Michigan Court of Appeals Affirms STRmix Use, Lower Court Decision in State v Muhammad Case

Oct. 18, 2018
Court concludes that the trial court "did not abuse its discretion in admitting the results" from DNA testing.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 18, 2018 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ -- The Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed the lower court decision in State of Michigan v Elamin Muhammad (No. 338300, Muskegon Circuit Court LC No. 14-065263-FC) in which the defendant was convicted of armed robbery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Writing the court's opinion for the three-judge panel, Judge Christopher M. Murray stated, "The principal issue to decide … is whether the trial court abused its discretion in admitting expert testimony regarding the results from STRmix™ probabilistic genotype testing. We conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the results from this testing …"

STRmix™ – a sophisticated forensic software used to resolve mixed DNA profiles previously thought to be too complex to interpret – was used to analyze a degraded, mixed DNA sample found on the insole of a shoe police recovered at the scene of the robbery. The results of the DNA analysis indicated that the evidence was one hundred billion times more likely if Mr. Muhammad was a donor to the profile that if a random man was.

In his opinion, Judge Murray noted, "The trial court did not err in finding that the prosecution introduced sufficient evidence to authenticate the shoe and the insole … There was no evidence to show that the shoe insole was contaminated or tampered with …"

The opinion also noted that the use of STRmix™ to analyze the DNA sample had met all of the criteria required by Daubert, the legal standard used to assess whether an expert's scientific testimony is based on reasoning or methodology that is scientifically valid and can properly be applied to the facts at issue.

Judge Murray explained, "… the trial court's findings on the relevant [Daubert] factors were not clearly erroneous because they had ample support in the evidence. That evidence … showed that STRmix™ utilizes well-established mathematical and scientific methods, and that the software has undergone various validation studies."

Those studies included manual calculations, true and false donor tests, and tests against other software, as well as validation studies which subjected STRmix™ to field conditions – none of which produced false positive or false negative identifications.

The opinion went on to note, "The trial court found that STRmix™ is a generally accepted method. The evidence supports this conclusion …" Moreover, STRmix™ "… was subjected to peer review and approved for casework by the New York Commission on Forensic Science." As a result, "The trial court's findings on the relevant factors supported its conclusion that the DNA evidence was admissible, and thus the trial court properly discharged its gatekeeper role."

STRmix™ is now being routinely used to resolve DNA profiles by 36 forensic labs in the U.S., including the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and multiple state and local agencies. STRmix™ is also in various stages of installation, validation, and training in more than 50 other U.S. labs.

To date, there have been at least 24 successful admissibility hearings for STRmix™ in the U.S., while DNA evidence interpreted with STRmix™ has been successfully used in numerous court cases.

Internationally, STRmix™ has been used in casework since 2012. Currently in use in 14 labs in Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Ireland, Finland, Dubai, and Canada, STRmix™ has been used to interpret DNA evidence in more than 100,000 cases.

A new version of STRmix™, STRmix™ v2.6, recently was introduced. The new version features a user interface that has been completely redeveloped and refreshed, providing users with vastly improved usability and workflow. Version 2.6 also enables a range of contributors to be entered when performing a deconvolution, and any type of stutter to be added and configured.

STRmix™ was developed by John Buckleton, DSc, FRSNZ, and Jo-Anne Bright of the New Zealand Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), and Duncan Taylor from Forensic Science South Australia (FSSA).

For more information about STRmix™ visit http://www.strmix.com.

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