From the murder of a teacher in Georgia, to the trial of former East Pittsburgh police officer Michael Rosfeld, cutting edge DNA technology created right here in Pittsburgh is have a big impact on criminal cases worldwide.
Target 11 investigator Rick Earle got an exclusive interview with the man who invented the technology that's being used to put criminals behind bars, and free the innocent.
It all happens in a small, non-descript office in North Oakland. Mark Perlin created the company Cybergenetics, and now uses his creation to help the police solve crimes. Perlin himself is not a police officer or a private detective. In fact, he has a medical degree and a PhD in computer science. Target 11's Rick Earle asked him about his record.
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"Our analysts have testified in over 60 cases," Perlin said.
Perlin developed a sophisticated computer program called TrueAllele that uses algorithms to analyze and breakdown small amounts of DNA evidence left from multiple people. It's something traditional labs had trouble doing. It was first used in the 2006 murder of Blairsville dentist John Yelenic.
"The key evidence in the case would prove to be the DNA under Dr. Yelenics' fingernails," Perlin said.
The FBI lab estimated a 1 in 13-thousand chance that it belonged to the prime suspect., state trooper Kevin Foley. The prosecution called Perlin for more proof.
"We found a match statistic of 189 billion, which showed considerable strength of match," Perlin said.
Foley was convicted in the case.
Perlin's technology also used to help convict Allen Wade in the 2014 double murder of his East Liberty neighbors. In the Michael Rosfeld trial this year, Perlin analyzed the DNA on guns in the car Antwon Rose was in.
"The power of DNA to prove something, it's probative value, is when someone has left their DNA someplace it's not supposed to be," he said.
Critics including the ACLU and some defense attorneys have argued they don't have access to the source code, the heart beat of the technology to question the results. Target 11 talked to one Pittsburgh defense attorney about it.
"How can you argue something that you don't understand the actual end product," Phil DiLucente said. "That's exactly what's transpiring here and you cannot just do it through questioning them. You need your own experts then to review the material and the documentation and the source code that led to the ultimate conclusion this technology brings."
The technology has now been admitted in court in 14 states. While it's primarily used by prosecutors, it has been used to clear those wrongfully convicted, like Darryl Pinkens and Roosevelt Glenn who served more than 20 years for rape.
As for the future, Perlin says he'd like to take a closer look at old crimes. To his surprise, he's encountered resistance from some crime labs.
"It's frustrating to a sense because we know the impact DNA can have on resolving crimes, on helping the innocent but also on protecting the public from crimes that haven't happened yet," Perlin said.
The company did some DNA analysis for a very high profile case in Georgia involving the murder of a teacher. The courts are deciding now if it will be admissible.
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