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NZ’s crime-busting forensics triumph in US murder trial


Forensic software developed by New Zealand scientists at the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) has been used in a trial in Brooklyn, New York, for the first time, leading to a murder conviction.

The District Attorney of Kings County in Brooklyn, Eric Gonzalez, says the recent trial involved a 48-year-old man who killed his estranged wife in the backseat of her car, stabbing her multiple times.

He says the trial was the first in Brooklyn to use the STRmix™ technology, sophisticated forensic software used to resolve mixed DNA profiles previously thought to be too complex to interpret.

STRmix™, which was developed by ESR scientists John Buckleton and Jo-Anne Bright, working with Duncan Taylor from Forensic Science South Australia, has revolutionized DNA interpretation, allowing the analysis of complex mixtures and DNA profiles recovered from minuscule amounts of DNA that are so vital to many criminal investigations

Gonzalez says the evidence in the trial showed that blood found in the victim’s car was a mixture of her DNA and the defendant’s, and the t-shirt the defendant was wearing contained a mixture of DNA from both of them.

“In this case, there was blood from both the victim and the defendant and the software assisted the analyst in isolating the defendant’s DNA,” Gonzalez says.

Thirty-one US labs now routinely use STRmix™ in resolving DNA profiles, including federal agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the FBI and state and local agencies, including the Michigan State Police and Texas Department of Public Safety.

It has been used to interpret DNA evidence in thousands of cases in labs in Australia, England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada and here in New Zealand.

When the product is used to interpret profiles, it reduces the likelihood of discrimination of suspect and perpetrator DNA and reduces the likelihood of wrongful implication in criminal activities.

ESR’s Commercial and International General Manager, Hamish Findlay, says STRmix™ is continuing to excite interest among law enforcement agencies in an increasing number of countries.


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