ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a lower court to review the scientific acceptance of a widely-used DNA test.
The review could change the way DNA testing is done in Minnesota -- and affect about 1,500 court cases that included DNA evidence.
The case that prompted the court order involves Tony Allen Roman Nose, convicted of first-degree murder for stabbing 17-year-old Jolene Stuedemann to death in her family's Woodbury home in July 2000.
Roman Nose's lawyers argued that Washington County District Judge Stephen Muehlberg erred when he allowed results obtained using the disputed DNA testing method as evidence.
The Supreme Court agreed in part, ruling that the judge should have held a hearing on the method before allowing it into evidence.
Steven Russett, Roman Nose's attorney, said he welcomed the review and said a rejection of the method would have implications on pending cases.
According to the opinion, "when novel scientific evidence is offered that has not been reviewed by this court, the district court must determine whether the method of producing the scientific evidence is generally accepted in the relevant scientific community."
Russett is seeking a new trial for Roman Nose. But the court, in its ruling, made clear that will happen only if the review finds that the evidence was wrongly admitted and it determines the evidence was prejudicial in the case.
The new DNA testing method, used by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension since 1999, requires a smaller sample than the previous method and produces results in about half the time.
Defense attorneys, however, object that the company that sells the method won't open up its process to scientific peer review.
The hearing on the method is to be held within 90 days.
The opinion was written by Justice Russell Anderson. Justice James Gilbert dissented from the ruling, arguing that the test was widely accepted and that it was only used to support other evidence indicating that Stuedemann's blood was on Roman Nose's clothes.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.