NY State Police Investigating Cheating Allegations on DNA Tests

by jeeg 19. January 2015 20:05


State police are looking into whether or not several of their forensic analysts cheated during a proficiency exam for new DNA test technology, technology that a local lawyer says shouldn't be allowed in New York courts.

Defense attorney Fred Rench is challenging the validity of a DNA testing technology. It's called True Allele System 3, which police say would help forensic analysts interpret mixed DNA samples found at crime scenes. But, Rench says evidence obtained through True Allele should not be accepted in court."There are 250 labs in the United States doing criminal analysis. Only three of them are using True Allele. The one in Albany apparently has a problem," he said. "Has this reached general acceptance in the scientific community? And, clearly, it has not."

Rench is referring to accusations that a dozen state police forensic analysts cheated during their training of True Allele. The allegations were brought up in Schenectady County Court. A transcript of the court proceedings revealed that the analysts had shared information on the essay portion of a proficiency test."The people who are using this don't understand it. And, they're cheating because they don't understand it," said Rench.

He has a motive for his fight. He's defending John Wakefield, who is accused of killing a man in April 2010. One of the two pieces of evidence in the case is DNA, tested using True Allele."I don't want to have to point out the inconsistencies with that evidence. I think it's failed to make the threshold test and that is, is it generally accepted? Because it's not," he said.

A spokesperson from the New York State Police says the 12 analysts accused of cheating are no longer involved in case work pending the outcome of the investigation. But, in a statement, police add, while they have been evaluating the new technology, True Allele is not currently in use in the crime lab. They say they have no reason to believe the allegations of unauthorized information sharing has impacted any criminal cases.However, Rench is not convinced, and he says he'll push for the state inspector general to conduct an independent investigation of the cheating allegations. 

Madeleine Rivera, Time Warner Cable News


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