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Use in Court

Next-generation sequencing is getting a day in court as a forensic tool, the Columbus Dispatch reports.

Prosecutors in Boston aim to use such sequencing data to argue that the man they've accused, Dwayne McNair, and not his identical twin brother committed a pair of abductions and rapes. Earlier approaches used in courtrooms, the Dispatch says, aren't refined enough to distinguish between identical twins, as they typically examine 13 reference locations in the genome.

"The forensic application of this testing is new, and to the best of our knowledge, our case will be the first prosecution to use it," said Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Connelly in September. "The scientific foundation, on the other hand, is well-understood and widely accepted."

Battelle's Richard Guerrieri, who is also a former chief of an FBI lab, tells the Columbus Dispatch that "next-generation sequencing is the most-significant breakthrough for forensic DNA science in the last 25 years."

Guerrieri adds more information, including about how a suspect looks — the person's hair or eye color, family origin, and body type — will soon be able to be gleaned from crime scene samples.

"A new era of forensic investigative genetics is about to happen," he says.