tests are court-admissible and follow strict chain of custody requirements. MUFSC has already provided valuable assistance, including expert testimony, to several agencies through forensic relationship testing.
For more information please visit our Forensic Relationship Testing webpage.
The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is a DNA database of convicted offenders in the state of West Virginia. Through its role as West Virginia’s CODIS Laboratory, MUFSC is part of a national effort to connect all state police CODIS labs to the FBI’s National DNA Index System (NDIS).
The process begins when officials from the West Virginia Department of Corrections collect blood samples from certain convicted offenders. The samples are then sent to the West Virginia State Police (WVSP) which assigns a bar code to each sample to ensure the individual’s identity is protected. From these samples, MUFSC personnel generate unique DNA profiles which are sent electronically to the WVSP over a secure network. The WVSP reviews the data, enters the profiles into the state CODIS database, and sends them to NDIS over a Wide Area Network (CJIS-WAN). Once housed within these databases, the profiles can be compared by law enforcement to unidentified DNA profiles from open cases.
The completion of CODIS casework at the Marshall University Forensic Science Center is supported by the State of West Virginia. The DNA Database and Databank Act of 1995, Senate Bill 252, designated MUFSC as the DNA typing, testing and research laboratory supporting the West Virginia division of public safety. In addition to financial support from the state, a Memorandum of Understanding with the West Virginia State Police allows MUFSC and state law enforcement to share vital resources in the pursuit of justice. The laboratory also receives funding through cooperative agreements with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the research, development and evaluation agency of the U.S. Department of Justice (USDOJ).
For additional information about CODIS, please visit the FBI CODIS Program website.
MUFSC is constantly exploring innovative ways to apply DNA technologies to advance the goals of law enforcement and forensic science. With a secure, state-of-the-art facility, a highly-trained laboratory staff, and a dedication to quality assurance and client confidentiality, MUFSC will continue to deliver exceptional value to the forensic community.
Reprint of Marshall Magazine Spring 2012 Issue used by permission.