DNA on gun doesn’t prove possession

A young West Bay woman was found not guilty last week after trial for possession of an unlicensed firearm.

Irvalyn Natasha Bush, 19, was charged with the offence after scientific analysis showed that DNA matching her profile was found in two places on the grip of a .38 Taurus revolver.

DNA is a substance found in all cells of the body, including skin, sweat, blood and mucous.

A Grand Court jury heard that on 25 January 2006, police recovered the gun and six rounds of .38 ammunition from under the house in which Bush resided with her boyfriend, Jose Guadalupe Sanchez, 20.

There were two other houses in the yard, with people living in them.

Sanchez, represented by Attorney Ben Tonner, had also been charged. But the Crown offered no evidence against him when the trial started.

Crown Counsel Elisabeth Lees explained that DNA matching Sanchez’s profile was also found on the gun. But the match probability was one in 11; that is, out of every 11 unrelated people, you would expect to find one who matched.

In contrast, the match probability for Bush was one in 25,000 for the first location of DNA on the gun grip. For the second location of DNA on the grip, the match probability was one in 14 million.

Bush denied ever handling any firearm or knowing about a gun under the house.

In law, possession of an object means knowledge of it plus custody or control.

Ms Lees told the jury that if Bush knew about the gun under the house and permitted it to be there, she was in possession.

Defence Attorney Nicholas Dixey raised the question of how the DNA got on the gun.

The expert said that the amount of DNA recovered from each of the two locations on the gun was consistent with the amount of DNA recovered in contact cases. He said he had conducted hundreds of DNA analyses.

Mr. Dixey suggested that the DNA could have been deposited without Bush touching the gun. He raised three hypothetical situations: sharing a towel, wiping a microphone with a tissue someone else has used to blow her nose; sexual activity.

The expert said the towel scenario was highly improbable because the amount of DNA in the skin that is shed is not a lot. But there was a possibility.

Justice Priya Levers quoted from the expert’s cross-examination when she instructed jurors prior to their deliberations.

Mr. Dixey asked: ‘So we have illustrated at least three scenarios where it is possible there could be transfer on an object with varying degrees of likelihood, is that right?’

Expert: ‘Yes.’

Mr. Dixey: ‘And that is why you cannot say that the DNA found on an object is certainly the DNA of the person who touched it?’

Expert: ‘That’s correct.’

Justice Levers also instructed the jury on the law as it pertains to whether or not someone is lying.

The judge referred to Bush’s denial of knowing about the gun. She said even if Bush touched the gun as the Crown said, and jurors found that she lied to police about it, that was not the end of the matter.

Jurors had to go on to decide if she lied for some innocent reason, like protecting someone or out of panic or confusion.

Jurors also had to remember that defendants need not say a word when questioned by police; they are cautioned that they need no say anything unless they wished to do so.

The judge also instructed them that touching alone is not possession.

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