© 2016-2020 mindgen, llc

Forensic Consulting

Specialties

 

Impact of DNA on sexual assault investigations and prosecutions

Developing customized and high-throughput workflows

Human identifitication

Applied research and validation

Technology transition and implementation

Training and technical assistance

DNA Subject Matter Expert

Provide expert support for development of documents that highlight the use, design, impact, and implementation of technology and research advances that assist the investigation of criminal casework. Participate and support webinars for training, perform research evaluations for implementation readiness, and write reports associated with forensic DNA technologies and management implementation. 

Justice System Support

Justice system assistance with affidavit preparation, expert witness testimony, and court room support. Mindgen will educate staff on DNA testing performed in cases, thoroughly review case files, recommend new/additional testing (if applicable), and can assist in court preparation. 

Business Development

Provide consultation to laboratory management looking to enhance their DNA workflow(s), shift DNA technology, expand stakeholders, or explore 'fee for service' options. 

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Resources

Strengthening forensic DNA decision making through a better understanding of the influence of cognitive bias

Cognitive bias may influence process flows and decision making steps in forensic DNA analyses and interpretation. Currently, seven sources of bias have been identified that may affect forensic decision making with roots in human nature; environment, culture, and experience; and case specific information. Most of the literature and research on cognitive bias in forensic science has focused on patterned evidence; however, forensic DNA testing is not immune to bias, especially when subjective interpretation is involved. DNA testing can be strengthened by recognizing the existence of bias, evaluating where it influences decision making, and, when applicable, implementing practices to reduce or control its effects. 

Human Factors Effecting Forensic Decision Making: Workplace Stress and Well-being

Forensic scientists work in a dynamic environment that includes common workplace pressures such as workload volume, tight deadlines, lack of advancement, number of working hours, low salary, technology distractions, and fluctuating priorities. However, in addition, forensic scientists also encounter a number of industry-specific pressures, such as technique criticism, repeated exposure to crime scenes or horrific case details, access to funding, working in an adversarial legal system, and zero tolerance for “errors”. Thus, stress is an important human factor to mitigate for overall error management, productivity and decision quality (not to mention the well-being of the examiners themselves). Techniques such as mindfulness can become powerful tools to enhance work and decision quality.

Understanding DNA Testing and Reporting

Technological advances in DNA testing and leveraging the use of database searches in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) have, in part, driven testing of cold-case evidence and unsubmitted sexual assault kits, known as SAKs. If there is documentation, such as a police report, that a crime occurred, any foreign DNA obtained from evidence may be valuable to help identify a perpetrator and link with other crimes through a database search. Through the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance National Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI), funding opportunities and support are available to include testing all unsubmitted SAKs for DNA.

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Y-STR Testing: Enhancing Sexual Assault and Cold Case Workflows

Incorporating Y-STR testing (Y-chromosomal testing) into a cold case sexual assault workflow can be a powerful tool for detecting male DNA foreign to the victim when traditional, autosomal short tandem repeat (STR) testing fails to aid the investigation. During traditional STR testing, male DNA may be masked or in competition with excess amounts of female DNA, which may result in partial or no male STR DNA results. Y-STR testing explicitly targets STR regions on the male Y chromosome that is passed down through the paternal lineage (i.e., father to son). By specifically targeting the Y-chromosome, a Y-STR profile can be unmasked in the presence of female DNA.

Utilizing CODIS for Unsubmitted Sexual Asault Kits

One of the main goals of the testing of backlogged sexual assault kits (SAK) is to enter foreign DNA profiles into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) in an attempt to identify the potential perpetrator(s). Maximizing the use of CODIS has been found to have other advantages, such as link crimes together, helping refute claims, identifying criminal patterns, and decrease concerns regarding public safety.

Five Objectives Toward Forming a Positive Relationship with a Private Vendor Laboratory

Outsourcing DNA testing for projects that require an immediate surge in resources is a great way to use private partners with minimal impact to current crime laboratory initiatives. Larger, private DNA outsourcing laboratories have proven abilities for scaling up production, performing high-throughput testing, and bringing online technology adoptions to continuously improve processes. However, even for laboratories with high-volume experience, the current SAK grant timelines of 2 to 3 years can be demanding.

Applying internal validation guidelines for expanded STR loci kits

Because of this FBI mandate, the participating CODIS laboratories will need to internally validate an expanded STR loci kit for implementation in 2017. Information can be extrapolated from the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM) basic recommended internal validation studies such as concordance, sensitivity levels, analysis thresholds, precision, accuracy (repeatability and reproducibility), optimal DNA input ranges, detection of stutter or other artifacts, and system contamination. In addition, other trends such as when to distinguish major and minor DNA profiles.

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