Thursday, December 21, 2006

Statement from DNASI

DNA Security, Inc. has issued a statement defending their DNA testing procedure, report, and compliance with discovery laws. A review of the statement reveals that Dr. Brian Meehan's lab is in full blown damage control mode as he attempts to shift responsibility from himself to his client, District Attorney Mike Nifong. It is also quite clear that DNA Security, like so many of the other villains in this tragedy, finds itself unencumbered by conscience, truth, and professional integrity.

As you read this statement, please keep in mind that, despite the protestations that the motive in withholding information was to protect the privacy of those individuals who tested negative, Dr. Meehan's initial report dated May 12 included the names of all the suspects (as he described “reference samples” in his initial report or “possible perpetrator” as DNASI prefers to define “reference sample” in this statement) and the consensual partners who did test negative. These names can be found on pages three and four of the ten page report he submitted to Investigator Benjamin Himan. DNASI specifically states that they did not list these names, yet Dr. Meehan in fact did. DNASI claims that the intent was to prevent the stigma of being a suspect, yet they define them as such in this report. The only names not listed are those that remain, reportedly, unknown. It appears that the only individuals whose privacy was protected by the conspiracy to withhold the full testing results are the several unknown, unidentified, uninvestigated, and unnamed male sources of the semen found where one might expect it to be found on a genuine rape victim.

In addition to the privacy spin, there are a few other items to watch for. Pay attention to the bias revealed by referring to the transparently false accuser as the “victim.” Note too that they attempt to mischaracterize a non-exclusion as a match.

Further, pay heed to the attempt to deflect blame by stating that Dr. Meehan's initial report noted that there were additional DNA profiles from reference samples and evidence retained by his lab. In his initial report, he falsely described this additional evidence as “non-probative.” Quite clearly the additional evidence is probative, as DNA Security admits in the penultimate paragraph below.

Most importantly, do not be fooled by DNA Security’s false claim that the information was provided to the defense in the course of normal discovery procedures. Despite the attempts to create the impression that Dr. Meehan willingly complied with discovery laws, his full compliance came only after:
  • Dr. Meehan and the District Attorney initially agreed to keep the exculpatory findings secret
  • Dr. Meehan falsely reported that the exculpatory evidence was non-probative
  • The defense filed multiple motions to compel discovery
  • The District Attorney stated in writing to the court that he was unaware of any additional exculpatory evidence two months after such was reported to him by Dr. Meehan
  • District Attorney Nifong claimed falsely that his meetings with Dr. Meehan were not evidentiary in nature
  • Dr. Meehan objected vehemently, in writing to the court, to turning over the complete findings
  • District Attorney Nifong took "no position" while chiding the defense attorneys' demand as a "witch hunt" and mocking them for having stated that the incomplete and misleading test results they had been given in the Spring exonerated their clients
  • Being compelled to testify at a pre-trial hearing
  • Defense attorneys combed through thousands of pages of discovery to find and decipher the missing results
  • The defendants, exonerated by his April findings have spent, in the eight months since, an estimated two million dollars in trial related fees.

The Ever-Growing LieStoppers Team

DNA Security, Inc. Statement
re: the Duke Lacrosse Case Tests
December 19, 2006
The high profile “Duke Lacrosse Team” case has generated a flurry of complaints and accusations from both those who support the Lacrosse team members and those who support the victim. Some unfounded and unfortunate accusations have been leveled against just about everyone, including our laboratory, DNA Security, Inc.
It is appropriate to clarify some obvious misconceptions about DNA testing, and what our lab does when we are hired by a client in criminal investigations and criminal prosecutions.

Neither DNA Security nor any other private accredited lab is an investigatory or a prosecutorial entity. Although currently popular television shows regularly show forensic scientists and DNA experts independently working to solve a crime, convict the defendant, or have charges dropped, most DNA testing labs like ours work for a client who hires us. We do not voluntarily show up at crime scenes or hospitals with teams of scientists, and solve the crime in one episode.

Rather, we are usually provided with samples from the client. That client specifies the testing to be performed, typically to determine whether evidentiary DNA (from a crime scene or victim) matches DNA of a known individual or individuals (reference specimens). That is basically the service we performed in the Duke Lacrosse Team case for our client, the Durham County District Attorney’s Office. The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation performed similar DNA tests in this case.

After the completion of tests using accepted scientific methods and procedures, we generally prepare a summary report, the extent of which will vary depending on the case. Our report in this case detailed only the DNA profiles of reference specimens that were consistent with DNA profiles obtained from evidence items as of that date (commonly referred to as “matches”). The report described three identifications: one from a sexual assault kit sample, and two from the victim’s fingernails. Because of the high profile of the case and the number of identified male DNA specimens tested, those individuals that were negative were not listed, to avoid creating the stigma of being a “suspect” if (when) the report became public.

Our report also specifically stated that DNA profiles obtained from additional reference specimens and evidence items were being retained pending instructions.
Our report AND the additional results of tests where there was no DNA match were provided to our client, and then to defense counsel in the normal criminal pre-trial “discovery” process.

Our findings have been disclosed and discussed in Motions filed with the Court and available for public review, and in testimony in an open Court hearing on December 15, 2006.

The attorneys from each side must evaluate the effect of our test results on their case. That is not the function of a DNA testing lab.

Two things about real-life DNA testing are often overlooked:

(1) There may be any number of samples from the crime scene or victim that labs are not able to “match” to a sample from a known reference specimen (possible perpetrator). This can occur when a sample from the crime scene or victim does not contain DNA, or when the DNA present is not from any reference specimen that was provided for testing. It is not the DNA lab’s job to search for people whose DNA would match samples from the crime scene or victim.

(2) While DNA laboratories such as ours are confident in determining identity when there is a match between the evidence and an individual reference specimen, the absence of a match, by itself, does not exclude a possible perpetrator. Of course, evidence of the inability to match a defendant’s DNA with that found at the scene or on the victim certainly presents an argument for a defendant or his counsel.
DNA Security is well aware of the importance of scientifically reliable DNA testing to the police, the prosecution, the public, and a suspect or defendant. We have and will continue to use the best scientific methods and practices to reach accurate and reliable results.
Hat tip: RK

Credit for the above post is due the members of the LieStoppers Forum who contributed directly to its compostion and who have become a welcome extension of the original LieStoppers team. The post was composed in full from the thoughts, observations, and research posted by the LS Forum members last night and early this morning. If the villains we hound have found us an annoyance when we numbered in the teens, let this post serve notice that there are now hundreds of members to the LieStoppers Team.

If you haven't yet taken the opportunity to visit the forum, I encourage you to do so. Over the past few weeks, the discussion has grown in quantity and quality. In the past seven days, the board has experienced over 200,000 page views and thousands of posts. Many of the commentators offer a wealth of relevant legal, law enforcement, forensic, scientific, medical, journalism, and other topical career knowledge and experience. Others present local perspective and insight. All contribute greatly, whether from occupational or life experience, to both the discussion found on the forum and the items presented here.

To give a better impression of the insightful, informed, and intelligent discussion found on the forum, here are samples of some of the posts that were incorporated into today's blog:
"The statement is a red herring. So what if Nifong asked that the analysis be limited to determining whether there was any DNA matching the targets? The point is that they found DNA from multiple unidentified sources. The original request from Nifong was moot; the obligation was to turn it over, regardless of what Nifong asked. Clearly, this will be Nifong's defense: I asked whether it matched Duke LAX players; the answer was no match. Everything past that is irrelevant. Incredibly weak answer, but Nifong and Meehan are in full retreat mode because they both know the significance of concealing information." - Haunches
"I think it was clearly an attempt to shift blame to Nifong. They hit "client" really hard. That should scare everyone to death. The state hires these labs apparently to prosecute people, not to find out the truth. They want to say "Nifong told us to hide stuff and we were therefore obligated to do so because he was the client."
"They are ruined no matter what they say. Perception is everything. Anybody would be stupid to hire them. Still, I am very frightened by the revelation of this attitude. I think it reflects the fact that most criminal defendants can not pay for such testing and therefore cannot become "clients." Accordingly the state hires these guys and if they say there's a match, you're guilty, and if they say there's not a match, well then, you may be guilty anyway. Completely ludicrous. Who knows how many innocent people are sitting in jail because of this type of garbage. God help us all." - Ralph
"The first glaring thing that jumps out at me is the fact that all individuals that gave reference samples WERE in fact "listed" on the original report. And in addition, the report refers in several places to those who gave reference samples as "suspects" (describing matches with "suspect reference speciman" even in the case of Kevin Coleman"
"Here's the second major thing that jumps out at me. The report doesn't specifically state "that DNA profiles obtained from additional reference specimens and evidence items" are being retained. What is says is "Individual DNA profiles for non-probative evidence specimens and suspect reference specimens are being retained at DSI pending notification of the client." (emphasis added) There is a huge difference between these two statements.
"This statement does NOT make it clear that there was additional DNA recovered that didn't match any of the reference samples. Generally, "non-probative evidence" would be something like samples from a case in which someone has confessed or has already been convicted, or duplicate samples (multiple cuttings from the same blood stain that has already been tested.) It is not evidence that you expect to have any value to a court case. In a situation like this case, finding a match to the AV on her own clothes would be considered non-probative evidence.
"The very misleading wording of that sentence is very problematic for several other reasons as well: First, the DNA lab is supposed to report EVERY DNA result regardless of whether it is nonprobative. Second, the DNA lab has NO BUSINESS making judgements about what evidence might have probative value in an open case. If the DNA lab is making its own decisions that finding DNA from multiple men on and in the AV is non-probative, that shows that their objective was not to find the truth, but rather to prove that the "suspects" did it. That evidence is only "non-probative" to the prosecution." - Nonimouse
"The real weakness in this statement is that (1) the people of North Carolina, not Nifong is their client and (2) if they had any privacy concerns the way to address that was to go to the judge and the defence and seek a protective order. What DNASI did was enter into an arrangement to conceal evidence from the defence and then assist Nifong in trying to persuade the court not to grant defence requests for access to the concealed material." - Alan
"If you conspire with a "prosecutorial entity" to suppress exculpatory evidence -- in violation of your own protocols -- then you have engaged in conduct that is unethical at best and criminal at worst...If it was that simple, then why didn't Mikey simply give you your instructions in writing? Why did he have to schlepp out to Burlington to chat with you face to face?...Umm, who exactly do you claim you were protecting? Reade Seligmann? Colin Finnerty? Unindicted lacrosse players? Do you honestly believe that there is a "stigma" that comes with a negative result? Especially where everyone in the country already knows that you've turned over a DNA sample? Do you honestly expect anyone to believe you?...Did it state that unidentified DNA profiles from the accuser's person were floating around?...But it is the lab's job to report the facts, no?...Interesting that you are aware of this. And decided to omit this sort of helpful (read exculpatory) evidence from your report...that's if you retain your accreditation and if anyone cares to hire you, knowing that for the rest of your career, when attorneys cross-examine you, they will ask about this little incident. I'm really hoping that you lose your accreditation and get prosecuted right along with Nifong." - lskinner


Anonymous said...

It was only after reading the full DNASI lab report that I realized that I do know the family of one of the unindicted lacrosse players. Since his full name was given- and it is distinctive- I knew that he had, indeed, been under suspicion. So much for privacy concerns!!!

Texas Mom

Anonymous said...

Yeah, that will help them keep their accreditation. No law enforcement or defense team will ever use them again.

Anonymous said...

This is a stunning article. $2million in legal fees because of a conspiracy between two men, one hungry to be elected and one hungry for business. How disgusting. They both should be behind bars. What on earth would happen to three young men who could not afford private attorneys but have to depend on a public defender? Scarey!

Anonymous said...

Given Mr. Meehan's eagerness to please the Durham District Attorney, perhaps the defendants should count themselves lucky that he did not somehow find their DNA in the accuser (much as he found his own). At least there are some limits to the gentleman's mendacity.

GPrestonian said...

It's difficult to discern just who they think their audience is with this press release:

Judge Smith? - doesn't matter after Meehan's testimony

Nifong? - same as above, Meehan's testimony telegraphed that he's vulnerable, and likely to spill all the beans

potential LE clients? - DSI & Meehan's days as forensic testers and expert witness were over before the press conferences started last Friday afternoon

accreditation/licensing angencies? - they know better

the general public - most don't care, and the ones that do see it for the load of hooha that it is

So... it can only be...

potential [private] paternity test clients - they plan to market their services to Maury Povich, Montel Williams, et al with the motto 'Who yo babydaddy?

Anonymous said...

If DNASI's Professional Liability covergage (presuming they had it) wasn't cancelled the afternoon of Meehan's testimony, I'd be shocked.

cottonfields said...

Very important to read the op-ed in the Dec 21 News and Observer by Kennedy, a professor at the UNC law school. His view is that the DA now has an actual conflict of interest in continuing with the case, in that he faces possibly expulsion from office if he does not repudiate his lab director.

Anonymous said...

It jumps out at me that after the indictments of Reade and Collin that he only one needing protection was Meehan's client...Nifong. That is why both protested to the judge when the defense wanted the complete file. Keeping Nifong from being further exposed was their only purpose.

Anonymous said...

Does Meehan believe in DNA? It doesn't sound like it to me. Where is it the duty of a lab to make probative decisions regarding reporting results?

What a foolish argument! Privacy is the concern of the Court! Of course it is just the last desperate attempt to save the sinking ship.

Do not book passage on the USS Nifong!

Anonymous said...

"the absence of a match, by itself, does not exclude a possible perpetrator"

-Then get Himan off his ass to go find the guy with the "mustache".

-What a load of crap.

bill anderson said...

We are dealing with lies across the board from the accuser to the DA to his lackeys at the lab. As I pointed out in a recent article, the only ones -- the only ones -- that have consistently told the truth have been the lacrosse players. I think that says it all.

Kennedy's piece involved the usual legal parsing, although my guess is that he believes the case is a hoax, but does not feel free to put such words in a newspaper. That is the lawyer speaking, and one can understand his points.

I think that in private conversations, he is much more harsh toward Nifong. But that is only a hunch.

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice that the non-exclusion of David Evans in the report said that 98% of people chosen at random would be excluded?

So in a group of 50 random people, you would expect (on average) 1 person to not be excluded.

One lacross player out of 46 was not excluded. Right in line with expected numbers.

Anonymous said...

A letter to the To ASCLD/LAB board



Mr Meehan is digging himself in deeper.

In a patently false, arrogant and deliberately misleading letter posted on their website, Mr Meehan and Mr Scales attempt to defend their actions by accusing the public of not understanding how DNA testing works.

I think the public and lab professionals understand pretty clearly what Mr Meehan has done.

as do law professors:

as do forensic scientists:

It is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that Mr Meehan conspired with DA Mike Nifong to hide the full range of his testing. Testing which was exculpatory in nature. And implicitly contradicted the story of the criminal accuser (who Mr Meehan repeatedly refers to as the "victim" in his current letter).

It is now clear that "privacy concerns" played essentially _no_ role in Meehan's decision to hid data since his initial report in fact listed the names of the people whose samples were tested.

Mr Meehan is compounding his initial deliberately deceptive work by continuing to post deliberately false and inaccurate statements.

I would suggest that ASCLD/LAB take action sooner rather than later.

Before more damage is done.

joeblow said...

Yes there is a stigma attached to the DNA results. I for one believe it.

Anonymous said...

According to this article
Meehan sold DNAS some time ago and is now just an employee there.

Also, according to the article, Meehan's favorite book is titled "Things we believe but cannot prove"