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NJ Appeals Court Holds Y-STR DNA Analysis Admissible in Murder Trial

25
Jul
2010

by in Criminal Defense

State v. George Calleia, ? N.J. Super. ?, 2010 N.J. Super. LEXIS 107 (June 22, 2010) – Conviction reversed on other grounds. “At trial, defendant challenged the admission of Y-STR DNA evidence, which demonstrated that he could not be excluded as a donor of biological material recovered from under the victim’s fingernails.

At oral argument before us, the State urged us to consider and affirm the trial court’s decision to admit the Y- STR DNA evidence, even if we were to reverse defendant’s conviction on other grounds….

Given the strong likelihood that this evidence will again emerge as a key part of the State’s case against defendant, we will address the propriety of its admission by the trial court…. The sole question before us is whether Y-STR DNA analysis has reached a level of development and acceptability within the relevant scientific community that an expert’s testimony concerning it can be deemed sufficiently reliable….

Based on the record developed before the trial court, we are satisfied that there is a general acceptance of Y-STR DNA analysis in the scientific community. The State’s duly qualified expert in the field explained the theoretical basis of Y-STR DNA analysis, the methodology used by the testing laboratory, the SWGDAM standards that govern DNA testing, and the validation procedures associated with those standards. The State Police Laboratory uses a commercially available testing kit to conduct Y-STR DNA analyses and Y-STR DNA profiles are maintained in a national database….

[W]e also note that the State proved the reliability of the Y-STR DNA technique under the second prong of the test, which allows a proponent to establish general acceptance ‘by authoritative scientific and legal writings indicating that the scientific community accepts the premises underlying the proffered testimony….’ Here, the State submitted numerous textbooks and scholarly articles concerning the development and use of Y-STR DNA analysis. These materials set forth the theory of Y-STR DNA analysis and explained the various testing techniques….

Here, Y-chromosome DNA with a specific STR profile was found under decedent’s fingernails. The coincidence that this profile matches that of defendant is probative of his guilt in the same manner as if he had owned shoes that matched a foot imprint found at the crime scene. It was up to the jury to weigh the probative value of that evidence in light of the fact that a significant number of other individuals may possess the same profile.”

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