LEWISTOWN (AP) - Prosecutors will be allowed to use DNA evidence in John Stanley Jones' rape and murder trial although his lawyers say it is unreliable because Jones is part Indian.
District Judge Wayne Phillips, after hearing three hours of testimony by DNA experts, said he will let the jury decide how reliable the tests are.
Jones, 36, is accused of killing 70-year-old Gisela Morris in her apartment at the Eagles Manor in December 2002. Morris died of stabbing and pressure injuries to her neck.
Phillips also refused a defense request to let lawyers interview the 200 prospective jurors in private to avoid having the answers of a few who had read or heard about the case influence the opinions of the entire group.
Instead, Phillips agreed to have jurors interviewed 12 at a time. If contamination is still a problem, the jurors can be interviewed individually, he said.
The DNA evidence is from blood found on Morris' pillow next to her body.
The chances of the blood belonging to someone other than Jones are one in 1.7 billion, according to statistics for a white population, said Lori Hutchinson, technical manager of the DNA section at the State Crime Lab.
But because Jones is 14 percent Chippewa-Cree the statistics can't be applied, the defense said.
Some genetic markers vary dramatically between American Indians and other populations, according to Dan Krane, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio. He has testified on forensic DNA typing in more than 40 criminal cases in state and federal courts.
The state also compared Jones' DNA with three Indian populations, Apache, Minnesota and Navajo. The odds of his DNA matching another's remained high, from one in 225 million in the Minnesota population to one in 7.7 billion in the Apache population.
But variation in genetic markers also is high between tribes because of their small populations and varied history, Krane wrote in his affidavit.
The state argued that its DNA specialists followed the recommendation of the National Research Council's Committee on DNA Technology and Forensic Science.
The trial is expected to take at least two weeks, with opening arguments likely to start late next week. The state is not asking for the death penalty.