Friday, July 20, 2007

What About DNA, Anyway?

Lots of folks are now inquiring about the seeming paucity of DNA evidence in the Kocis murder case. That evidence works so well on Law & Order and CSI, it simply must help us here, right?

So where is the DNA evidence? It's not in the affidavit, that's for sure. There are, however, a couple of things to remember:

1. To keep up with this stuff, we must guard against the mind-set that the investigation stopped the moment police garnered sufficient probable cause for arrests. The Affidavit of Probable Cause is just a snapshot of what reasonably solid evidence police had gathered up until 5-15-07 when the affidavit was filed. Police continued to investigate, and are investigating as you read this.

2. Unlike on TV, DNA evidence takes an incredible amount of time to complete. Twelve weeks or more is typical. Twelve weeks in a state lab with no result, then another 12 weeks at the FBI lab is common. No useful results at all, from either lab, is not unheard of. It's a far more hit-and-miss science than it's portrayed as on TV.

Summed up, it seems clear that the DNA studies are not finished. There's no telling what they will indicate, if anything.

But what about the prospect of blood in the SUV? That doesn't take 12 weeks to find," the multitudes cry.

If Mr. Cuadra and/or Mr. Kerkes did this thing, it would be a big surprise if no blood was found in that SUV. Right now, however, all we can properly presume is that no one's blood was found in the SUV by 5-15-07. And that should come as no shock: PA authorities didn't even know where the SUV came from until they were well into their investigation. They then have had to locate it, search it, plus perform Luminol and fiber tests. To do all that by the time of the arrests is a pretty tall order.

It's safe to say that those tests have been done by now, but we wouldn't know, would we? Rest assured, whatever came of the SUV search will be presented in court by one side or the other.

Overall, the thing to recall is that we're working with a 3-month-old idea of what evidence exists.

Correction: The initial version of this story postulated that no DNA samples had been collected from Cuadra and Kerekes. A media report from 15 March 2007 contradicts that assertion:

I regret the error.