June 30, 2016
DNA Technical Leader showcases success of project at conference
Jason Chute, DNA technical leader at the Marshall University Forensic Science Center, was a featured speaker discussing a successful pilot project to review and expedite sexual assault kit cases last week at the North Carolina State Crime Lab DNA Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Hosted by Bode Cellmark Forensics, the conference focused on challenges facing DNA laboratory directors, managers and analysts. Topics include information on sexual assault kit testing, the latest DNA technologies, policy, and law enforcement investigations of cold rape cases and property crimes.
Chute discussed an approach that involved MUFSC forensic laboratory staff providing DNA technical review of sexual assault cases for the Michigan State Police (MSP). The presentation provided an overview of the strategies, challenges and successes that were encountered during development and implementation of the project.
A few years ago, the Michigan State Police (MSP) was faced with addressing a backlog of over 8,000 sexual assault kits from Detroit that needed to be tested.
In support of addressing the backlog, MUFSC’s Forensic DNA Analysis Laboratory had previously worked with the MSP to provide assistance with the processing and DNA analysis of over 800 untested sexual assault kits for a project funded by the National Institute of Justice.
Additionally, the MSP outsourced DNA testing of thousands of kits to private labs, and analytical reports from the cases needed to be reviewed.
To help expedite the review process of cases, the MSP approached MUFSC about participation in a pilot project to help complete reviews of the outsourced analytical data.
Over a one-year period, MUFSC completed reviews of about 2,400 cases tested by the private labs for MSP.
The project helped to expedite these cases for entry into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). A CODIS hit links either a DNA profile from a forensic case to another case or to an offender profile. These hits provide investigative leads to law enforcement officers to follow.
Chute called the project a win-win situation. “We provided Michigan State Police with a highly qualified and highly trained workforce to help reduce their backlog, and we generated economic development for us and helped to address their needs,” he said.
MUFSC’s Forensic DNA Analysis Laboratory is an internationally accredited criminal justice agency providing high quality services for testing sexual assault kits, property crime samples, relationship analysis and identification of human remains for medical examiners. It is West Virginia’s Convicted Offender DNA Database Testing Laboratory.