PA Crime Lab Highlights Issues With DNA-Testing Program

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Nearly a decade ago, Allegheny County, Penn., officials decided to buy TrueAllele, a new probabilistic genotyping program used to identify suspects in complex DNA mixtures involving more than one person, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. But nine years after the $206,000 grant-funded purchase, the program is still not in use. Lab officials shelved it, citing concerns about the program’s complexity and general acceptance in the scientific community. Yet TrueAllele evidence has been presented in more than 50 criminal cases in Allegheny County.

That’s because the district attorney’s office now independently contracts with Cybergenetics, the company that created TrueAllele. It has paid nearly $300,000 since 2013 to have crime scene data produced by the county lab analyzed by the private program. In effect, Allegheny County is paying double for a program rejected by its own crime lab. Only five of the country’s 250 crime labs are currently using TrueAllele, although four others in Ohio, Georgia and Louisiana are expected to join them in the next several months. The company is embroiled in a forensics controversy in New York, where its $1.2 million contract with the state police crime lab was canceled.

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