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Low-Template DNA Analysis Evaluated as Evidence

Prosecutors in upstate New York are seeking to use low-template DNA analysis in a murder trial, but defense attorneys argue the method isn't reliable, the New York Times reports.

Oral Nicholas Hillary, a former local college soccer coach, is accused of strangling a 12-year-old boy, Garrett Phillips, in 2011, though the Times notes that there is a lack of physical evidence — a prior district attorney had declined to bring charges because of the limited evidence. But with low-template DNA analysis and the software STRmix from a New Zealand company, prosecutors hope to tie Phillips to the crime based on tiny amount of biological material found under Garrett's fingernails.

However, the defense attorneys argue that the method isn't reliable, as STRmix has suffered from past issues and because of the limited amount of DNA analyzed.

The judge, Felix Catena, has agreed to a hearing to determine the admissibility of STRmix. The approach was allowed previously in New York, in Niagara County, in a sexual assault case.

Still, the "outcome may be felt in Potsdam … as well as further afield, as prosecutors seek more methods to convict those charged and defense lawyers seek more ways to exonerate them," the Times says.