DNA in underwear matches Philippines rape victim

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Dr. Francisco Supe Jr., a forensic analyst from the DNA Analysis Section of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Crime Laboratory, took the stand and disclosed in court for the first time that DNA was present in two pieces of evidence. According to Supe, DNA of complainant "Nicole" was found in samples of "biological fluid" found on the panties she was wearing on the night of Nov. 1, 2005 and in the condom purportedly used by accused Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in committing the alleged rape.

The used condom was retrieved at Subic's Alava Pier where a distraught Nicole was found after the alleged rape.

"The condom and the underwear had female DNA, and they matched. They are the same DNA profiles ... which means they most likely belong to the same person," the expert witness said during direct examination by State Prosecutor Hazel Valdez.

Only Nicole's underwear tested positive for male DNA---a result that Supe attributed to the possible "degradation" of bodily fluids on the condom to "environmental insults, particularly the humid condition, bacterial factors that may have contaminated it ... and the enzyme inside DNA which destroys it when functioning outside a living system."

In reply to Valdez’s question, Supe said that while it was possible that the evidence had not been handled properly before the turnover, he said the condom and the panties were not contaminated as they still yielded DNA samples.

Upon Valdez's questioning, Supe related how analysts came to match the female DNA found in both specimens with that of the complainant.

He said Nicole's DNA, extracted from a blood sample that she had voluntarily provided, was the same as that found in the panties and the condom.

"I am comparing now, and it appears that they match exactly -- the DNA profiles generated from the blood sample and the samples generated from the condom and the underwear," said Supe, referring to two DNA test results he was holding.

Valdez then sought Supe's expertise on the possible indications of the presence of male DNA in a woman’s underwear, and asked him its possible source.

Supe replied: "We're dealing here with a [pair of panties] and you would think of areas that come in contact with a panty... The most probable source is either saliva or seminal stains. But if you go by logic, I don't see any reason why anybody would lick a panty." While the test may lead experts to areas where DNA can be extracted, it cannot specify which part of the body the spots came from, Supe had explained.

Supe said the owner of the male DNA could not be identified as yet, as the crime laboratory lacked a sample with which to compare the results. None of the accused----Smith, Lance Corporals Keith Silkwood and Dominic Duplantis, and Staff Sgt. Chad Carpentier---had submitted his specimen for DNA testing. The prosecution panel had filed a motion on July 17, asking the court to compel the accused to submit blood samples for comparison with the male DNA found in Nicole's panties. Defense lawyers told the court that they would file their reply on July 20.

In response to the question on how could a female's DNA be in a used condom, Supe replied: "The most plausible is that the inside of the condom came in contact with [Nicole]... Maybe that part of the condom was rubbed with [Nicole]," he said. "Most likely it came in contact with the genital area, [but it] was turned inside out most likely, such that the [DNA] specimen was preserved."

When asked to demonstrate how a condom could have been reversed, Supe had apparently anticipated the question and brought a condom. He then demonstrated how a condom could have been turned inside out in the act of removing it.

Defense lawyer Jose Justiniano said Supe's testimony did not help prove rape. He said the presence of the male and female DNA in the specimen could at most prove that a man and a woman had sex, not whether or not there was "a presence of force or intimidation,"

This case has garnered nationwide attention in Philippines because it involves US military men stationed in Philippines. As required by the Visiting Forces Agreement, the case has to be resolved within one year.

Cross-examination of Supe is scheduled for Thursday, July 20.