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DNA - A Prosecutor’s Practice Notebook Inventory

Trial Presentation of a Cold Hit

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Presenting a cold hit case to a jury requires balancing probative value vs. prejudicial effect. In order to avoid charges of a mistrial, the prosecutor must take care not to mention or permit a state witness to mention that the suspect’s DNA was located in a database of convicted persons. In order to avoid charges of a mistrial, the prosecutor might consider obtaining a ruling or stipulation on how to present the fact of the database hit. What to tell the jury about how a defendant in a cold hit case was identified was addressed in State v. Bloom, 516 N.W.2d 159, 169 (Minn. 1994). The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that the jury be informed that the defendant had been identified by the search of a large database, but that they not be informed that it was a database composed of persons convicted of a crime.

If the defense challenges the DNA results as a product of careless or intentional contamination or laboratory interpretation error, the state should be able to rebut this challenge with evidence of the prior DNA match. In almost every instance of a CODIS hit, the DNA profile obtained from the crime scene evidence at issue was developed well before the suspect’s reference sample was in the lab's possession.

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