News of the WeekForensic Science

HIV Strain Analysis Debuts in Murder Trial

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Science  30 Oct 1998:
Vol. 282, Issue 5390, pp. 851-852
DOI: 10.1126/science.282.5390.851

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A Louisiana doctor was found guilty last week of attempted murder for injecting a former lover with HIV-infected blood--the first time that a DNA analysis of HIV strains was used in a criminal court in the United States. Although the specifics of this case might be rare, the same kind of evidence could be used whenever the source of a fast-mutating virus is at issue--for example, in cases involving transmission of HIV, food poisoning, or even biological warfare. And expert witnesses on both sides have said that the case points to the need for an explicit set of rules governing the use of such evidence in the courts.