As 2019 winds down, let’s celebrate all that’s happened in the world of ISHI this year! A record number of attendees converged on Palm Springs, California for the 30th annual International Symposium on Human Identification where we discussed new technologies, genetic genealogy, mixture interpretation, and testifying as an expert witness. We also heard Paul Holes present on the Golden State Killer.
Many of you also contributed stories to the ISHI blog this year! Scroll below to read the top ten posts from 2019 and subscribe to the blog at the end of the post to have future ISHI posts delivered to your email! We look forward to continuing to share actionable tips, new technologies, and announcements with you in 2020!
Sarah Dingle, an investigative journalist with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation interviews CeCe Moore to discuss how she’s used genetic genealogy to help adoptees and donor conceived individuals find their biological families, and is now applying the same techniques to cold cases.
Although genetic genealogy itself isn’t new, its application to forensics is a relatively recent development. The technique relies on Y-DNA testing, which follows the male family line, making it popular among genealogists around the world. Forensic applications use the DNA profile derived from evidence at a crime scene to search multiple, public DNA profiles available in genealogy databases, with the goal of identifying possible family members related to a suspect.
But in the last decade or so, forensic experts have been analyzing DNA mixtures, which occur when the evidence contains a mixture of DNA from several people. They are also analyzing trace amounts of DNA, including the “touch DNA” left behind when someone touches an object. These types of evidence can be far more difficult to interpret reliably than the DNA evidence typical of earlier decades. With old-school DNA, the results tend to be clear cut: either a suspect’s DNA profile is found in the evidence or it isn’t, and nonexperts can readily understand what that means. With DNA mixtures and trace DNA, the results can be ambiguous and difficult to understand, sometimes even for the experts.
Hair shafts, particularly rootless ones (telogen hair), are common exhibits found in crime scenes. They can be deposited either normally due to shedding or by force due to hair plucking. Based on the American Academy of Dermatology, the normal rate of shed hair per day is 50 to100 strands . However due to the structure and the composition of hair, it was believed for decades that shed telogen hair has no nuclear DNA.
In his keynote address at ISHI 30, Paul Holes detailed how investigative genealogy techniques, determination, and more than a little bit of patience led to the identification and capture of the Golden State Killer. We recently interviewed Paul and asked him what drew him to the Golden State Killer case, how he learned of investigative genealogy, and what it meant to him to bring answers to the families of the victims.
With approximately half the forensic laboratories in the United States either using a probabilistic genotyping system or in some stage of implementation, cases processed using this method are now making their way through the court systems. Additionally, probabilistic genotyping has been used at the international level for nearly a decade. As you (as a scientist) make the adjustment to reporting probabilistic genotyping analyses, you must also transition to explaining these same results to judges, attorneys and juries.
We know that it takes a special kind of person to choose forensic science as a career, and this year, we’d like to recognize a few of the students who are making a difference in the field. We’re excited to introduce our first ISHI Ambassadors!
Each year, Promega hosts workshops across the United States called Tech Tours, where speakers from various labs and organizations in the forensic community are brought in to discuss and share latest advancements in STR analysis and the forensics workflow.
Last year at the Tech Tours, Ross Capps, Lab Director at the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office Criminalistics Laboratory in Kansas City shared his vision for how to lead and engage his staff. His presentation resonated with many in the audience, and we’ve asked him to share his journey with you.
Greg Hampikian, Executive Director of the Idaho Innocence Project, discusses concerns he has with current mixture interpretation procedures, changes he’d like to see for the future, and thoughts on how to improve forensic science.
One of the earliest and longest lasting means of forensic identification is fingerprinting. Frequently, DNA is now considered the golden standard in the courtroom for forensic identification and is often called genetic fingerprinting. But what happens when these two means of identification cross paths?
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