Setback for Automated STR Testing? (4/26/00)
Trial courts in two states have recently refused to admit evidence produced by a new method of DNA testing that uses automated equipment to analyze short tandem repeats (STRs). The new test employs a kit produced by Perkin Elmer Corporation known as the Profiler Plus System and a computer-controlled instrument known as the ABI 310 Genetic Analyzer. The new test has been popular with forensic scientists and faced little legal opposition at first. But the recent rulings raise concerns about the adequacy of Perkin Elmer's developmental validation, and about the company's refusal to disclose the results of key validation studies that it claims to have performed. In People v. Shreck, a Colorado trial court rejected the new method under the Frye standard. In State v. Pfenning, a Vermont trial court reached the same conclusion under the Daubert standard. These two rulings were foreshadowed by the ruling of a San Francisco trial court last year in in People v. Bokin (see the discussion in Open Forum). In Bokin, the court rejected an automated STR test that involved the 310 Genetic Analyzer and Perkin Elmer's Green One Kit, a predecessor to the Profiler Plus System.
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