DNA expert testifies at Charles Mustard murder trial

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DNA expert testifies at Charles Mustard murder trial

The 63-year-old is charged with premeditated murder that remains unexplained for nearly 30 years in Toronto

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The photo of the accused, Charles Mustard, had been presented to the press shortly after his arrest in October 2018.

In Toronto, the defense of an individual accused of a murder committed 30 years ago tried as best they could on Wednesday to discredit a Crown expert in DNA analysis. Charles Mustard is accused of the premeditated murder of Barbara Brodkin in 1993 in the metropolis. His DNA finally allowed him to be apprehended in 2018.

The trial has so far shown that traces of the murderer's DNA have been found under the fingernails of the 41-year-old victim, who was selling marijuana to supplement his income.

Charles Mustard trial: DNA found under victim's fingernails, Crown says

Crown accuses Charles Mustard of; killing Barbara Brodkin to steal drugs and an undetermined amount of money from her apartment bedroom closet between March 18 and 19, 1993.

According to the Crown, the accused was one of the victim's irregular customers and they fought before he stabbed her to death in the chest.

Ms. Brodkin defended herself so well according to prosecutors that she scratched her assailant in the face, leaving blood and other traces of #x27;DNA were recovered at the time under his fingernails.

Barbara Brodkin was found dead in her apartment on March 19, 1993. She was 41 at the time.

Science in terms of DNA analysis, however, was still unreliable at the time to identify a suspect so early, despite DNA samples being taken in 1993 and 1995.

The murder will therefore remain unexplained for 25 years until 2018, when the accused was arrested.

A Crown forensic analyst, Jennifer McLean, assures that the DNA traces taken in 1993 are indeed those of the murderer, but she cannot confirm whether they are pieces of skin or of saliva.

Ms. McLean, who works at the Center for Forensic Sciences in Toronto, however, specifies that the blood is indeed that of the victim.

The Crown and the defense, however, refuse to explain to the court how the DNA of the accused was taken four years ago in order to make comparisons with the samples of ;DNA recovered in 1993.

As an aside outside the courtroom, prosecutor Karen Simone and attorney Bob Richardson confirm to Radio -Canada that it was necessary to acquire from 2018 the DNA of the accused to be able to make DNA comparisons.

They refuse, however, to say whether the accused voluntarily submitted to a saliva sample. They add that this aspect is not important and that it is not part of the pleadings.

Defendant Charles Mustard (left) with his lawyer Bob Richardson. Prosecutor Karen Simone presents her closing argument to Judge Brian O'Marra.

The first day of the trial revealed that the Toronto police had organized in October 2018 a false press conference about Barbara Brodkin in the atrium of her College Street headquarters.

A silent video of the event shows elsewhere the accused wanders in the atrium for long minutes in front of the giant placards of the victim.

Two police officers dressed as civilians then stop him to make conversation and exchange forms. It is possible that Charles Mustard's fingerprints were then taken at this time without his knowledge.

Back in the courtroom after the break, Jennifer McLean said on the witness stand that numerous biological molecules were detected under nine of the victim's ten fingernails.

80% of the DNA did not belong to Barbara Brodkin, but to a man, she explains, adding that the right hand contained more than the left hand.

Charles Mustard to the right of his lawyer, Bob Richardson (detail).< /p>

Ms. McLean adds that a major DNA transfer of this type is very rare to find on a victim's body and only occurs when there has been close physical contact with an individual or their bodily fluids, such as blood, saliva, nasal mucus, or semen.

There is only one possibility in a trillion that the DNA of the unknown man is not that of the accused, she continues.

In other words, the possibilities that the DNA belongs to another man with no connection to the accused are infinitesimal.

The expert points out that the probability that the DNA of a donor (the murderer, editor's note) is transferred directly to a recipient (the victim, editor's note) increases as a physical force increases between two individuals .

She adds that scratches to the face or body can leave traces of DNA on a victim.

In its cross-examination, the defense suggests that the victim may have seen men other than his client before his death or that she washed her hands after meeting them or that the The donor's DNA may have been indirectly transferred by sharing a joint or a cigarette.

Ms. McLean acknowledges that the DNA may wash away or that it is possible that the DNA was transferred by a third party, who was in contact with the donor and the recipient during the treatment. an exchange of cigarettes.

She adds that identification becomes more difficult if the DNA of the stranger had been under the fingernails of the victim for more than 24 hours, at stronger reason if the victim engaged, at that time, in daily activities such as showering, washing the dishes, having a manicure…

She further points out that DNA is easier to transfer from a donor to a recipient when fresh.

It's like paint on a wall, if you brush against the wall when it's still fresh, you'll get more on your clothes than when ;it's almost dry, she says.

Me Richardson asks her if the DNA can be transferred without the application of any force, but by brushing only. Yes, that is a possibility, she replies.

The corridor leading to the victim's apartment located at 155 of Balliol Street in Toronto.

In its right of reply, the Crown immediately dismissed the victim's 6-year-old son who lived with her at the ;era.

It is therefore impossible, according to prosecutor Simone, that the DNA of the unknown male found under the fingernails of the victim belongs to her little boy.

Me Simone then adds that the cigarette butts found in their apartment also show that Barbara Brodkin did not smoke a cigarette with any man 24 hours before her death, which implies that she did not see any man other than the accused on the night of the murder.

It is understood that Charles Mustard did not smoke at the time or that he did not smoke in the presence of the victim.

The Crown clarifies that even cigarette butts discovered on the morning of March 19, 1993 in the stairwell of Ms. Brodkin's apartment building were covered with DNA from only one woman.

She finally recalls that the DNA of the accused was found on both hands of the victim and not on only one, which would then rule out the explanation of the exchange from a cigarette or a joint from a man's hand to a woman's hand.

The use of genetic genealogy: a double-edged sword

The trial continues Thursday.

The defense has yet to let the court know whether it intends to call any individuals as witnesses.

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