Welcome to The Forensic DNA Testing Blog
This forensic blog is our official forum where DDC staff and clients can post issues, concerns, answers, and questions regarding forensic DNA testing. Please note that all posts and comments are subject to approval by the moderator. Names may be changed to protect the writer's privacy.
November 9th, 2012
On November 15, 2012, Dr. Julie A. Heinig, DDC’s Forensic Director, will visit Columbus, OH to participate in the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers’ annual Death Penalty Seminar. The topic, “Behind the DNA Report; How to Combat the Evidence” will be part of a 3-day Continuing Legal Education seminar for attorneys in the state of Ohio. Together with Lancaster, OH attorney Andrew Stevenson, Dr. Heinig will present unbiased information that will help attendees understand the basics of DNA, how it is used in human identification, and its legal implications in capital cases. Often when DNA evidence is presented in a case, attorneys may seek an independent expert to help them determine if the conclusions of DNA analysis already conducted are in fact supported by the underlying data. Additional DNA analysis or second-opinion testing may be required in a DNA case that could prove critical to the case outcome. Dr. Heinig has over 18 years of experience in the scientific field of DNA, and as a forensic DNA expert, she has worked on hundreds of criminal cases where DNA has played a crucial role. Her skills as a reviewer of other laboratories’ work and the technical reviewer of DNA analysis at DNA Diagnostics Center allows Dr. Heinig to give relevant and useful information to attorneys whose casework may include DNA issues.
December 21st, 2011
Christmas wishes came true this year for Janice Porter, a Louisville resident whose son, Kerry, was exonerated and released from the Eastern Kentucky Correctional Complex this Monday. Mr. Porter has been imprisoned for 14 years for the 1996 shooting death of his ex-girlfriend’s husband, a crime he has always insisted he did not commit.
Melanie Lowe, attorney with the Kentucky Innocence Project, has been working on Porter’s case for the past 5 years and contacted DNA Diagnostics Center to provide the forensic DNA expertise on previously untested evidence in the case. Because DNA testing was not readily available and/or reliable at the time of Porter’s trial, the Innocence Project asked for DNA testing to be completed on the crime scene evidence.
The forensic analysts at DDC (DNA Diagnostics Center) conducted extensive testing on duct tape used to make a homemade gun silencer found at the crime scene. DNA analysis of this key piece of evidence excluded Kerry Porter as a contributor to the DNA identified on the duct tape. The Louisville Metro Police Department’s cold-case unit, led by Detective Sgt. Denny Butler, worked closely with the Innocence Project in the investigation of this case and was instrumental in the dismissal of charges and Mr. Porter’s exoneration.
Post-conviction DNA analysis, which often includes testing severely degraded or difficult samples, is nothing new to the experts at DDC Forensics. Since 2006, DNA Diagnostics Center has played a critical role in the exoneration of wrongfully imprisoned individuals in several states. Working effectively with law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and Innocence Project lawyers is as crucial to the process as high quality laboratory procedures. Today, DDC is proudly assisting Innocence Network projects nationwide. It is DDC’s mission to provide impartial, unbiased DNA testing for all who seek the truth.
December 19th, 2011
FAIRFIELD, Ohio, Dec. 19, 2011 — /PRNewswire/ — DDC (DNA Diagnostics Center), one of the largest DNA testing companies in the world, announced today the acquisition of Orchid Cellmark, Inc.’s (Orchid Cellmark) government paternity business. Orchid Cellmark, a leading international provider of DNA testing services primarily for forensic and family relationship applications, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of Laboratory Corporation of America® Holdings (LabCorp®) (NYSE: LH).
“Our acquisition of Orchid’s government paternity business significantly expands the size and scope of DDC’s portfolio, further solidifying our position as one of the largest DNA testing companies in the world,” said Peter Vitulli, DDC President and CEO. He continued, “This transaction allows for a strong and vibrant competitive landscape in the marketplace, which will in turn benefit the consumer. Orchid’s government paternity business has earned an outstanding reputation for excellent quality and reliability, as well as top notch customer service, and we are pleased to enter into this agreement.”
Orchid Cellmark has provided parentage testing services to government agencies since 1979, providing contracts to numerous state and county entities under exclusive and multi-vendor terms. Some of these contracts and their renewals span more than two decades.
About DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC)
For 16 years, DDC has been the largest provider of private DNA paternity and other DNA tests in the U.S. and worldwide, offering comprehensive DNA testing services for paternity and other family relationships, forensics, cell line authentication, and ancestry. The Company is also known for its groundbreaking technologies, including an exclusive license for the most innovative and accurate non-invasive prenatal paternity test using SNP (single-nucleotide polymorphism) Microarray Technology, which only requires a simple blood draw from the mother and alleged father. Other services provided by DDC include DDC Veterinary, the animal DNA testing division, which provides innovative, quality DNA testing for companion and sport animals. DDC was the first to adopt robotics technology in its laboratory processes, ensuring highly stringent and efficient handling of DNA samples. DDC’s unique Dual Process™ ensures all professionally collected DNA samples are independently tested twice producing legal results of unmatched quality and reliability. DDC is recognized through a number of accreditations nationally and internationally achieving perfect ratings in its past 16 inspections including those performed by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB) and the College of American Pathologists (CAP). DDC is also accredited by ACLASS to meet the standards of ISO 17025 and the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors Laboratory Accreditation Board International and follows the DNA Advisory Board (DAB) guidelines, which attests to DDC’s superior forensic testing service. For more information: www.dnacenter.com or 1-800-362-2368.
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/12/19/4132359/ddc-one-of-the-largest-dna-testing.html#ixzz1h0eOE3XI
December 19th, 2011
A team of Dutch scientists have developed an eye color test that can determine a suspect’s eye color from a DNA sample left behind at a crime scene, a news article reports.
This new test will help investigators identify potential suspects in cases where a DNA profile from crime scene evidence does not have a match in existing DNA databases. However, the test alone cannot be used as evidence towards a conviction in court, because it only has an accuracy of 94%.
Eye color is one of the many external features scientists are investigating with the hope of developing tools in the field of DNA forensics. Physical characteristics can be controlled by one gene, or a combination of genes, which makes some features easier to decode than others. The field of DNA forensics continues to evolve at an exciting pace, and the possibility of creating a physical sketch based on DNA evidence is real, albeit far off into the future.
DDC’s Forensic Division continues to monitor these developments in the field. As a leader in forensic DNA services, our forensic scientists have worked with many legal and law enforcement professionals, providing case consultation and DNA testing.
For more information, please visit DDC Forensics’ website or call 1-800-406-1940.
December 13th, 2011
Paternity has been pushed into the national spotlight by the recent allegations toward teen pop star Justin Bieber. While tabloids buzz with celebrity paternity stories, thousands of men across the country face the same issue daily and turn to DNA paternity testing to either confirm or refute their relationship to children. According to DDC (DNA Diagnostics Center), the largest provider of private paternity testing worldwide, questions about paternity testing from men have increased annually and now account for about 40% of all inquiries.
“As one of the leading companies in DNA testing, we’re seeing an increase in calls by men seeking paternity answers, especially for cases where there are disputes or where chain of custody is important,” said Dr. Michael Baird, chief science officer for DDC. “In the case of DDC, we’re an accredited AABB laboratory that maintains a chain of custody reporting structure to ensure results of a test can be presented in court, if needed.”
About 500,000 paternity cases were performed in the United States last year, according to the AABB (aabb.org), the professional society that accredits paternity testing laboratories, in its latest annual report. Establishing paternity is important for the child to have access to legal and social benefits (including social security, veterans and inheritance benefits), provides an accurate medical history and strengthens the bond between father and child. In fact, most state laws require an unmarried couple to complete an Acknowledgment of Paternity (AOP) at the hospital to establish parental rights.
“If there are any questions about who the father is, a DNA test is recommended,” Dr. Baird states. “About 1 out of every 3 tested alleged fathers is found to not be the biological father of a child. After an AOP is provided to the Bureau of Vital Statistics, couples have the option of amending the document with a DNA paternity test to confirm parental rights or fathers have the option of securing a DNA test to establish paternity. However, there is a limited time for the validation to take place. Until that time, parental rights are not fully protected.”
In addition to paternity testing services, DDC also provides expert DNA testing for family relationship, adoption, immigration, forensics and ancestry. For more information on DDC visit online at dnacenter.com or call 800-362-2368.
September 19th, 2011
A blog article recently posted by Promega highlights how forensic DNA testing was used in a UK case involving two British women—a wife and her husband’s mistress.
The story itself is worthy of a soap opera, with a twist at the end of the story. The wife filed police reports blaming the mistress for various vicious attacks, including being stabbed by a screwdriver, having bleach thrown in her face, and several death threats. The mistress asserted her innocence, and her relatives started logging her whereabouts to aid her efforts to prove her innocence.
Ultimately, DNA testing was used on evidence collected, including a lipstick that was used to write a threatening message on the wife’s apartment window as well as an envelope used to send another threat.
DDC’s forensics scientists routinely isolate and perform DNA testing on samples such as described above. Our ASCLD/LAB-International accredited Forensics laboratory provides independent scientific analysis—we work with law professionals seeking DNA expertise in their cases, and we also provide DNA testing services to criminal investigators and police departments.
How did it all end? Read more to find out. For information about forensic DNA testing, call us at 1-800-406-1940 or visit www.forensicdnacenter.com.
May 3rd, 2011
Take a quick look into the DDC Laboratory:
DDC Lab Tour
May 3rd, 2011
Here is a recent article and video about the DNA technology that allowed the US to confirm Osama Bin Laden’s identity, posted by Cincinnati’s ABC affiliate, WCPO Channel 9 News:
FAIRFIELD, Ohio – The FBI confirmed the identity of Osama Bin Laden’s body through a DNA match to one of his sisters. His sister died of cancer in Boston and her brain was taken into custody to be used in the event of Bin Laden’s death.
People who run a DNA testing lab in Fairfield are not surprised by how fast the government could confirm Bin Laden’s body.
Lab experts at the DNA Diagnostics Center explained that tests used take weeks, even months but not anymore. They say with the right experts and right equipment DNA confirmation can be done almost anywhere and in as little as eight to twelve hours.
Dr. Michael Baird said there are mobile labs, “that will allow testing to be done in any location in a very short period of time.”
Baird said it is likely that the government took extra samples they can test in the future if necessary since Bin Laden’s body was buried at sea.
Here is a link to the video: Dr. Baird on ABC
April 14th, 2011
“Hello Truth” has meaning for Robert McClendon, DDC’s (DNA Diagnostics Center) first Innocence Network exoneree who was freed through forensic DNA testing in 2008. Even more so after the April 10, 2011, DDC Forensics unveiling of DDC’s newly named DNA analyzer, “Hello Truth,” in honor of McClendon and his poem by the same name. Just prior to the surprise unveiling, McClendon recounted his first-person story to the many guests attending the tour of DDC Forensics as part of the 2011 Innocence Network Conference held in Cincinnati, Ohio, the first gathering of international delegates and exonerees from around the United States.
Japan, Norway, Chile, India, Ireland, Australia, Pakistan, Canada, Poland, South Africa, Nigeria, China, Switzerland, The Netherlands, England and Singapore were among the countries represented on the tour that included DDC’s laboratory and a workshop on forensic DNA evidence. The workshop focused on DNA evidence when used in post-conviction cases and how it will eventually be reviewed based on the law. Attendees were interested in learning how to partner with a laboratory, how to ensure DNA evidence presented in court meets legal requirements and what unique testing DDC has to offer.
“For many attendees this was the first time they have toured an actual DNA testing lab,” Mark Godsey, director, Rosenthal Institute for Justice/Ohio Innocence Project, said. “DDC has two of the top DNA Experts in the world in Dr. Michael Baird and Dr. Julie Heinig and it’s unique to have DNA experts, legal experts with the Ohio Innocence Project and someone actually freed all in one place. To hear first-hand Robert’s experience and how he continues to fight to raise awareness was very moving for everyone.”
According to Dr. Michael Baird, DDC’s chief scientific officer, “It was remarkable to see how riveted the attendees were to hear Mr. McClendon’s story first-hand through his poem, ‘Hello Truth,’ and to see the surprise on his face as the white veil was pulled away to show that we’ve named the DNA analyzer in his honor. He even asked to kiss the machine. Most of the attendees were quite knowledgeable about DNA and were interested in techniques that we perform that are not yet available in other countries, while others were discussing starting up programs for the first time in their own countries. It puts into perspective how important the work we do here at DDC truly is.”
McClendon gave credit to the legal staff at the University of Cincinnati, the Ohio Innocence Project and the DDC experts who worked his case to find the evidence that proved he was innocent. BET (Black Entertainment Television) is currently filming a documentary on McClendon and was present for the unveiling and naming.
“It was a privilege to host such a distinguished group of international representatives who are fighting for those who are wrongfully incarcerated around the world,” Dr. Julie Heinig, assistant laboratory director, said. “Approximately 70 percent of the Innocence Network Organization’s successful exonerations are due to DNA evidence. To witness Mr. McClendon’s emotional recount of his journey, and for him to unveil the newly named DNA analyzer provided an incredible opportunity for these Innocence Network leaders to know this kind of experience is possible for their countries. It was very rewarding.”
DDC’s DNA testing has resulted in four high-profile exonerations connected to the Innocence Network Organization since 2008. The most recent being that of Derrick Williams, freed in a ruling on April 4, 2011 after being wrongfully incarcerated in a Florida prison for 18 years.
April 7th, 2011
After serving 18 years for kidnapping and rape, crimes that recent DNA testing proved he did not commit, Derrick Williams of Florida was released from prison Tuesday evening into the embrace of his family. The past few months have been full of activity as Williams’ defense team at the Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) prepared to present evidence to the courts that proved his innocence. Seth Miller, the Executive Director of the IPF and Melissa Montle, the lead attorney on the post-conviction case, argued that not only had Williams’ due process rights had been violated because evidence (rape kit, hairs and vacuum samples from the victim’s car) that may have cleared Williams had been destroyed by the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, but other physical evidence demonstrated his innocence. The most compelling evidence was the DNA results provided by the forensic DNA experts at DNA Diagnostics Center (DDC) of the t-shirt worn by the actual assailant. This new DNA evidence showed that other people-and not Derrick Williams-wore the gray t-shirt that the victim kept from her attacker. Mr. Williams’ conviction was vacated and was granted a new trial last week. When the State Attorney’s Office first stated they would appeal the case, Williams and his legal team expected his ordeal to drag out even longer. Instead, on the following Monday, he learned he would go home that evening and spend his first night of freedom home with his family.
“DDC provides DNA expertise to Innocence Projects across the country and, including this most recent ruling, has successfully assisted with four exonerations since 2008,” Peter Vitulli, president and CEO of DDC, said. “The Williams case represents DDC’s third collaborative effort in the last two years with the Innocence Project of Florida. Our world-class facility and testing methods allow the science to speak for itself, and the expert testimony we provide clearly explains what can be complicated issues. The freedom this has given to Mr. Williams proves the power of DNA testing and proves the process works.”
According to Seth Miller, executive director of the Innocence Project of Florida, “In the Williams case, Dr. Heinig testified about the DNA results and clearly explained the science, giving Judge Marc Gilner the necessary clarity in a complicated scientific case. Without Dr. Heinig’s testimony, the evidentiary hearing would not have ended so well. Dr. Heinig and the DDC experts were able to compile results from a most difficult and degraded sample and then explain and defend the findings in a comprehensive and easy to understand manner for Judge Gilner. Without the DNA testimony provided by DDC, even the most compelling scientific evidence could have been lost on the court and justice would have suffered.”
“Working with Dr. Heinig and DDC has been an incredible collaboration for the Innocence Project of Florida,” Melissa Montle, lead attorney for the Innocence Project of Florida, said. “As we work more and more post-conviction cases, we are finding that the evidence available to us for testing has become complicated and challenging from a scientific standpoint. Dr. Heinig’s expertise and success with degraded or otherwise difficult samples has a proven track record we can rely on. Due to this expertise, we’re able to do a better legal job for our clients. Dr. Heinig doesn’t just deliver the findings, she defends them. We look forward to continuing to work with DDC and Dr. Heinig on future cases and can’t express enough how important their DNA testing has been in this case and our prior exonerations. It’s been invaluable.”