New DNA technology links accused gunman in 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee’s killing to boy’s basketball: prosecution

Chicago Tribune 1 month ago

Nine-year-old Tyshawn Lee carried his basketball with him wherever he went.

It was with him after he bid his grandmother goodbye one unseasonably warm day in November 2015, telling her he was going to “shoot some hoops.” He set it down next to the jungle gym at Dawes Park as he played.

And a short time later when he was found dead -- shot repeatedly at point-blank range in a nearby alley -- his basketball was only a few feet away.

Samples from the basketball were sent to Illinois State Police forensics experts, but traditional methods of analysis came up short.

So the state police lab, which handles much of the forensic analysis of evidence in Chicago-area criminal investigations, turned to a method it had never before used: “probabilistic genotyping” software called STRmix to interpret DNA samples that are too complex for older systems to handle.

On Tuesday, at the trial of two reputed gang members charged in Tyshawn’s killing, Dr. John Buckleton, STRmix’s co-creator, testified that the analysis found a “very strong possibility” that the accused gunman’s DNA contributed to the mix found on three out of four samples from the basketball and a “strong possibility” on the fourth sample.

The testimony at the trial of Corey Morgan and Dwright Doty marked the first time that such evidence has been used in a state court in Illinois, Buckleton acknowledged from the stand.

Cook County prosecutors allege Doty fired the fatal shots into Tyshawn as part of an escalating feud between two gang factions, deliberately targeting the skinny fourth-grader just weeks after a rival gang connected to his father fatally shot Morgan’s brother and wounded his mother.

Buckleton’s analysis also found statistical support for Doty’s profile being included in the DNA mixture on some of the swabs from the alleged getaway car, he testified.

Prosecutors hope the controversial DNA evidence will bolster testimony from an eyewitness that a man -- identified by prosecutors as Doty -- bounced Tyshawn’s basketball and talked with him shortly before luring him to the alley and shooting him.

Before the trial, defense attorneys fought hard to keep prosecutors from introducing the DNA analysis to the jury, arguing that the methods were not necessarily reliable. The defense likely feared that jurors would hear the word “DNA” and simply assume the evidence was unimpeachable.

After a two-day hearing last June, Judge Thaddeus Wilson ruled that jurors could hear about Buckleton’s conclusions -- because Illinois law required him to determine only if the methodology was “generally accepted,” not whether an expert’s testimony would be reliable or relevant.

The decision made him “uneasy,” though, the judge wrote in his order in July, especially given that other kinds of forensic evidence once widely considered reliable -- such as footprint and microscopic hair analyses -- have since come under fire.

“While a judge can be confident he has applied (case law) correctly, he cannot help but wonder whether he has pushed life and liberty into the cesspool of junk science,” he wrote.

Wilson seemed particularly concerned that the organization behind STRmix at first tried to “hide behind trade secret protections,” he wrote.

They were “acting more like a company hawking male enhancement drugs with secret proprietary blends,” he said.

Wilson later withdrew his initial written order and replaced it with a similar one but less strongly worded and without reference to the pills or “cesspool.”

Buckleton, a forensics expert from New Zealand who helped develop the STRmix system, testified that the technology has been used by 46 U.S. laboratories, including ones affiliated with the the FBI and U.S. Army.

“Probabilistic genotyping” was considered a breakthrough, analyzing samples that involve multiple DNA profiles that traditional methods couldn’t pin down, he said.

On cross-examination by one of Doty’s attorneys, Buckleton said the STRmix results should be viewed in light of all the other available evidence.

Assistant Public Defender Michael Buresh also asked if Buckleton knew of the pressure faced by Chicago police and prosecutors to solve the killing.

“I believe (the case) was considered important,” Buckleton told separate juries deciding the defendants’ fate. “They were prepared to invest resources in this.”

Source link
Read also:
Chicago Tribune › 1 month ago
The alleged getaway car used in the slaying of 9-year-old Tyshawn Leecq was at the South Side park near where he was killed shortly before his shooting nearly four years ago, a prosecution expert said GPS data shows.
Chicago Tribune › 2 months ago
Four young prosecution witnesses who were at the South Side park at the time of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee's slaying in 2015 were jailed in the weeks before the trial to ensure their testimony.
Chicago Tribune › 1 month ago
Lawyers for two reputed gang members on trial for the 2015 killing of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee unsuccessfully sought a mistrial on Wednesday, incensed that Chicago police withheld what they considered key information from them until this week.
USA Today › 1 month ago
Closing arguments began Thursday in the case of Tyshawn Lee, a 9-year-old boy was shot and killed in one of Chicago's most horrific crimes.
Chicago Tribune › 2 months ago
The finger-pointing began right away as separate juries heard opening statements at the trial of two reputed gang members charged in the killing of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee.
USA Today › 1 month ago
On Friday, Corey Morgan was found guilty of first degree murder in the killing of 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee in Chicago.
Chicago Tribune › 2 months ago
The accused gunman in 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee’s slaying reversed course Thursday, announcing in court he no longer wanted to represent himself after the judge declined to delay his trial scheduled to start Friday.
CNN › 2 months ago
On a warm and sunny afternoon in November 2015, 9-year-old Tyshawn Lee was still in his school uniform when he told his grandmother he loved her and raced across the street to a Chicago park with his basketball.
Chicago Tribune › 1 month ago
Testimony continues in the Tyshawn Lee trial, where jurors heard secret recordings of the alleged shooter boasting about gunning down the 9-year-old in 2016.
Chicago Tribune › 2 months ago
In the first week of the trial into Tyshawn Lee's killing, varying testimony by witnesses to the shooting was more circumstantial than a slam dunk for prosecutors.
Sign In

Sign in to follow sources and tags you love, and get personalized stories.

Continue with Google