Problems with DNA results & DNA tutorials

Discussion in 'Justice for JonBenet Discussion - Public Forum' started by fr brown, Oct 11, 2010.

  1. DeeDee

    DeeDee Member

    Yep. It was common knowledge at the time that coroner Meyer did not follow proper protocol when clipping JB's fingernails, and that he may have used those same clippers on previous decedents. I have often wondered why no one suggested testing that DNA against any male who was in the morgue or autopsied at the same time. If the decedents' tissue is not available, testing relatives still living would also work. I have also suggested that this rogue DNA may have belonged to the male morgue worker who transported JB from her home to the morgue. He was accused of trying to sell the morgue logbook showing the entry of JB's remains to the morgue. Creeps like this would be exactly the kind of person to "take a peek" at the beautiful little murdered beauty queen. He could have been the one to pull her lonhjohns and panties down. It would explain why no other evidence matching those skin cells were ever found anywhere else on the body or the crime scene. It should also be noted that Mayer was said to have found a single FINGERPRINT on the body- which he said he chose NOT to put in his notes. Excuse me? A dead little girl with a PRINT on her body and you DECIDE NOT TO MENTION IT? What does this tell us? They already know who it belongs to. Otherwise, why not put it into the system till there is a match, like the dog-and-pony trick they pull every week with the DNA?
    We can discuss these kinds of thing from here to the end of time. Bottom line- things that COULD have been done to solve this case were NOT done. Sometimes out of carelessness, but sometimes deliberately. They did not (and do not) want the case solved. The present DA is no different. The Rs attorneys are ever vigilant, and the "machine" that protected the Rs is still operative.
  2. Elle

    Elle Member

    You're jogging my memory here, DeeDee. I do remember this creep who had access to JonBenét's body in the morgue. One would have thought this little girl's body would have been well protected after after such a traumatic death. Dr. Meyer's was not reliable either with his strange behaviour. Little JonBenét Ramsey wasn't taken good care of while alive, or dead! It's all very disconcerting. No justice for this little six year old girl? Sad!
  3. cynic

    cynic Member

    I believe that there is a high probability that the key to the unidentified DNA in this case lies within the morgue.
    And it is a fact that there have been horrendous “activities” involving dead bodies. We occasionally see reports of this in the news.

    Mortuary technicians play with corpses
    NEW YORK POST, February 15, 2010

    Ghouls are at play in the city's morgues.
    The people employed to respectfully handle the remains of the deceased have instead turned cadavers and body parts into macabre playthings,
    The Post has learned.
    And they shockingly documented their depraved foolery in photos taken as keepsakes.
    Grinning mortuary technicians use corpses as props in dozens of disturbing Polaroids obtained by The Post.
    Perhaps most disturbing of all is mortuary technician Kaihl Brassfield holding a severed head in a classic Heisman Trophy football pose.


    "It was stupid," Brassfield, 35, told The Post. "It was just the culture there. Everyone was doing it."
    The creepy pictures, some undated and others from 2004, show Brassfield and unidentified co-workers hamming it up. "It was foolish," he conceded. "Now I'm older. It stopped."
    Brassfield, a $35,000-a- year technician at the Brooklyn morgue of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, had been out of work on disability, but was suspended without pay after inquiries by The Post.
    He says that for several years, everyone working in the Staten Island and Brooklyn morgues, from cops to coroners, participated in the gory games.
    But in recent years, after the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner took over from the Health and Hospitals Corp., staff got more professional, Brassfield said. "We are looking into the allegations," said Office of the Chief Medical Examiner spokeswoman Ellen Borakove. "This is the antithesis of the mission of our agency to always treat families and decedents with the utmost respect and sensitivity."
    The probe by the office's inspector-general began after the queries were made about the photos, and the city's Department of Investigation has begun interviewing ME employees.
    Brassfield said the photos were stolen in November. He said he received calls blackmailing him in December, but refused to pay.
  4. Elle

    Elle Member

    Oh cynic, I just had my lunch. I'm thinking I might lose it after reading the above story of mortuary technician Kaihl Brassfield. [​IMG] Very disturbing!
  5. cynic

    cynic Member

    It is disturbing. It’s also the kind of situation where you don’t know what else might have been going on, and don’t want to know.
  6. fr brown

    fr brown Member

    Mariya Goray of Victoria Police Forensic Service Centre in Australia and her colleagues re-enacted several scenarios loosely based on real events in which DNA from a defendant was found on a victim's clothes or a murder weapon, and where the defence argued that it could have got there indirectly. Mimicking the scenario described in the intro, Goray asked a volunteer to handle a child's vest and wooden toy for 1 minute before these objects were rubbed against the front of a lab coat, which represented pyjamas. They found that enough of the volunteer's DNA transferred to clearly identify him (Legal Medicine, DOI: 10.1016/j.legalmed.2011.09.006).

    ....Problems may also arise when evidence or bodies are examined on supposedly clean laboratory surfaces. Thorsten Schwark at the University Hospital of Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel, Germany, and his colleagues swabbed the shoulders and buttocks of six cadavers after they had rested on autopsy tables. They found that four of them were contaminated with DNA from bodies that had previously rested on the table - in two cases with DNA from more than one person (Forensic Science International, DOI: 10.1016/j.forsciint.2011.09.006). "This may seriously influence the interpretation of trace analysis results taken during autopsies," says Nicole von Wurmb-Schwark who was also involved in the work. For example, fragments of DNA from previous autopsies could mask or confuse DNA profiles from genuine assailants.
  7. koldkase

    koldkase FFJ Senior Member

    Thanks for posting this, fr brown.

    Of course, it's always been clear to me (and many others) that this "foreign" DNA had to be transference. All the other evidence clearly leads back to the Ramseys--especially the ransom note, which I will always believe Patsy wrote.
  8. Elle

    Elle Member

    Thanks for all the good information you post fr brown. This DNA sure does cause confusion.

    Like you and other posters here KK, I believe it was Patsy who wrote the ransom note.
  9. Elle

    Elle Member

    I'm sure I'm in good company here KK when I say the JonBenét Ramsey case flashes through my head when watching episodes of a few TV Crime shows. One statement is mentioned over and over again ... "I/we never meant for this to happen". It always comes immediately after a tragic accidental incident which has taken place; like someone dying from whatever they were attempting to do etc. This brings back to my mind Patsy Ramsey making this statement to Pamela Griffin, which makes me believe for sure Patsy was responsible for JonBenét's death.
  10. cynic

    cynic Member

    DNA, IDI’s Ship of Dreams

    The 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic has generated a fair bit of media attention and I guess it had been in the back of my mind as I read an article about a criminal investigation which had staked everything on the “unsinkable†DNA evidence that it believed it had.
    DNA is an easy “out†for those who don’t like to think, to make the effort to put ALL of the pieces of a circumstantial case together. This applies equally to investigators and juries.
    For some investigators, rather than following evidence within the context of the totality of the evidence, they can become mesmerized by DNA and occasionally be led astray.
    For jurors, fed on a steady diet of CSI, common sense is often cast aside and DNA evidence is valued above all else.
    And for those who, despite the evidence to the contrary, want the Ramseys to be innocent, DNA has become a ship of dreams. What is set aside is everything else, chronic abuse of JonBenet, Patsy’s authorship of the ransom note, and on and on it goes.

    The case against DNA
    Genetic profiling was once hailed as a magical tool to catch criminals. So why is it now in danger of being discredited?
    By William Langley, 06 Mar 2012

    Sitting in the dock of a brightly lit courtroom, David Butler cocks his head to one side as he listens to the prosecution’s case against him.
    A former taxi driver from Wavertree, in Liverpool, Butler is accused of murdering a local prostitute, Anne Marie Foy. At some point on the night of September 15 2005, the prosecution alleges, the 65-year-old picked Foy up in his car, took her to a secluded woodland and battered her to death with a branch from a tree. He then dumped her body in Liverpool city centre.
    Looking at Butler today it seems unlikely. Gaunt and grey-haired, he is beset by breathing difficulties (COPD) and sits in the dock with an oxygen bottle at his side. But the prosecution have what they say is conclusive evidence: traces of Butler’s DNA under the victim’s nails. There is, says Mr Nigel Power, the prosecuting QC, “a one billion-to-one chance†that the DNA belongs to anyone else. Foy must have torn at Butler’s skin as he attacked her, as she fought desperately to save her life.
    Thanks to fast-paced television crime shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, we have come to regard DNA evidence as uncontestable. The prosecution in Liverpool Crown Court has no other proof that ties Butler to the murder — showing just how much store they place in the science. But DNA is losing its aura of invincibility.
    Defense teams that once seemed helpless before the glossy, hi-tech slide shows presented by prosecutors have become far bolder in challenging the quality of the science.
    High-profile cases such as that of Amanda Knox — acquitted by an Italian court of murdering her flatmate after a trial that hinged almost solely on DNA evidence — have fed the notion that such evidence, with a little lawyerly ingenuity, can now be fought and discredited.
    The trial of David Butler, which ended last month, provided a near-perfect stage for airing these new doubts. When the police first investigated Foy’s murder in 2005 they failed to produce a suspect. But then, as part of a “cold case†review last year, officers rechecked whether the DNA discovered under Anne Marie Foy’s nails had any matches on the national DNA database.
    For some reason, first time around, no matches were found. This time, however, one turned up: a sample recovered from a cigarette butt found in 1998 after a burglary at the defendant’s mother’s house. The police originally believed the butt had been left by the burglar. Instead it led them to Mr Butler who had apparently dropped it during a visit to comfort his mother. After the taking of a full DNA profile, which, again, matched the DNA under the finger nails, the cabbie was charged with murder. This was at the heart of the prosecution’s case.
    But Michael Wolkind, Butler’s QC, took the science apart. The testing procedures were unreliable, he told the jury. The analysis of the DNA under Foy’s nails had been done at a time before higher-quality standards for handling samples were established. And, he said, even if the DNA was the defendant’s, there could be a perfectly innocent explanation for how it got there.
    Butler suffers from a dry skin condition so severe that his nickname in the local cab trade is “flakyâ€. He could have taken a passenger to the Red Light district, handed over some notes in change and passed on his DNA to the passenger who then met with Foy and later handed the notes, complete with Butler’s DNA, to her.
    “The idea that Mr Butler violently attacked her is beyond belief,†Wolkind told the jury. “Mr Butler never met the deceased, and unsafe science cannot change that fact.â€

    Prof Jamieson’s approach is more combative. He has appeared as an expert witness for the defense in several important DNA-centered trials, most notably that of Sean Hoey, who was cleared of carrying out the 1998 Omagh bombing which killed 29 people. Jamieson’s main concern about the growing use of DNA in court cases is that a number of important factors — human error, contamination, simple accident — can suggest guilt where there is none. Police and prosecutors, he alleges, have come to see DNA evidence as a shortcut to convictions, and juries are ill-equipped to understand the complex scientific data.
    “Wherever you have humans involved, you’ll have the potential for mistakes,†he tells me. “There’s a growing realization that the system is not foolproof.†In particular, he worries about the tiny amounts of DNA (known as Low Count DNA) that can now be used as the basis of a trial. Modern technology allows forensic teams to capture DNA from two or three cells, as opposed to hundreds or thousands of cells, as used to be the case, and Jamieson believes these sort of minuscule samples are unreliable.
    “Does anyone realize how easy it is to leave a couple of cells of your DNA somewhere?†he asks rhetorically. “You could shake my hand and I could put that hand down hundreds of miles away and leave your cells behind. In many cases, the question is not ‘Is it my DNA?’, but ‘How did it get there?’â€

    On February 10, after 11 hours of jury deliberation, Butler was cleared.
    Afterwards, at his home in Wavertree, he accused the police of being “fixated†on the DNA and failing to provide any other evidence. “If they’d been a bit more robust with their investigations over five-and-a-half years it would not have got to this stage,†he said. “The DNA stopped good policemen doing a good policeman’s job. It was like that was all [the evidence] they needed. They could never say it was my DNA. They talked in probabilities but you cannot put a probability on a man’s life.â€

    Dozens of learned papers have been written extolling the virtues of DNA as a “magic bullet†in the identification of suspects.
    Yet, in a perverse way, this dependency has become a problem. In the Amanda Knox trial, the Italian police presented virtually no other evidence that the 24-year-old American university student had murdered her English flatmate Meredith Kercher. With no obvious motive, no witnesses, no confessions and very little in the way of circumstantial evidence, the Italian prosecutors built a case almost entirely around the finding of Ms Knox’s DNA on the knife used to slash Ms Kercher’s throat. The defense was able to blow gaping holes in the case, demonstrating that the DNA samples could have been contaminated by stray DNA, misinterpreted, or have an innocent explanation. A damning review of the DNA evidence by a team of American experts suggested that it was mishandled and wrongly analysed.
    In the United States, where DNA has assumed an ever more central role in the courtroom, lawyers have proven predictably skilled at undermining its credibility. An entire sub-speciality of law has evolved called DNA-rebuttal and dozens of people have either had convictions overturned or secured not-guilty verdicts in trials that looked certain to end with the opposite conclusion.
    William Thompson, a criminologist specializing in DNA-based forensics at the University of California, criticizes what he calls “the rhetoric of infallibility†surrounding DNA profiling.
    “We’ve seen images of wrongfully convicted people being freed by this marvelous new technology,†he says, “and guilty ones being brought to justice, and we are invited to believe that this is a gold standard, a truth machine. It isn’t that simple. The fact is while DNA is generally quite reliable; it is not by any means infallible.†Thompson’s argument sounds even more convincing in the light of a recent report by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology, which revealed that different DNA laboratories around the country produced wildly differing analyses of the same samples. The confusion is compounded by the realization that not everyone leaves DNA in the same way. Some people shed cells more easily than others. Five people, for example, could be seated around a table, and only one of them would leave a trace.


    You would think that finding the man described below who had bullied the victim, Anne Marie Foy, would potentially solve the case, but the lure of DNA caused the investigation to veer in a completely different direction.

    In the first day of evidence, the jury of seven women and five men yesterday heard from friends of the victim.
    Ms Foy was living with Pamela Doyle and Martin Ainscough in Deane Road, Kensington, at the time of her death.
    Michael Wolkind QC, defending, told the court that in a statement to police, Ms Doyle had said the victim “was being taxed or bullied by a black manâ€.
    “He was demanding money, a bit of every transaction she made and she was unhappy and scared about that man.â€
    Ms Doyle said Ms Foy rarely talked about her line of work but admitted “dipping punters†– taking their wallet or money from their trousers, if she got the chance.
    Shortly before her death she told Ms Doyle she had stolen around £300 from a man she took into the bushes on Crown Street, near to the University of Liverpool, where her body was later found.
    The prosecution say stealing from a punter may have been the reason she was murdered.

    The court also heard evidence yesterday from Carla Shaw, who was a prostitute and drug addict in 2005.
    She told the jury Ms Foy was “like a mum†to her and her sister Stacy, who also worked the streets, and they had seen the victim hours before she was killed.
    During often confused evidence, Miss Shaw said she had heard “shouting, like an argument†coming from an area on Crown Street around the time it is alleged the murder tookplace.
    Later on, she said, she saw “a black man who looked dodgy†running away but looking back.
  11. Elle

    Elle Member


    Thank you for this interesting post. I can well remember how excited we all were when DNA was first discovered, now it's just causing havoc. The quicker they stop using it, the better off we will all be. It's too dangerous now! Innocent people can be accused too easily!
  12. Learnin

    Learnin Member

    Good read. Thanks for sharing. Can you imagine how easy one could get pinned for a crime when they are using this trace (touch) DNA more and more?

    I still think it's a good bet that this unknown JBR DNA came from the bicycle handle bars that JBR got for Christmas.
  13. koldkase

    koldkase FFJ Senior Member

    Interesting metaphor, cynic. Thanks for the DNA updates, as well.

    It's as good a guess as any, Learnin, but we may never know. The only person I can say with certainty wasn't the donor of that DNA was an intruder.

    I was doing some googling today for some case photos. As the years go by, it's surprising what drops into the discussion sometimes--artists in particular have their expressions of the injustice, the absurdity, etc.

    One thing I noticed: with all the personal blogs online now, I find there are plenty of people who aren't buying the Ramsey spin, particularly young people. For one thing, they know more about DNA through school science than we do.
  14. cynic

    cynic Member

  15. fr brown

    fr brown Member

    Fallible DNA evidence can mean prison or freedom

    I linked to this article earlier in this thread, but now you can read the whole thing without a subscription:

    We took a mixed sample of DNA evidence from an actual crime scene--a gang rape committed in Georgia, US--which helped to convict a man called Kerry Robinson, who is currently in prison. We presented it, and Robinson's DNA profile, to 17 experienced analysts working in the same accredited government lab in the US, without any contextual information that might bias their judgement.

    In the original case, two analysts from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation concluded that Robinson "could not be excluded" from the crime scene sample, based on his DNA profile. (A second man convicted of the same crime also testified that Robinson was an assailant, in return for a lesser jail term.) Each of our 17 analysts independently examined the profiles from the DNA mixture, the victim's profile and those of two other suspects and was asked to judge whether the suspects' profiles could be "excluded", "cannot be excluded" or whether the results were "inconclusive".

    If DNA analysis were totally objective, then all 17 analysts should reach the same conclusion. However, we found that just one agreed with the original judgement that Robinson "cannot be excluded". Four analysts said the evidence was inconclusive and 12 said he could be excluded.

    "Fingerprinting and other forensic disciplines have now accepted that subjectivity and context may affect their judgement and decisions," says Dror. "It is now time that DNA analysts accept that under certain conditions, subjectivity and even bias may affect their work."
  16. koldkase

    koldkase FFJ Senior Member

    Great article, fr brown. Thanks for sharing. It really brings so much into perspective for us, who have asked questions about that Lacy-stamped DNA exoneration without so much as a document to back it up.

    Here are more relevant excerpts:

    Anyone who thinks the DNA in the Ramsey case is bulletproof should read the whole article. The section about inconsistent standards applied to the level of the DNA peaks of alleles is also quite informative regarding "drop-in" markers and subjective results:

    Since Bode Tech went on a massive high profile PR campaign with their "touch" DNA results in the Ramsey case, I think there is some real question about their objectivity in testing. And by PR I mean Lacy HAD to approve of Bode going EXTREMELY public with their results because it is still an open case...unless you ask JOB Ramsey, who says it's dead.
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