U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Case Challenging Reliability of DNA-Matching for HIV
The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday without comment declined to review a case that questioned whether DNA comparisons of HIV are "reliable enough" to be used in federal trials, the AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. Lawyers for Dr. Richard Schmidt, a Louisiana gastroenterologist convicted of purposely injecting his ex-lover with HIV and hepatitis C after she called off their affair, challenged the reliability of an HIV DNA comparison that formed the basis of the prosecution's case against Schmidt. Janice Allen, Schmidt's lover of 10 years, said he gave her a shot, disguised as a vitamin injection, containing contaminated blood from two patients -- one with HIV and one with hepatitis C -- after she broke off their affair. Allen tested positive for HIV and hepatitis C five months after the alleged incident. A DNA analysis of shifting strands in her HIV and the virus of Schmidt's HIV-positive patient revealed that the two strains were "closely related," and Schmidt was convicted (Holland, AP/South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/4). Schmidt's lawyers challenged the validity of the DNA analysis based on a 1993 Supreme Court ruling that said judges must "ensure that any and all scientific testimony or evidence admitted is not only relevant, but reliable" (Holland, AP/Orlando Sentinel, 3/4). Herbert Larson, Schmidt's attorney, said that because judges are not required to examine potential error rates when deciding whether to allow scientific evidence, "the very real possibility exists that when novel scientific evidence is offered, it is little more than a random finding dressed up as scientific evidence." The court yesterday declined to hear the case without comment. Schmidt also lost a previous appeal in the Louisiana Supreme Court (Holland, AP/Nando Times, 3/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.