Please see our “Did You Know?” section toward the end of this issue.
Topic: Purdue researchers use 'nanopore channels' to precisely detect DNA
For events and conferences please go to the end of the newsletter. Again, if there are any events you would like for us to mention, please send me the name and dates with a website link for further details.
In England, the FSS has declared that information held on the national DNA database has been 'compromised', based on allegations that five civil servants copied confidential information to set up a rival database.
Back in the United States, the Florida Supreme Court adopted a permanent rule on DNA testing of prison inmates and criminal defendants. The new law requires “judges to ask defendants, their lawyers and prosecutors about possible DNA evidence before accepting guilty or no-contest pleas.”
The Governor of Virginia announced that the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (DFS) has recorded its 4,000th "hit" to Virginia's Offender DNA Databank. While in Hawaii, until now, samples had only been collected from the state’s most violent offenders and only in the last couple of years. They recently passed a law requiring DNA from all of Hawaii's convicted felons.
Following these stories we are including a number of new and ongoing cases involving the use of DNA evidence.
Five civil servants suspended over "DNA espionage'
Five civil servants who help run the national DNA database have been suspended after being accused of industrial espionage.
It is alleged they copied confidential information and used it to set up a rival database in competition with their employers, the Government's Forensic Science Service.
The FSS - which is suing the five men in the High Court - helps police investigate evidence from crimes and sells its services to commercial customers.
It also maintains the controversial database containing DNA samples of almost four million people, the largest in the world.
The men, all from the Birmingham area, are named on the writ as Azim Akhtar, his brother Zaheer Akhtar, Sultan Mahmood, Nisar Ahmed, and Athar Agha.
It is alleged they set up a company and planned to compete against the FSS by providing similar services.
The case will inevitably raise concerns about the vulnerability of genetic data, especially since the FSS was turned into a Government-owned company in 2005 as the first stage of privatisation.
At the time Tony Blair faced a barrage of protest, with one Labour MP denouncing the scheme as 'a criminal's charter'.
Civil rights groups have also been critical, arguing there are no real safeguards to prevent misuse of the DNA database.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said the case involving the five men raised serious concerns.
"This is hugely significant and should make every law-abiding person seriously worried. People are looking after these databases who have less and less of a public-service ethic,' she said.
According to the High Court writ, the FSS began developing a website in 2005 called Iforensic.com targeting international law enforcement and private markets.
It says although the plans were secret, they were known to the five defendants who had access to the DNA database. The writ alleges the men set up their own company, Iforensic Ltd - having appropriated the name from the FSS.
"In order to facilitate the creation of a DNA database to be operated by Iforensic Limited...the defendants copied, retained and/or adapted software and/or other confidential information' belonging to the FSS, says the writ.
The document adds it would not have been possible for the five men to create the software necessary to produce a DNA database without having had access to 'and copying and/or retaining copies of the software and/or the database.'
IT specialist Azim Akhtar, 30, is alleged to have registered three internet domain names using the word Iforensic - and later, through a friend, tried to sell one of the names back to the FSS for 'an attractive price'.
He and the four others worked in the FSS's Birmingham headquarters in the information systems division, which is responsible for developing and maintaining the DNA database.
The FSS is seeking damages for infringement of copyright, breach of trust, breach of confidence and misuse of confidential information.
It is also seeking injunctions to make the five change their company's name, return confidential information and transfer internet domain names to the service.
According to the writ, the five set up Iforensic Ltd on September 29, 2006, to unlawfully exploit 'goodwill in the name' by extracting money from the FSS for the sale of the company name at an inflated price.
They chose the name with a dishonest motive, to use it as an 'instrument of fraud', it is alleged.
It adds they set up Iforensic Ltd to compete with the FSS to provide forensic goods services and products, including national DNA database services.
Mr Akhtar, from Yardley, Birmingham, said: "We have never been accused of taking personal information about individuals from the DNA database.
"What we are accused of is taking the database itself, not the information."
He added it was never the intention to set up a firm to rival the FSS or the DNA database.
Mr Akhtar went on: "The FSS said if we have registered the domain names using the iforensic word then we must be going to do the same business as them and thus must have taken the database system."
He added the FSS was making IT redundancies and 'we plan to set up a company to offer the services the FSS will be looking to outsource."
The FSS said it could not comment because of the investigation. The Home Office insisted there was no question information held on the database had been 'compromised'.
Florida Supreme Court finalizes DNA rules, rejects defenders' objection
Florida - The Florida Supreme Court adopted a permanent rule on DNA testing of prison inmates and criminal defendants after turning aside an objection from public defenders at least for the time being.
The new law also lifted all deadlines for prison inmates to file post-conviction appeals based on DNA testing.
Virginia Announces 4,000 DNA Databank Cold Hits
Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine today announced that the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (DFS) has recorded its 4,000th "hit" to Virginia's Offender DNA Databank. An offender profile from the Virginia DNA Databank matched an evidence sample from a rape case that occurred in California in 2002.
Collecting Samples for DNA Database
Darnell Griffin's case is the state's first random hit from DNA samples, but the attorney general says it won't be the last. He expects to solve many more crimes, thanks to a new law that requires DNA from all of Hawaii's convicted felons.
DNA evidence is often used to catch and convict criminals. Until now, samples were only collected from Hawaii's most violent offenders and only in the last couple of years.
"We wanted this law because we thought DNA samples would help convict the guilty and help free the innocent," said State Attorney General Mark Bennett.
Since December, the state has taken DNA swabs from all of the convicted felons in custody statewide and stored them in a database. That's an estimated 2,240 inmates, all soon to be compared to evidence from crimes here and across the nation.
"When we have the complete collection sample done and when we have them all compared to CODIS, we expect there to be a lot of cold hits because that's been the experience of other states," said Bennett.
New and ongoing cases involving the use of DNA evidence include:
Washington - A man suspected of raping and disemboweling a woman who'd told friends she didn't want to date him is in King County Jail facing first-degree murder charges on the 25-year-old crime.
Seattle police and King County prosecutors said DNA found on the body of 22-year-old Wilma Williams, who was found dead in her Seattle apartment on July 22, 1981, was matched to Darrell Eugene Lowe through the state DNA database in February.
Along with the DNA match, detectives with the Sexual Assault Unit and cold case prosecutors said their evidence against Lowe includes corroborating statements from former friends who'd heard about the murder, and from Lowe's ex-girlfriend who'd worried for years about the night she saw Lowe come home covered in blood.
Lowe, who had been in jails in Pierce and Yakima counties during the investigation, is now in King County Jail charged with first-degree murder.
An initial court date has not yet been set, prosecutors said.
California - DNA evidence ties a former pizza deliverer accused of being one of the city's most prolific serial killers to the slayings of 10 women and an unborn fetus, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday at the start of his trial.
New York - DNA has confirmed that a leg found off the shore of Long Island matches a female torso that washed ashore in Westchester County last month, police said Wednesday.
Results from DNA testing on a second leg also was expected to be a match, said Mamaroneck Detective Sgt. Robert Holland.
He said, however, that authorities still do not know the victim's identity.
The headless, armless, legless body was found on March 3 inside a suitcase that washed ashore at Harbor Island Park.
Since the torso floated onto the beach as storm-fed floods hit the region, authorities have said it could have come from almost anywhere.
Mamaroneck Deputy Mayor William Paonessa said at the time that the village had no active missing-person cases.
About three weeks later, the legs were found a day apart — on March 21 off Cold Spring Harbor and March 22 off Cove Neck, along Nassau County's Gold Coast. Both legs had pink toenail polish.
Police have said that the torso had a stab wound and belonged to a large woman with a tiny tattoo of two red cherries on a green stem above her right breast.
Police believe the parts belong to a Hispanic or light-skinned black woman about 35 to 50 years old, no more than 5-foot-6 and 180 to 200 pounds
Texas - Authorities believe the slaying of an 82-year-old woman nearly 20 years ago was the work of a man now on Texas' death row for another slaying.
Margaret McGinnis was found sexually assaulted and strangled in her west Houston home in 1988. Authorities say DNA connects Travis D. Green, 38, to the crime.
Green was sentenced to death in the 1999 rape and murder of 19-year-old Kristin Loesch.
Because of this circumstance, authorities said no additional charges will be filed against him at this time.
New York - A DNA “cold hit” has allegedly linked an Ohio convict to a rape that occurred in Rochester seven years ago.
Maine - Looking for clues at the scene of Crystal Perry's murder, something caught the eye of state police evidence technician Craig Handley.
Amid pools of blood from about 50 stab wounds to the victim, Handley saw a few drops on her body that didn't seem to fit.
"The texture of the blood was different, and it was a different color," the former state police detective testified on Tuesday. "It was blood that had gravitated from some height to the floor."
Handley collected the drops, along with similar ones found on Perry's kitchen floor and countertop. Their source remained a mystery for 12 years, until a DNA test last year matched them to Michael Hutchinson.
Handley testified during the second day of Hutchinson's murder trial in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland. His testimony is the first link in what Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese told jurors will be a chain of scientific evidence that proves Hutchinson's guilt.
Twelve years of investigation turned up no other intersections between Perry and Hutchinson, besides that they both lived in Bridgton in 1994. But police collected sperm from her body and blood drops that could only have come from Hutchinson, according to the test.
Connecticut - DNA evidence has implicated a convicted sex offender in the rape of a 13-year-old girl nearly eight years after the assault occurred.
Michael Birch, 31, who is serving a 25-year prison term for another sexual assault, was arraigned Tuesday in Danielson Superior Court on charges of first-degree sexual assault and first-degree kidnapping. His case was continued and he was returned to prison to await his next court appearance.
Birch was arrested March 31, 2000, for kidnapping and sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl at knifepoint, state police said Tuesday. He subsequently was convicted and sentenced to 25 years, which he is serving at the Osborne Correctional Facility in Somers.
While incarcerated, Birch provided a DNA sample that later was analyzed and entered into the DNA database, police said.
During the investigation of the sexual assault of the 13-year-old girl, which occurred in the early morning hours of June 8, 1999, the victim was taken to Day Kimball Hospital in Putnam for treatment. Physical evidence seized by police from the girl was forwarded to the state police forensic laboratory, where it was analyzed and DNA extracted from that evidence was entered into the database.
Indiana - 24-Hour News 8 has learned the DNA in two rape cases matches the DNA of the man police say committed the rapes.
Police arrested 18-year-old Audrain Jones last month in connection with the rape and abduction of a woman from a downtown parking garage and the rape of a Sycamore School teacher last year.
Prosecutors filed multiple felony charges against him. At the time, fingerprint evidence matched Jones. Now, detectives say DNA results match in both cases.
Jones remains in jail. His trial is scheduled for June 4th.
Texas - Police say DNA evidence led them to a 14-year-old boy who was arrested this week for the rape of a woman back in February.
Detectives believe he was part of a group that called themselves the "Bruton Oaks Boys" that are suspected in string of robberies and home invasions in Southeast Dallas.
When the February 5 assault happened at the apartment in the 9700 Block of Bruton Road in Pleasant Grove, detectives say the victim's adult son and teenaged daughter were in the next room, and had no idea their mother was being raped.
Colorado - DNA testing resulted in the arrest of an Arizona man this week in the 1976 slaying of an Englewood woman.
Roy Adkins, 48, of Phoenix, was arrested Wednesday in Arizona. He was being held without bond on a fugitive charge in Maricopa County (Ariz.) Jail on Thursday. He faces a murder charge in Colorado once he is extradited.
"Though justice in this case may have been delayed, it appears that it has not been denied, thanks to the hard work of the Englewood Police Department and capital crimes investigators in the Department of Law," said Attorney General John Suthers.
Adkins has an extensive criminal record in Colorado. He served four years in prison for a 1981 aggravated robbery charge, and has been arrested numerous times for burglary, assault, theft, and disturbing the peace over a 20-year span, between 1976 to 1996. Most of the arrests occurred in Denver.
New York - It took only a few minutes in court Monday, but when it was done, Anthony J. Capozzi was clear of rape and sodomy charges for the first time since he was arrested Sept. 13, 1985, on charges that he was the Delaware Park Rapist.
Erie County Judge Shirley Troutman signed orders setting aside Capozzi’s convictions and dismissed the charges in the interest of justice, based on DNA tests from recently discovered rape kit slides stored in Erie County Medical Center.
Those DNA tests showed that authorities were 100 percent certain that Capozzi did not commit the rapes. The same tests showed with almost absolute certainty that the DNA belonged to Altemio C. Sanchez, the man charged as the Bike Path Killer.
California - Bakersfield Police arrested a local man after DNA evidence linked him to a murder that occurred eight years ago.
In May 1999, authorities said Leslie Ahart was sexually assaulted and then shot to death by Darnell Lucifer Pierce.
Pierce was arrested after the District Attorney’s Crime Lab confirmed his DNA matched a profile DNA gathered at the crime scene.
Criminalist Greg Laskowski said in the past, California was falling behind in DNA profiling because of lack of funds, man power, and different regulations for profiling.
“If he was arrested sometime previous to that, he may not have been arrested and charged as a sex offender,” said Laskowski. “Therefore his DNA would not have been collected. There was probably a significant time lag from months to a year before it was even put in the system.”
Prop. 69 changed the rules last year, allowing California to profile anyone who’s committed a felony.
The hit on Darnelle Pierce occurred last fall. The DNA evidence was matched in February leading to his arrest.
Pierce is charged with sexual assault and the murder of Leslie Ahart.
He is due in court Tuesday.
Hawaii - A controversial 2005 law requiring all convicted felons to submit DNA samples to a national database is credited with providing a break that led to the arrest of a paroled killer for the rape and killing of Evelyn Luka eight years ago, police said.
Authorities charged Darnell Griffin, 48, with Luka's murder yesterday. He is being held in lieu of $5 million bail and is scheduled to appear Monday in Honolulu District Court.
Police said Griffin submitted a DNA sample in November, as required by the new law. In February his DNA was matched to the Luka case, and detectives from the Cold Case Unit reopened the investigation into her slaying.
California - A criminologist testified this week that the D-N-A of a former Bakersfield school administrator accused of killing five family members was found in a plastic glove left at the crime scene.
Criminalist Brenda Smith testimony came yesterday during the Kern County trial of Vincent Brothers.
The genetic material of Vincent Brothers and at least two others was found in the glove tip.
Prosecutors accuse Brothers of using plastic gloves to cover up his role in the July 2003 murders of his estranged wife, Joanie Harper, their three young children and his mother-in-law.
Brothers, the sole suspect in the vicious slayings, faces a possible death sentence if convicted.
The former vice principal has pleaded not guilty and claims he was out of town when the bodies were found.
Missouri - Antonio Beaver walked into a St. Louis courtroom in an orange prison jumpsuit Thursday. He walked out in a sport coat and slacks.
Beaver is a free man after a more than a decade behind bars for a carjacking he didn't commit. D-N-A analysis cleared him.
The woman who was carjacked picked Beaver from a lineup and he was convicted in 1997. The D-N-A came from blood the carjacker left behind in the car when the woman stabbed him with a screwdriver.
Prosecutors say D-N-A testing at the time couldn't provide conclusive results but Beaver persisted and eventually got a test that showed he wasn't the carjacker.
He says he thanks God because "He knew I was innocent from the start."
Indiana - A DNA match helps police solve a rape case from 2001.
William Jackson, 21, of Columbus, Ohio was found guilty of raping an Elkhart woman.
On September 5, 2001 he broke into a woman's home and raped her at knifepoint.
It is how police tracked down Jackson that is interesting.
After the rape DNA evidence from the scene was entered into a national DNA database.
It turns out that the DNA was taken after a rape in Ohio.
Jackson was the suspect in that case and police matched his DNA to the Elkhart rape.
Elkhart county Prosecutor Curtis Hill says Elkhart Police and Ohio authorities did an excellent job of working together to nail an apparent serial rapist.
California - DNA evidence in three rape cases, one nearly 12 years ago, led San Diego police to arrest a 49-year-old suspect yesterday.
Investigators said a computer system matched DNA collected in the three cases to that of Jose David Quintana. He was arrested about 8 a.m. outside his 68th Street home in the Skyline neighborhood.
Quintana is suspected of raping randomly selected victims, threatening each with a gun or knife. Victims described his unusual supple leather footwear as almost feminine, earning him a police nickname as the “soft shoe rapist,” Sgt. Judy Woods said.
A sample of his DNA was taken after his 2006 conviction of a felony not related to a sexual assault. Woods said that when the sample was entered in a national DNA database of convicted felons, it matched evidence previously entered from the three local cases.
Illinois - A 21-year-old Decatur man who was identified through DNA from a hat and by the woman he robbed pleaded guilty on Thursday in Macon County Circuit Court to one count of robbery.
Did You Know?
Topic: Purdue researchers use 'nanopore channels' to precisely detect DNA
Researchers at Purdue's Birck Nanotechnology Center have shown how "nanopore channels" can be used to rapidly and precisely detect specific sequences of DNA as a potential tool for genomic applications in medicine, environmental monitoring and homeland security.
The tiny channels, which are 10 to 20 nanometers in diameter and a few hundred nanometers long, were created in silicon and then a single strand of DNA was attached inside each channel.
Other researchers have created such channels in the past, but the Purdue group is the first to attach specific strands of DNA inside these silicon-based channels and then use the channels to detect specific DNA molecules contained in a liquid bath, said Rashid Bashir, a professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Weldon School of Biomedical Engineering.
Findings are detailed in a research paper appearing online this week in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. The paper was authored by former graduate student and now postdoctoral research associate Samir Iqbal, research assistant professor Demir Akin and Bashir.
Each channel was fabricated in a thin silicon membrane and bathed in the fluids containing DNA. Because DNA is negatively charged, applying a voltage across the membrane causes the genetic material in the bath to flow through the channel. The DNA is said to "translocate" through the nanopore.
The researchers discovered that single strands of perfectly complementary DNA - strands matching those attached to the inside of each channel - flowed faster and were transported in higher numbers across the pores compared to strands that did not match, Bashir said.
"We can detect the translocation of specific types of DNA strands by measuring the electrical current across the channel," he said. "Essentially, we can measure specific signature pulses that happen as a result of the specific DNA movement."
DNA is made of four different kinds of "nucleotides" identified by a specific "base." The bases are paired together to form the double-stranded helical structure.
"When the DNA molecules in the bath are perfectly complementary to those in the channels, then this current pulse is shorter compared to when there is even a single base mismatch," Iqbal said.
Being able to detect specific DNA molecules quickly and from small numbers of starting molecules without the need to attach "labels" represents a potential mechanism for a wide variety of DNA detection applications.
Events and conferences for 2007 that may of interest to you include:
18th International Symposium on Human Identification - October 1-4, 2007
Renaissance Hollywood Hotel - Hollywood, California
Web site: www.promega.com/geneticsymp18/
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