Select Page

EFF tells California Court that Forensic Software Source Code Must Be Disclosed to the Defendant

Last week, EFF filed an amicus brief in State v. Alvin Davis in California, in support of Mr. Davis’s right to inspect the source code of STRMix, the forensic DNA software used at his trial. This is the most recent in a string of cases in which EFF has argued that a defendant has the right to examine DNA analysis software. Earlier this year, the courts in two of those cases, United States v. Ellis and State v. Pickett, agreed with EFF that the defendants were entitled to the source code of TrueAllele, one of STRMix’s main competitors. 

Criminal defendants must be allowed to examine how DNA matching software used against them works to make sure that the software’s result is reliable. Access to the source code cannot be replaced by testimony regarding how the program should work, since there could be coding errors. This is especially true for the newest generation of forensic DNA software, like STRMix and TrueAllele, which are fraught with reliability and accuracy concerns. In fact, a prior examination of STRMix led to the discovery that there were programming errors that could have created false results in 60 cases in Queensland, Australia.

That same worry is present in this case. Although the crime itself is harrowing, the evidence is anything but conclusive. An elderly woman was sexually assaulted and murdered in her home and two witnesses described seeing a black man in his 50s on the property on the day of the murder. Dozens of people had passed through the victim’s home in the few months leading up to the murder, including Mr. Davis and another individual. Mr. Davis is an African American man who was in his 70s at the time of the murder and suffers from Parkinson’s disease. Another individual who met the witnesses’ description had a history of sex crimes including sexual assault with a foreign object.

DNA samples were taken from dozens of locations and items at the crime scene. Mr. Davis’s DNA was not found on many of those, including a cane that was allegedly used to sexually assault the victim. Traditional DNA software was not able to match Mr. Davis to the DNA sample from a shoelace that was likely used to tie up the victim—but STRMix did, and the prosecution relied heavily on the latter before the jury. The first trial against Mr. Davis, who is now in a wheelchair due to Parkinson’s, ended with a hung jury. He was convicted after a second trial and sentenced to life without parole. 

Hopefully the California court will follow the rulings in Ellis and Pickett, and recognize that there is no justice in convictions based on secret evidence.


This post has been republished with permission from a publicly-available RSS feed found on EFF. The views expressed by the original author(s) do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of The Libertarian Hub, its owners or administrators. Any images included in the original article belong to and are the sole responsibility of the original author/website. The Libertarian Hub makes no claims of ownership of any imported photos/images and shall not be held liable for any unintended copyright infringement. Submit a DCMA takedown request.

-> Click Here to Read the Original Article <-

About The Author

Hannah Zhao

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is the leading nonprofit organization defending civil liberties in the digital world. Founded in 1990, EFF champions user privacy, free expression, and innovation through impact litigation, policy analysis, grassroots activism, and technology development. We work to ensure that rights and freedoms are enhanced and protected as our use of technology grows. Visit https://www.eff.org

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Welcome

Bringing together a variety of news and information from some of today’s most important libertarian thought leaders. All feeds are checked and refreshed every hour and pages auto-refresh every 15 minutes. External images are deleted after 30 days.

Time since last refresh: 0 second

Publish Your Own Article

Follow The Libertarian Hub


Please consider donating using any of the cryptocurrencies below or use the Brave browser to tip using Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). Your anonymous contributions help keep this website running for everyone to enjoy!

Donate

Take Control of Your Domain Names
The Ultimate Managed Hosting Platform

Weekly Newsletter

Newsletter Signup

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a weekly email report of the top five most popular articles on the Libertarian Hub!

Weekly Newsletter SignupTop 5 Stories of the Week

Subscribe to our newsletter to receive a weekly email report of the top five most popular articles on the Libertarian Hub!