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State v. Mott: A Case Study in Forensic Science
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State v. Mott: A Case Study in Forensic Science


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Presentation to Manchester College\'s Science Department; describes the legal aspects of forensic science in a trial presented by my elected prosecutor, Curtis Hill, and chief deputy, Vicki Becker.

Presentation to Manchester College\'s Science Department; describes the legal aspects of forensic science in a trial presented by my elected prosecutor, Curtis Hill, and chief deputy, Vicki Becker.

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  • Left is Kari Nunemaker, sixteen years oldPicture was taken January 28, 1991Goofy photo boothOver the next several hours, she’d be raped and killed
  • Kari and some friends had gone to the Elkhart County YMCA from Concord Mall to watch an indoor soccer game;All separated, and were going to meet later at the Goshen McDonald’s Kari drove separatelyShe never showedNever came back home—parents made phone calls all night—police get involved—and everyone starts looking._____ days, tips are coming in, but nothing substantive
  • Until her car is discovered at 1527 Morton Avenue1527 Morton avenue is in downtown Elkhart, IndianaShe doesn’t know anyone anywhere near therePolice take the car apart, using the technology available at the time—they find hair, Kari’s hair, around in the car, but nothing else.
  • Bonneyville Mill County Park is 48 miles from Manchester ColllegeA milk truck driver who knew the Nunemaker family well saw something; and his verbatim testimony is there on the right….
  • “Prolonged Cold Environment Exposure”: “We’re like a baloney sandwich…You can sit it in a refrigerator for a long time. It doesn’t get that bad, but it nevertheless undergoes some degradation.” (p. 12, volume III)…specifically, he noted “erythematous”—red like tinting to the skin; “indurated” skin, wrinkling at the fingers; How prolonged? “The more I’ve learned about how the human body reacts to environment the less certain I am…” 3 days to two weeks. Soft tissue damage to lips and cheek—carnivore activity; “
  • “Marker Injury”: These hemorrhages in themselves are certainly not life threatening…what they’re indicate of is that they’re a marker for compression of the neck”—blood still comes in, but it can’t get out—the capillaries begin to explode“Eyes and Neck: Kari had them on both, indicating a more severe strangulation“suddenly stop”—there’s a perfectly straight line—above that, hemorrhaging, below that, none, indicating a kind of ligature “No abrasions”—soft ligature, and two of the best one is the human forearm or kneeNOTE: Dr. Hoover also observed what he called indicators of significant pressure around her ankles, indicating another ligature around the ankles, consistent with an electrical cord or shoestring
  • Physical Examination: Dr. Hoover found bruising, lacerations, and bleeding on Kari’s genitalia; more severe even than consensual forceful sex“Extras”—Anticipated a new staining technique
  • “I would have consumed or used up the entire standard”: 3 problems:Two few spermatoza: they needed at least twentyPhysical: sperm are sticky—once dried, can’t be removedFungus had contaminated the slide and degraded the DNA
  • Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism required a substantial sample—sometimes criminals aren’t so kind; recall Mary Reed’s concern
  • Polymorphic: DNA is well over 99% identical between all humansAgain, smaller is good here;Briefly explain CODIS
  • Fred Mott was one of several suspects at the time, but he was unique—no connection to Kari NunemakerCertain tips that were developed around the time of Kari’s disappearance did seem to center around him“Train Tracks” witness: Barbara RensbergerIf Fred Mott fled, how could Detective Littlefield just decide to get a sample?
  • Cal State Prison is notoriously overcrowded—that is an actual picture of it right there.
  • Quick: Backlogs have made the news quite a bit, and they keep getting worse as states quite reasonably move to expand their databasesObjective: This is not a police lab, and in fact Reliagene did quite a bit of work with the Innocence ProjectCompetent: Forensic Quality Services International, which is the Primary Lab Accreditation Service for ISO in the U.S.Admissible Hearsay: Brief DefinitionRecords of a business (broadly defined) are normally admissible in hearsay But in criminal cases, law enforcement agency records are notDoes that include labs? Some say yes, some say no
  • Extraction: separate out the proteins, fats, etc. using chemicals designed to do soDNA Quantiation—how much DNA, what’s the quality
  • “NR” is “not reportable”—it’s why even though there are 16 loci here, only 9 actually have resultsAnd AMEL, short for emologinin, is a gender-determinate markerKnown are on the edges, and the two separate samples from the crime scene. As before, the two numbers are the alleles, or repeats at each sample3 numbers, obviously, indicate a mixtureBrackets mean significantly less in the mixture
  • Seminal articleInteresting to note the publication date: 1987; statistical evidence was in its infancy
  • Vast majority of evidence is qualitative;Presents a real problem when molding it to quantitative evidence;Which Bayes requiresNot really applicable in Mott’s caseJury instruction
  • Transcript

    • 1. State v. Mott: A Case Study in Forensic Science
      Graham Polando
      Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
      Elkhart County, Indiana
    • 2.
    • 3. Elkhart County YMCA
    • 4. Kari’s Family’s CarFound at 1527 Morton Ave.; Jan. 30, 1991
    • 5. Kari is Found: February 5, 1991
      Bonneyville Mill County Park
      Dwight Miller’s In-Court Testimony
      Q: And what was it that you saw?
      A: The nude body of a female…I immediately jumped out of the truck….and as I went around the front of the truck, I started yelling Kari’s name….just screaming it out, I think, more than anything, to get a response or whatever…
    • 6. The Autopsy: Dr. Rick Hoover
      Forensic Pathologist for South Bend Medical Foundation
      B.S., Biochemistry, Manchester College
      M.D., Indiana University School of Medicine
      1,200 Autopsies in 26 Years of Practice
    • 7. Dr. Hoover’s Findings
      • Prolonged Cold Environment Exposure
      • 8. Soft tissue damage to lips and cheek
      • 9. Blunt Trauma Injury to Head
      • 10. “The most significant injury she had was not really a direct injury, but it’s an anatomic marker…petechial hemorrhages around the periorbital area.”
    • Petechial Hemorrhages
      “Marker” Injury
      Eyes and Neck
      Suddenly stop
      But no abrasions
    • 11. Sexual Assault Examination
      Physical examination of each orifice
      Swabs are used in each orifice to create slides for staining
      Extracts both skin and fluids
    • 12. In-Court Testimony onCause of Death
      “It would be my opinion that [Kari] died as a result of asphyxia due to cervical compression and secondarily to vaginal injuries.”
      “My opinion is Kari’s death is a homicide.”
    • 13. Limitations on the Investigation
      Primitive Available Testing:
      Blood Group Testing (Type)
      Lab Technician: “Spermatozoa were observed on the vaginal smear slides…”
      Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP)
      Mary Reed, Forensic Biology Supervisor for the Indiana State Police:
      “I would have consumed or used up the entire standard…in an attempt to get a profile.”
      “There would be new extraction processes and also new technologies on the horizon…”
      Police investigation ends later in 1991 with no arrests
    • 14. DNA Analysis since Kari’s Death
      Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
      Short Tandem Repeat (STR)
      Mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)
      Y-Chromosome Analysis
    • 15. Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
      Replicates DNA from even small amounts of biological material
      Likewise replicates contaminants
    • 16. Short Tandem Repeats (STR)
      Nuclear DNA
      Polymorphic Loci
      Nucleotides repeat
      Result is number of repeats
      Produces two numbers: one from each chromosome
    • 17. Warming the Cold Case
      Evidence sits in Elkhart Police Department storage locker until 2005
      Elkhart County Sheriff Mike Books refers case to Indiana State Police Cold Case Unit
    • 18. Thomas Littlefield, ISP
      Cold Case Specialist
      Noted Advances in DNA Analysis
      Starts with…
    • 19. Fred Mott
      Train tracks encounter
      1527 Morton Avenue connection
      Female screams from apartment
      Carrying object “wrapped up like a carpet”
      Loan application
      Large amounts of plastic
    • 20. Fred Mott, California State Prisoner P19833
      California State Prison, Lancaster
      Serving Life Sentence for 1998 Rape of UC-Berkeley Student
      Unclear: Warrant or Consent?
      Federal Express shipped from South Bend airport to Reliagene Technologies (now Orchid Cellmark)
    • 21. Reliagene(Now Orchid Cellmark)
      Why a private laboratory?
      FQS-I Accredited
      Admissible Hearsay
    • 22. What Reliagene Had
    • 23. What Reliagene Did
    • 24. 8-Loci Reliagene ProfileMini-STR Results
    • 25. Ms. Nasir’s Conclusions
      Q: “Is the profile on the sperm fraction…the same as that from the blood sample of Fred Mott?”
      A: “Yes. The profile obtained from the sperm fraction…are [sic] consistent with Fred Mott’s DNA sample. So therefore, Fred Mott is not excluded as a DNA Donor in the sperm fraction.”
      Q: “You use the term, ‘not excluded.’ What does that mean?...”
    • 26. Role of Probabilities
      Different Profiles: Individual could not have contributed
      Identical Profiles: Individual could be an “exact match” or simply “cannot be excluded.”
      “Exact Match” vs. “Cannot be excluded”:
      Exact Match must:
      Be single source and
      exceed 1 in 5.9 trillion
      Cannot be excluded: will produce probability > 1 in 5.9 trillion
    • 27. Ms. Nasir’s Probabilities
      “For this sample, the probability of someone having any possible combination of this profile is
      1 in 862,000 individuals of Caucasian descent, and
      1 in 546,000 individuals of African-American descent.”
      Are these probabilities of innocence?...
    • 28. The Prosecutor’s Argument
      “And then we have the DNA analysis. [Defense counsel] would lead you to believe that because they say it’s not a match, that’s not good enough. But, again, you were here; you observed; the evidence was quite clear. The only time we talk about a match is when it’s 5.9 trillion. That’s impossible…”
    • 29. The Prosecutor’s Argument
      “…There’s [sic] six billion people on earth. That would mean one thousand times more people on earth is when they can say it’s a match. That’s because it’s science, ladies and gentlemen. And science has to have their statistics. But you don’t have to worry about that, because as we’ve explained, this hooks up to the facts. And as you see the DNA profiles, it was Fred Mott.”
      Appellate Issue: Prosecutorial Misconduct
      “Mott claims this is a misstatement of the evidence because ‘[t]here could be a DNA “match” even if there were far fewer people on the Earth.’”
    • 30. Indiana Court of AppealsMott v. State
      “The evidence established that Mott was not excluded as a contributor and
      that the probability of someone having any possible combination of the relevant DNA profile was:
      1 in 862,000 individuals of Caucasian descent and
      1 in 546,000 individuals of African-American descent.”
    • 31. Indiana Court of AppealsMott v. State
      “The prosecutor did not overstate the significance of the DNA evidence, which constituted substantial evidence of Mott’s guilt.”
    • 32. The Prosecutor’s Fallacy?
      Thompson, W. & Schumann, E. (1987). Interpretation of Statistical Evidence in Criminal Trials: The Prosecutor’s Fallacy and the Defense Attorney’s Fallacy. Law and Human Behavior 11(3), Sept. 1987, pp. 167-187.
    • 33. The Prosecutor’s Fallacy?
      Thompson and Schumann:
      Saw a jury trial in which Defendant (known) and Perpetrator (unknown) shared a blood type common to 10% of the population
      Prosecutor: “90% chance Defendant is perpetrator”
    • 34. Thompson and Schumann’s Hypothetical
      All lawyers own briefcases.
      One in ten people in the general population own a briefcase.
      Jim owns a briefcase.
      What is the probability Jim is a lawyer?
    • 35. Answer
      What are the relative numbers of lawyers and non-lawyers in the population?
      Thompson and Schumann: “To draw conclusions about the probability a criminal suspect is guilty based on evidence of a ‘match,’ we must consider not just the percentage of people who would match but also the a priori likelihood that the defendant in question is guilty” (p. 170).
    • 36. Bayes’ Theorem
      Jury: “25% chance Defendant is guilty”
      New evidence:
      Hair found at crime scene matches only 1% of population
      Defendant member of that 1%
      97% guilty, not 99%
      Prosecutor’s Argument: “This hooks up to the facts.”
      Broun, K., Mosteller, R., and Giannelli, P. (2002) Evidence: Cases and Materials (6th Ed.) (citing Finkelstein & Fairley, 1970).
    • 37. Guilty
      “Rapist, not a killer”
      60 Years in the Indiana Department of Correction, Consecutive to California Sentences
      Elkhart County Courthouse
    • 38. REFERENCES
      Broun, K., Mosteller, R., and Giannelli, P. (2002) Evidence: Cases and Materials (6th Ed.) St. Paul, MN: Thompson West.
      Mott v. State (Ind. Ct. App. 11/13/08) (unpublished disposition).
      United States Department of Justice (2002). “Using DNA to Solve Cold Cases.” Available online at
    • 39. Special Thanks
      Kenneth R. Martin, Esq., Goshen, Indiana
      Curtis T. Hill, Elkhart County Prosecuting Attorney
      Vicki E. Becker, Elkhart County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney
      Orchid Cellmark, Inc.