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Friday, December 04, 2009

Ind. Courts - "Attention Turns To Science In Rape Trial"

This lengthy story today in the Warsaw Times-Union, reported by Jen Gibson, caught my eye in light of recent case law. Here are some quotes:

After a day of emotional testimony Wednesday, attention turned to scientific evidence Thursday in the trial of Shawn Lester Hattery in Kosciusko Superior Court I. * * *

Then the prosecution presented witnesses to explain how the DNA sample was gathered from the evidence gathered in the rape kit. Orchid Cellmark Laboratory in Nashville, Tenn., is a company contracted to perform DNA testing on evidence when the Indiana State Police Lab is backlogged.

Videos of depositions were shown Thursday from Deanna Lankford and Tanya Vo, forensic DNA testing analysts for Orchid Cellmark.

Lankford said that the evidence from this case was received at Orchid Cellmark Dec. 30, 2005, from the Indiana State Police. She explained that the evidence from the sealed rape kit was opened, inventoried, labeled and returned to a secure location in the laboratory until it is tested for DNA.

Both Lankford and Vo also explained how DNA is extracted from cuttings from the swabs that are submitted for testing. The cuttings are separated and put into various reagents to test for the presence of semen. Once semen is found on samples, they are put into a centrifuge and the semen is separated from other fluids that are in the sample. In this case, the swabs from the victim's vagina as well as a sample of liquid from the vaginal wash performed on her at the hospital yielded the best evidence of semen.

Once the DNA is extracted, it is analyzed, and a DNA profile is identified. Each human being, unless they are an identical twin, has a unique DNA profile.

After the DNA was extracted from the samples from the rape kit, the results and the evidence were returned to the Indiana State Police. The state police then entered the information into a database, which is checked against the Convicted Offender DNA Index System for a match. When the original sample was obtained from the rape kit in July 2006, there was no match in the system.

However, in 2008, the Indiana State Police received a match for the DNA. Hattery was convicted of a crime in a different case, and he was sent to prison. Hattery had to submit to a DNA test to be entered in the CODIS database.

After his DNA was entered into CODIS, Hattery's name matched the DNA collected in the Oct. 5, 2005, rape in Warsaw.

Once the DNA match was made, Faucett was contacted and he and Indiana State Trooper Tim Carpenter went to the prison where Hattery was incarcerated. While Faucett interviewed Hattery, Carpenter swabbed Hattery's mouth for DNA for an evidentiary sample. When the evidentiary sample was tested by Nicole Keeling at the Indiana State Police laboratory in Indianapolis, it also matched the DNA from the rape case.

In cross examinations of the witnesses, defense attorney Scott Lennox tried to poke holes in the case. He hinted that the sample from the lab could somehow be tainted or mixed up with someone else's sample. However, each witness testified that the samples are kept separate and secure at each step of the testing process.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 4, 2009 02:16 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts