DNA Testing

Bill O'Driscoll / 90.5 WESA

On today's program: DNA excavated from a nearby rockshelter could tell us about humanity 19,000 years ago; how the once-lost running buffalo clover has rebounded; why Pennsylvania is suing the family behind Purdue Pharma; and Pittsburgh ranks among the most sustainable for its building practices.

Sarah Boden / 90.5 WESA

Many people look into their family histories because it gives them a sense of identity. Black Americans often hit brick walls when doing this research, and some are turning to DNA testing to illuminate lost branches of their family trees.


Jaime Dunaway / AP

A midstate county may be the first in the state to use an in-house DNA testing device to aid investigations.

The Cumberland County District Attorney's office is not alone in using rapid DNA testing in criminal investigations, but it is one of the first to purchase an instrument to let them do the test in the office.

District Attorney Skip Ebert said it could dramatically increase the number of suspects identified each year.

LM Otero / AP

In recent years, DNA tests have proved something surprising: people sometimes confess to terrible crimes that they definitely did not commit. One reason seems to be traditional American methods of police interrogation. 

Emily Winslow / Harper Collins

In January of 1992, Carnegie Mellon University student Emily Winslow left her Shadyside apartment to get change for a dollar to do her laundry. She was followed home by an unknown man who broke into her apartment and raped her.

University of Pittsburgh Law School

We've made considerable advancements in the last several decades of forensic science.  DNA testing has given us the ability to pinpoint culprits that may have never been caught just a few decades ago. 

This opens up the possibility for cold cases like the recent trial of the 1979 Catherine Janet Walsh homicide to finally go to court, and for justice to hopefully be obtained for the victims. 

But new evidence doesn’t always mean justice will be cut and dry.

Essential Pittsburgh legal contributor and University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris, says the most difficult challenge when opening a cold case is tracking down witnesses.