by Dale Chappell
Since being introduced in 2012, a technique for separating mixed DNA evidence called STRmix has been used in at least 220,000 cases worldwide.
STRmix is sophisticated forensic software that resolves DNA samples mixed with multiple donors. It allows users to set the number of contributors to the mixed DNA sample and then extract only the DNA matching those donors.
Currently, 59 organizations use STRmix, including the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms and numerous state and local forensic labs.
Training is set to bring on board another 60 organizations, and the demand for STRmix has been steady, even through the COVID-19 pandemic. Agencies are using remote training online for STRmix.
Playing a crucial role in criminal justice, STRmix develops leads in cold cases and, more importantly, helps to exonerate the innocent in postconviction cases.
Prior to STRmix, mixed DNA evidence was often tossed because it was too unreliable. Now DNA can be separated, helping to exclude those wrongly convicted of major crimes.
“Demand for STRmix has been extremely high due to the critical role it plays in helping to solve crimes and excluding individuals who have been wrongly associated as the source of crime scene evidence,” said John Buckleton, a forensic scientist and one of the developers of STRmix.
A survey conducted by New Zealand’s Institute of Environmental Science and Research showed that STRmix was used in twice as many cases that the year before. A new version of the software was recently released and will enable users to tackle more complex DNA samples faster.
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