A Queens Supreme Court Judge approved last week the use of a new type of DNA scan in a case involving a Guyanese man accused of killing a Jamaica woman who was set to testify against him in court.
Justice Robert Hanophy ruled Feb. 8 that the use of “Low Copy Number” DNA analysis was permissible in the government’s case against Hemant Megnath, who has been charged with first-degree murder.
Megnath, a Guyanese immigrant who lived in Brooklyn, was on trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court in 2007 for the alleged rape of Natasha Ramen, but he is accused of slashing the 20-year-old’s throat at her Jamaica home before she was going to take the stand against him, the Queens district attorney said.
The LCN DNA testing had been the subject of several pre-trial hearings since November 2008 because unlike normal DNA testing, LCN involves examining smaller amounts of DNA at higher magnifications under microscopes and crime scene tools, according to the judge.
Investigators were able to collect DNA evidence from Megnath’s car following a search warrant and prosecutors say the LCN testing was able to connect DNA from Ramen to the DNA inside the vehicle.
Megnath’s attorneys tried to throw out the case based on the small DNA sample and testing, but after months of testimony from crime scene investigators and forensic specialists, Hanophy said the testing was good enough.
The challenge to the use LCN DNA analysis was the first time it had been opposed in a U.S. Court, according to the Queens DA’s office.
“Here, the court finds that the people clearly demonstrated ... that LCN DNA testing performed by the New York [medical examiner] is generally accepted as reliable in the forensic scientific community and meets the standard,” he wrote in his nine-page decision.
Megnath was released on bail during his trial and allegedly made threats against Ramen, who was Guyanese, and her in-laws, investigators said. On March 15, 2007, Ramen was coming out of her home when Megnath allegedly came up from behind her and slit her throat, according to prosecutors.
A trial date has not been set. If convicted, Megnath faces life in prison without parole, according to the DA’s office.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@c
©2010 Community News Group
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