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New DNA Technique Helps Secure Narcotics Conviction
June 4, 2016

DATE: Saturday, June 04, 2016
SUBJECT: New DNA Technique Helps Secure Narcotics Conviction
RELEASE NUMBER: 2016-NR-043
CONTACT: Lt. Noah Robinson
AUTHORITY: Sheriff Dave Wedding

Thanks in large part to a newly developed DNA analysis technique; on Friday, May 03, 2016 Mr. Dugniqio Dishay Forest was convicted in Vanderburgh Superior Court on charges related to the possession of crack cocaine inside of the Vanderburgh County Jail.

In January 2015 confinement officers conducted a search of Mr. Forest's cell and located nearly 21 grams of crack cocaine hidden among his personal effects. That discovery was only the first step in proving the cocaine belonged to Mr. Forest. Establishing possession in a jail setting can be difficult due to inmates having access to each others living areas as well as a pervasive unwillingness to cooperate with law enforcement.

Lead Detective James Budde explained, "Due to complicated circumstances surrounding the State's burden of proof in this matter, the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's Office enlisted the expertise of Dr. Mark Perlin to conduct DNA analysis of the baggie that contained the crack cocaine. Dr. Perlin is recognized within the scientific community as an expert in DNA analysis. Dr. Perlin founded CyberGenetics Inc., a DNA analysis company based in Pittsburgh. Dr. Perlin developed a software program known as TrueAllele, which can identify and separate the DNA of multiple individuals that may have cross contaminated a particular item. TrueAllele had previously been used to help identify victims of the World Trade Center attacks. Dr. Perlin’s technology and expertise with respect to DNA analysis came at the recommendation of the Indiana State Police lab, although his methods had never before been admitted into an Indiana court. This past Friday the Honorable Judge Richard G. D’Amour ruled the TrueAllele results as admissible at Mr. Forest’s trial."

The jury heard from several witnesses during the course of the trial, which included ISP lab technicians, confinement officers, narcotics detectives, Forest’s cell mate at the time of the cocaine seizure, as well as Dr. Perlin himself. Dr. Perlin gave expert testimony that there was no evidence of Forest’s cell mates’ DNA on the baggie of cocaine, but that there was a match for Mr. Forest. This evidence was crucial in securing a conviction of Mr. Forest.

The lead prosecutor for this case was Deputy Prosecutor Javier Lugo, who was assisted by Deputy Prosecutor Justin Brandt. Mr. Forest was convicted of a lesser included charge of Possession of Cocaine as a Level 4 Felony, which carries a sentencing range of two (2) to twelve (12) years. Mr. Forest is currently serving a federal sentence for a firearms conviction and has lengthy history of violent offenses involving narcotics and firearms.

Sheriff Dave Wedding stated, "Thanks to solid police work on the part of our jail staff, the investigative skill of our narcotics detectives and the eagerness of the Vanderburgh County Prosecutor's Office to both embrace and defend new technology we were able to secure a conviction in this case."

Pictured above: Dugniqio Dishay Forest, 21, of Evansville.

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