High Court Establishes Confrontation Rule Regarding DNA Evidence
July 22, 2016
Appellate Advocates client Sean John was involved in a gun-related altercation outside his apartment building. A neighbor who saw the incident called the police and said she had seen appellant enter the building’s basement with “something in his hand.” An officer searched the basement and found a loaded gun inside a box.
Using a form of DNA testing that is considered scientifically reliable if performed correctly, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) found the presence of “a single source male DNA profile” on swabs taken from the gun. This profile would be expected in “1 in greater than 1 trillion people.” A report on this DNA profile was prepared. An oral DNA swab was taken from appellant, and testing was performed to develop his profile. A report on appellant’s DNA profile was prepared.
The OCME analysts called by the People had not “conducted, witnessed or supervised the laboratory’s generation of the DNA profile from the gun or defendant.”
In a 4 – 3 decision, the Court of Appeals reversed appellant's conviction and ordered a new trial on confrontation grounds. The Court held that (1) it is the “generated numerical identifiers and the calling of the alleles at the final stage of the DNA typing” that “effectively accuses defendant of his role in the crime charged,” so (2) “an analyst who witnessed, performed or supervised the generation of defendant's DNA profile, or who used his or her independent analysis on the raw data, as opposed to a testifying analyst functioning as a conduit for the conclusions of others, must be available to testify.”
Dina Zloczower briefed and argued the case in the Court of Appeals.