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A Y-STR DNA sample from a victim of a college-dorm rape will be admitted at the trial of a former MIT basketball player, according to a Massachusetts Superior Court decision this week.

Samson Donick, 21, will go on trial next month for the incident, which allegedly occurred in a Boston University dorm room in the early-morning hours of Oct. 18, 2015, according to authorities.

Donick’s motion in limine was to exclude the DNA evidence as presented by prosecutors.

The DNA arguments were made on either side by two of the most prominent names in DNA analysis: Bruce Budowle, of the University of North Texas Health Science Center, and Greg Hampikian, a Boise State University scientist who has worked extensively with exoneration groups like the Innocence Project.

The analysis of the genital swab and Donick’s buccal swab was performed by the Serological Research Institute in Richmond, California. It focused on Y-STR, paternally-linked genetic markers. The scientists at the lab concluded “approximately one in 8,631 males in the general population could be included as the contributor” of the DNA – and one 2,488 Caucasian males.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office had presented evidence that Donick, as an Ashkenazi Jew, had sufficiently rare Y-STR genes that it was inculpatory evidence. Budowle, their expert, had previously testified about small ethnic group studies, and had shown how the Y-STR found from the forensic swabs matched 16 of 16 possible markers with Donick’s DNA.

Defense attorneys argued the crime occurred in an area of Boston and with a school that has a large Jewish population, according to court records. Hampikian, arguing for the defense, said that traditional methods using the “counting method” to determine the likelihood of two men sharing the same Y-STR markers from a population did not apply to smaller groups like Ashkenazi Jews, which may be statistically under-represented. The defense further stated that the Y-STR, being a different kind of genetic assessment, may be erroneously compared with the more-exact autosomal DNA.

“Risk of unfair prejudice looms large over this case, because as the average juror well knows, DNA is often described as a genetic blueprint of an individual’s physical characteristics,” the defense argued. “If the jury were to mistake the limited Y-STR DNA evidence concerning Donick for more definitive autosomal DNA evidence, it would likely wrongfully convict Donick.”

The court ruled that Budowle’s testimony passed the Daubert/Lanigan test (an evidentiary threshold particular to Massachusetts).

“While there is undoubtedly a greater percentage of Ashkenazi Jews in the vicinity of the Dorm than there is in the United States generally, there is no evidence regarding the percentage of Ashkenazi Jews who had access to (the victim’s) bedroom on the night in question,” the judge ruled.

The court said, however, that it could be contested by the defense at trial – and the Y-STR evidence alone would not likely be enough for a conviction.

“Given the limitations of the conclusions that may be drawn from Y-STR DNA matches, if the DNA evidence was the only evidence linking the defendant to the alleged crime, the court might be more wary of admitting it,” writes Judge Mitchell Kaplan. “However, in this case there is substantial additional evidence placing the defendant in the vicinity of (the victim’s) room at the time of the incident while engaged in the act of entering dorm rooms uninvited.”

An attorney for Donick could not be reached by Forensic Magazine on Friday.

The jury trial will begin Jan. 24, according to Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office.

“This was the decision we expected, and it sets the stage for the trial next month,” Wark said.

Prosecutors allege the victim awoke to a finger penetrating her vagina, and an erect penis on her hands, with an unknown man asking her if she “wanted more.” When she demanded he leave, he did so. The victim later reported the alleged attack to police, and was administered a rape kit at a local hospital about three hours later. Donick and three other MIT students had signed into the dorm at the security desk less than an hour before the alleged attack. Donick and a fellow MIT student left the dorm about 20 minutes after the incident, according to court documents.

Donick faces charges of aggravated rape, indecent assault and battery on a person over 14, burglary with assault, and breaking and entering in the night with intent to commit a felony.

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