Monday, January 27, 2014

Suspected pill ring busted by Middletown cops

Suspects in a major fraudulent prescription pill ring

Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014

Middletown police recently broke up an alleged 11-member fraud ring that used legitimate prescriptions based on fake injuries to obtain more than 10,000 painkillers and amphetamines worth more than $200,000 last year.
The suspected ringleader, Vincent James Belmont III, 39, of Middletown, who initially cooperated with police, has disappeared, police said. A warrant is out for his arrest, as is one for another alleged participant, David Gerzon, 38, of Newtown Township.
The other nine members were arrested between October and December as the scam unraveled, according to Detective David Strother Jr., who headed the six-month investigation.
Belmont, who injured his back in 2002, had been fraudulently obtaining prescriptions for OxyContin, Oxycodone and Adderall since at least 2011, police said. Prescription records show starting in January 2012, Belmont began visiting 10 different doctors and obtaining duplicate prescriptions for painkillers.
He then would fill the prescriptions at one of 12 different pharmacies, police said.
Over 510 days — starting in 2012 — authorities said records show Belmont alone obtained 13,023 30 mg Oxycodone tablets, 2,235 80 mg OxyContin tablets, and 1,412 Adderall pills.
Belmont started recruiting people — other pill addicts — in February to join him in obtaining narcotic prescriptions from his Montgomery County doctor, police said. The doctor has not been charged, Smother said.
Belmont used his real MRIs for his back injury combined with phony MRI reports and pharmacy patient profiles created in the name of other participants to obtain the legitimate prescriptions, police said. A participant in the scheme then would fill the prescriptions, they added.
In return, Belmont split the pill proceeds with the participant and paid $1,000 per doctor trip, according to a probable cause affidavit.
In March, Belmont allegedly approached a police source with an offer to provide medical documentation and take the person to a specific doctor to obtain prescription narcotics. The source agreed and visited the doctor in April and, using the false materials, obtained prescriptions for OxyContin, Oxycodone and Xanax, court documents show.
The prescriptions were filled at a Lower Southampton chain pharmacy using the source’s health insurance. The routine continued each month until July, when the doctor’s office learned the documentation was fake, the affidavit said.
Between February and June, ring members obtained 8,486 tablets of 30 mg Oxycodone, 690 tablets of 80 mg OxyContin and 1,050 tablets of Adderal, Strother said. The prescriptions were filled in pharmacies in Bucks and Montgomery counties and Philadelphia, police said.
Most of the pills were for personal use, Strother said. Only one ring member, Mark Blanche Jr., 26, of Philadelphia, has admitted to selling the pills, which fetch $20 to $25 per 30 mg tablet of Oxycodone on the street, Strother said.
Middletown police were tipped to the ring in June when an anonymous caller reported Belmont was selling and using prescription narcotics and had several people working for him, according to court documents.
Belmont initially met with police and Bucks County detectives and agreed to cooperate, providing police with the names of participants, Smother said. Court papers indicate he admitted creating the fake medical documents as a “favor” for “good friends” while he charged others for the documents — either half the pills obtained or the cash value.
Participants visited anywhere from one to 22 pharmacies to fill prescriptions over the 10 months, police said.
But police also received information Belmont had his laptop computer and printer containing the fraudulent documents destroyed to prevent evidence from being retrieved, the affidavit said.
Police arrested the first participant, 39-year-old Middletown resident Raffelo Saturino, who was charged with using fake prescriptions to obtain pills one time. He told police that Belmont, a high school friend, approached him in the spring about participating in the fraud scheme in return for a portion of the painkillers, police said.
In November, police spoke with Belmont again and he admitted creating false medical documents and provided another list of people who were part of the ring, police said.
All the suspected ring members face similar charges of felony corrupt organizations, acquiring, obtaining or possessing a controlled substance through misrepresentation, and forgery.
The following suspects are scheduled for a preliminary hearing before Middletown District Judge John Kelly Jr. on Feb. 13.
  • Mark Blanche Jr., 26, of Philadelphia, free after posting 10 percent of his $25,000 bail.
  • Samantha Hecht, 22, of Middletown, and Belmont’s girlfriend, free on $20,000 unsecured bail.
  • Robert Oestreich, 33, of Bristol Township, who remains in Bucks County prison in lieu of 10 percent of $25,000 bail.
  • Vincent DiTaranto, 26, of Bensalem, free on $50,000 unsecured bail.
  • Kyle Martin, 24, of Falls, free on $20,000 unsecured bail.
  • Raffelo Saturino, 39, free after posting 10 percent of his $75,000 bail.
  • Jeffrey Rubarkh, 39, Huntington Valley, free after posting 10 percent of his $70,000 bail.
  • Michael Dougherty, 26, of Feasterville, free on $50,000 unsecured bail.
  • Michael Britton, 37, of Middletown, free on $50,000 unsecured bail.

Bristol Twp. man facing 3 Avalon Court murder counts

Posted: Friday, January 10, 2014

Ebony Talley was alive after a Bristol Township man — described as a “friend” — stabbed her multiple times, then, put a plastic bag over her head and set her bed on fire, according to prosecutors.
A neighbor heard the “bloodcurdling” screams of Talley’s 4-year-old daughter — R’Mani Rankins — about a half-hour after police say she saw alleged killer Marcel Johnson enter the apartment at Avalon Court, according to court documents.

“Marcel Johnson viciously and brutally ended their lives,” Bucks County Chief of Prosecution Matt Weintraub said at a Friday press conference to announce the arrest of Johnson in the Nov. 25 murders. “He then incinerated them like human garbage.”
Johnson, 21, was formally arraigned Friday on two counts of criminal homicide and one count of criminal homicide of an unborn child, arson and possessing an instrument of crime. He was returned without bail to Bucks County prison, where he had been incarcerated since Nov. 26 on a minor drug possession charge.
Talley, 22, was five months pregnant with a boy when she was slain, police said.
Marcel Johnson led out of court
“Marcel, look at me,” one woman yelled as he was led out of the court. “Look at me. Look at me. You can’t see me. You can’t look at me.”
“I hope they rape your ...,” another woman yelled.
Police had developed Johnson as a “person of interest” within hours of the killings after witnesses, including Talley’s sister, placed him at the apartment and the Bristol Township complex, according to court documents. He previously admitted to seeing the mother and daughter shortly before they were killed and their apartment was set on fire, police said.
Investigators believe that Johnson killed Talley and R’Mani, who were both stabbed to death, then tried to conceal the crime by setting fire to the apartment in the 3500 block of Bristol Oxford Valley Road.
DNA tests confirm that scrapings taken from under Johnson’s fingernails matched Talley’s DNA, Weintraub said.
An autopsy report found Talley had two defensive wounds on her left forearm. Johnson also had a small cut on his finger he said was the result of climbing out of a window at a nearby apartment complex, an affidavit of probable cause said.
At this point, Weintraub said authorities don’t know what motivated the killings.

A neighbor of Talley’s reported to police she heard loud banging the day of the killings. She looked out the peephole of her door and saw a man, whom police believe was Johnson, banging on the door to Talley’s apartment.
About a half-hour after someone let the man into the apartment, the woman told police she heard R’Mani loudly screaming. The screaming continued until the woman said she knocked on Talley’s apartment door, when it “abruptly stopped,” according to court documents.
The woman knocked a second time, but there was no response, so she returned to her apartment. About a half-hour later, the woman said she went to walk her dog when she saw smoke and was told to evacuate, police said.
Firefighters responding to the fire found a pile of burning clothing on the bed in Talley’s bedroom, which was quickly extinguished.
After the fire was out, Talley’s body was discovered face down on the floor of her bedroom with multiple stab wounds. An autopsy found evidence of suffocation, Weintraub said, and significant burns that occurred before she died.
Talley’s daughter was found underneath an overturned couch in the living room. She had a stab wound to her upper chest and third-degree burns on her belly. She was alive and rushed to St. Mary Medical Center in Middletown, where she was pronounced dead less than an hour after authorities say the fire was set.
Witnesses claimed they saw Johnson leaving the complex in a car about 10 minutes before the fire was reported. The car, a 2003 Cadillac, was registered to the woman who held the lease to the apartment that Talley had been subletting for three months. Witnesses said the car had been parked at the complex earlier that day.
The Cadillac was later found parked at another nearby apartment complex and the Pennsylvania license plate had been changed, police said. Police watched the vehicle until shortly after 7 p.m., when Johnson got in and drove away. Police stopped the car and took Johnson into custody for the drug possession charge.
While in police custody, Johnson admitted to police he was at Talley’s apartment before the fire, and was with Talley and her daughter just before their deaths, according to a search warrant in the case. He also admitted taking the Cadillac from the apartment complex parking lot, hitting a parked car and driving to the Ford Road complex, the warrant said.
Johnson also told another inmate with whom he had contact at the Bucks County prison that he killed Talley and her daughter and admitted setting the apartment on fire, burning his own clothes and shoes, according to court papers.
“Marcel Johnson stated ‘Ebony made me kill her,’ and that he had killed the ‘baby’ by stabbing her one time in the upper chest,” the inmate told authorities, according to court documents. Johnson went on to tell the source that he had to kill R’Mani.
“Because she was ‘real smart’ and could identify him,” according to the affidavit.
No decision has been made on whether to pursue the death penalty against Johnson, Weintraub said, though he said the case appears to have the necessary aggravating factors. A decision will be made after Johnson is formally arraigned.
“We consider this crime particularly heinous,” Weintraub added.
After the press conference, a Talley family member expressed “joy” at news that Johnson could face the death penalty.
“You just don’t know what I’ve been through. How could you take my baby,” said Amber Parish, of Vineland, N.J. “In my heart, I hope and pray they stick it to him.”
Parish described Ebony as “an angel, so smart.”
“She’d light up any room she was in,” she said, tears in her eyes.

Pa. high court to hear $14M Pennsbury school bus case

Posted: Friday, January 17, 2014

Pennsylvania’s highest court has agreed to hear an appeal involving a damage cap that effectively reduces to $500,000 a $14 million jury award to a Falls woman who lost a leg as a teenager after she was hit by a Pennsbury school bus.
Tom Kline, the lead attorney representing Ashley Zauflik, was notified Thursday that the state’s Supreme Court will look at all the issues involving the constitutionality of the case including legal issues the court previously ruled on in the 1980s involving the state’s cap on damage awards involving government entities.
Among the issues in Zauflik’s appeal are whether the $500,000 cap on damages is unconstitutional in that it violates equal protection for all citizens and whether the cap infringes on the court’s power to rule on jury verdicts, Kline said.
Pennsbury officials were not immediately available for comment on the appeal decision.
Ashley Zauflik
Zauflik, now 24, was the most seriously injured of 20 students hit by an out-of-control bus outside Pennsbury High School’s East campus in January 2007. She lost her left leg above the knee and sustained other injuries.   
She sued the Pennsbury School District, and a Bucks County jury sided with her in 2011. With interest, the total award is nearly $16 million. The county judge who oversaw the civil case, though, later reduced the award to $500,000 citing the liability cap.
Pennsylvania law limits the amount of civil damages awards against local governments and school districts to $500,000 per incident.
Last year, a state appellate court upheld the damage cap that Kline says reduced by 96 percent the original verdict. The three-member Commonwealth Court noted that courts have upheld the state cap previously and placed responsibility for changing the law with the state Legislature, not the courts.
Kline called it a major step that the state’s high court has agreed to look at the appeal. It has previously upheld the law limiting civil liability for state and local governments in 1981 and 1986.
To bring a case before the Supreme Court at least three of its seven members must agree to review the case, Kline said. Among the issues the justices will look at is whether the jury award reduction is unconstitutional, Kline said.
“Every issue we have cared about is now under review,” Kline said.
Her attorneys argue that had Zauflik been injured in a school district that outsourced transportation services to a private bus company, she likely would recover the entire original jury award.
Kline also has long contended that Pennsbury could tap a $10 million excess liability policy in place at the time of the accident to cover most of the original verdict. The district has argued the policy covers claims that fall outside the parameter of the state cap, such as a federal civil award.
No court date has been set for the case, but Kline anticipates that arguments and a decision could take place this year.

What is a work day like behind the wheel of a snow plow?

Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Call him a snowman. Tim Hunt doesn’t mind.
On days like Tuesday, his life revolves around frozen precipitation starting before dawn and ending who knows when.
Hunt is a snow plow driver.
The 36-year-old Feasterville man has worked for PennDOT for 13 years manning a 10-wheel dump truck that, once loaded with salt, a plow and spreader, tips the scales at 30 tons. He navigates snow-covered, ice slick roads that can bend and turn like cooked spaghetti.
His typical winter storm day starts hours before the first flake appears, as he covers roads with a salt brine mixture to help prevent snow freeze. On Tuesday, when forecasters were calling for up to 10 inches of snow in Bucks County, he hit the roads at 4 a.m.
Once the snow starts falling his life is plow, plow, plow, eat, sleep, plow, and plow. The routine is repeated until the roads are clear, which doesn’t happen until hours after the snow stops.
“Just moving in circles,” he said Tuesday as he navigated a roughly 20-mile circle that is his route.
He sits at least 6 feet higher off the road than other motorists inside a small cab that is so warm he sometimes wears tank tops and opens the windows on below freezing days. Hunt says he has to drink water constantly so he doesn’t dehydrate.
Snowplow cabs have to be kept unusually warm to prevent ice from freezing on the windshields preventing them from seeing the roads they are trying to clear and keep safe.
Around 2 p.m. he headed down snowy Buck Road from Lower Southampton, snaking around a dangerous S-curve into Holland, and continued to the Newtown Township border where he turned around. On the return trip, he passed through Old Bristol Road in Holland to Bridgetown Pike in Lower Southampton.
He had made the same trip 12 times, spreading almost 28 tons of salt and cinder materials.
“Some people love us, and some people hate us,” Hunt said.
The ones that love plow drivers will stop Hunt at a red light, roll down the window and thank him for keeping the roads clear or throw a thumbs-up. The ones who hate plow drivers will try and pass them on the road.
But there are a lot of things people don’t know about snow plow drivers — such as that those giant plows can get stuck in the snow if they run low on material that helps weight them down.
Plowing snow doesn’t bother Hunt. Ice is another story.
Snow plow drivers have to juggle a lot of things at once, such as making sure you don’t get too close to mailboxes on the route. That’s not because the plow might hit them, but the weight of the snow will topple the mailboxes. Monitoring air and road surface temperatures also is critical especially when they hover around the freezing mark.
Hunt has seen some scary things on the job. Once he saw an SUV roll down a hill in front of him and a child car seat shot out of the vehicle. Hunt stopped his plow and ran to check the car seat. Turned out there was no child in the car.
As he drives, he constantly keeps an eye on the trees. The heavier the snow falls, the higher the wind gusts, and the greater the risk a loose branch will smash into the plow, Hunt said.
Plow drivers always want to try and keep the yellow divider line exposed, since it’s what they use as a guide when the snowfall gets heavy. Otherwise they won’t know what lane they’re in until they land in a ditch.
“If you go off the road, you’re no good to anyone,” Hunt said.
Watching driving speed is critical. Hunt keeps his speedometer at 20 mph, he said, because if you drive too fast, the salt just bounces off the road. Drive too fast and you’ll hit a manhole cover or potholes.
Another thing most people don’t know about snow plow drivers is they rarely get a chance to enjoy the snow. Hunt has never sledded or built a snowman with his 8-year-old daughter.
“By the time I get home I’m exhausted and half the time the snow has started to melt,” he said. “We make a lot of sacrifices — holidays, birthdays. When it’s snowing, you have to be here.”

Monday, January 6, 2014

The DNA Difference: debate over crime-fighting tool

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013

The burglar who stole $3,200 in lottery tickets, 56 packs of cigarettes and $56 left behind few clues: a broken window, a large rock and blood drops on a calculator and a food crate.
The 2011 Bristol Township gas station break-in remained unsolved until earlier this year, when 54-year-old James Lee Wilson Sr. confessed to the crime.
While there was other evidence against Wilson, police said he admitted his role after a court order was obtained for a DNA sample. Wilson's cheek swab was compared with DNA extracted from the blood collected at the burglary scene and the results matched, police said.
“Bingo — that was it,” Bristol Township Police Lt. Terry Hughes said, adding that Wilson admitted cutting his hand on the broken glass.
Wilson eventually pleaded guilty in Bucks County Court to burglary; he was sentenced to two to five years in prison.
In recent years, DNA testing has become the new gold standard for crime-solving. A growing number of police departments nationwide routinely use the technology that was once reserved for violent crimes to help solve more abundant, but low-priority ones like burglary, theft and vandalism.
Recently, the Bucks County District Attorney’s Office announced that a dozen police departments, led by Plumstead, plan to participate in a local DNA database that the Bensalem Police Department started three years ago.
“It is the future of police work,” Upper Southampton police Chief Ron MacPherson said.
The handful of Bucks County police departments that regularly use DNA evidence with property crimes say it makes a significant difference in solving crimes. Most times, when suspects are confronted with DNA evidence tying them to a crime, they admit guilt, police say.
But the growing popularity of DNA testing in property crimes is not without controversy. Results can take often take a year or longer at the state-run forensics lab, police say. There is also growing concern about privacy and the accuracy of so-called “touch” DNA, which is obtained from items that come in close contact with the body and may result in the transfer of skin cells.
Property crimes keep area police departments the busiest. They are also among the toughest crimes to solve, police say.
Only 10 percent of 3.3 million U.S. burglaries in 2011 resulted in arrests, according to the most recent federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. In Southeastern Pennsylvania, 80 percent of the more than 108,000 reported property crimes were unsolved — and that was the highest rate of property-crime resolution in the state, according to the Pennsylvania Uniform Crime Report data.
A 2008 study found that collecting and testing blood and hair found at crime scenes is far more effective than fingerprints for identifying suspects. The two-year, five-city National Institute of Justice field study also found that suspects identified by DNA had at least twice as many prior felony arrests and convictions as those identified through traditional police investigation.
With DNA testing, police collect biological evidence at a crime scene that is then submitted to a lab for analysis and put into a DNA database. If a profile match is generated, that means the person cannot be ruled out as a suspect. Police then must obtain a DNA sample directly from the person for comparison, often through a court order.
Since 1990, the federal government and the U.S. military have collected DNA from individuals convicted of felonies and stored the genetic profiles in databases. A 1994 law created a national database where law enforcement agencies can compare and share information on DNA matches from convicted felons.
The largest database, the Combined DNA Index System, better known as CODIS, has more than 11 million DNA profiles in its database, including 300,000 from Pennsylvania alone, according to the Pennsylvania State Police.    
Detective Sgt. David Richardson testing for DNA 
Police use of DNA in property crimes varies locally.
Bristol police haven’t used it yet and Bensalem is the only local department in Pennsylvania that maintains its own DNA database.
Falls police officers routinely swab crime scenes for touch DNA as part of crime scene processing, said Detective Sgt. Nelson Whitney III. The department generally holds the samples in evidence until a suspect is developed and then the samples are sent to a lab for analysis.
“We have obtained usable DNA and matched it to suspects from many types of surfaces, including a rock thrown through a window to make entry, in one case,” Whitney said, adding that the burglary case resulted in an arrest and conviction.
Lower Southampton police started using DNA testing for burglaries and thefts about four years ago, Lt. Ted Krimmel said. The department sends DNA samples to the state police lab about 15 times a year, he said.
“Sometimes, we don't get an ID, but the sample is put in an unsolved database in case the offender's DNA winds up in the system later,” he said. “Every once in a while, we get lucky.”
Like a few years ago, when police nabbed a suspected burglar who left behind a sweaty headband and cigarette butts, Krimmel said. The suspect’s DNA profile matched DNA evidence in other pharmacy burglaries and he was charged with them as well, he added.
Middletown police Detective Patrick Nicastro said his department sends DNA evidence to state forensic labs on a monthly basis, but it’s not uncommon to wait a year or longer before results return.
More than a year passed before Middletown got back DNA results taken at two unsolved burglaries in 2010. Both cases ended with the suspects pleading guilty.
Nicastro said he believes the state’s backlog is partly related to departments sending multiple DNA swabs when they don’t have an identified suspect. Bad guys aren’t the only ones who touch items, so police will collect DNA from anyone who may have had contact with an item, such as a door handle, to rule out suspects, he said.
For a decade, the Pennsylvania State Police Forensic DNA division in Greensburg has processed biological evidence, including touch DNA, involving property crimes, Director Beth Ann Marne said.
About half of the more than 2,000 requests the lab receives annually involve property-related crimes, she added. The growing demand has forced the state lab to limit the number of drug-related cases and the types of evidence, such as drug paraphernalia, that it accepts, Marne said.
“We were surprised by the response we got early on,” she said. “We saw the value in it early on. But it’s still amazing to me that we continue to see the substantial increases every year (for property crimes requests).”
Before it recently added staff, the state lab experienced backlogs involving property crime DNA results of as long as a year because violent crimes always take priority, Marne said.
Over the last two years, the state has devoted “significant” resources to increasing lab staff, Marne said, adding that wait times have dropped. The state lab now has almost 50 people working in the forensics DNA division, double the number from a few years ago.

The long wait for results through state labs is why Bensalem turned to a private lab in 2010, shaving its wait time to 30 days or less. In November, the department took the technology to the next step, piloting a first-of-its-kind, rapid DNA initiative that generates results in 90 minutes.
Bensalem's private database has only about 6,500 DNA profiles, compared to the millions in CODIS, which the department still uses for violent crime investigations. But the smaller database has played a role in 150 criminal investigations, mostly involving otherwise unsolvable drug and property crimes, said Fred Harran, director of public safety.
Among them was a 2011 cold case involving three stolen cars that was cracked last year after police obtained DNA samples from suspects caught breaking into cars. One of the suspect's DNA profiles matched DNA evidence recovered from the stolen cars, Harran said.
Harran has declined to discuss the exact cost of the private lab testing program — which processes about 150 samples a month — but did say it’s less than $200,000 a year and it’s paid through federal drug-forfeiture money the department receives for being part of a regional task force.
“To me, it’s a priority,” Harran added. “It’s a great tool and I hope more departments come on board.”
In recent years, other local police departments have paid Bensalem to process DNA samples when they've developed a suspect in a property-related crime. The cost is generally $100 to $200 a sample, and the DNA profile remains in the local database.
Middletown police paid Bensalem to process DNA evidence it obtained from a person of interest in an unsolved burglary in April 2012, where $1,500 in jewelry was stolen, Nicastro said. When dried blood was found on a stairwell handrail, walls and an empty piggy bank, police suspected the burglar had cut himself on the window he broke to enter the home.
Two months later, Middletown police interviewed 26-year-old Morrisville resident Peter Chomiak, a suspect in two other burglaries. Police believed he also committed the April burglary, but Chomiak claimed that he couldn’t remember.
Chomiak agreed to provide a DNA sample to compare with the blood collected at the home. In August, police got the results: Chomiak’s DNA matched. He was charged with the burglary, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 24 to 48 months in prison.
That a suspect would agree to give a DNA sample doesn’t surprise Bensalem’s Harran. He estimated as many as 90 percent of suspects will volunteer samples. 
Earlier this year, Bensalem discontinued its use of elimination DNA testing, where samples are obtained from home or property owners to narrow the suspect field. That testing increased the number of samples tested and related costs, Harran said.
Privacy experts believe DNA testing isn't as foolproof as law enforcement agencies would like to believe.
Penn State University Law School professor David Kaye, an authority on DNA evidence, believes privacy issues with the technology focus mainly on the reliability of touch DNA.
There can be difficulty interpreting touch DNA samples if analysts use an unusually small sample or a degraded one, Kaye said. Critics argue that such samples are vulnerable to contamination and cannot be scientifically validated for accuracy.
Meanwhile, a 2008 National Institute of Justice DNA study found that blood evidence was more effective in solving property crimes than other biological evidence, particularly evidence from items a suspect handled or touched.
Another major criticism of the routine use of DNA testing is that it has moved beyond its original intention of connecting people convicted of violent crimes with unsolved violent crimes.
These days, ever-expanding DNA databases have created a pool of “permanent suspects,” said Michael Risher, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, and a national expert on DNA forensics and genetic privacy issues.
“Some people have called it a lifetime of genetic surveillance,” he said. “We don’t believe that innocent Americans should have their genetic blueprint in a giant database.”
Another concern for Risher about using DNA testing as the first approach to crime solving is that if it’s unsuccessful, there's a greater likelihood a case will be shelved. He also worries about the creation of a two-tier justice system, where minor crimes in wealthier communities are solved but violent crimes in less wealthy areas aren't.
Despite those concerns, defense lawyers say DNA evidence is compelling and difficult to refute.
Doylestown attorney Charles Jonas recently had a case where police obtained a search warrant for his client’s DNA based on the results of evidence obtained from a ski mask connected with a crime.
"Sometimes, they’ll say the odds are one in a trillion,” Jonas said, adding that DNA hasn’t been a make-or-break element with his cases. “In some ways, people have held it to be more reliable, but you can’t just look at the report and say it’s a given.”
Defense attorney Niels Eriksen once represented a suspect whose DNA was connected to 20 burglaries. He called DNA testing an example of good police work, but also questioned its appropriate use.
No matter how sensitive the testing becomes, defense lawyers will always have questions about how the results were generated, Eriksen said. Those questions include how the sample was processed, who had access to the DNA database and how the database is maintained.
“The trick or challenge is, how do you collect DNA, and when is it appropriate to collect?” he asked.
Referring to George's Orwell's novel about a totalitarian state with constant government surveillance, Eriksen added:  “Do we want to have a ‘1984’ situation?”