Judge dismisses DNA evidence in Haruka Weiser murder case

Megan Menchaca

Judge David Wahlberg decided on Wednesday not to admit the majority of the DNA evidence into the murder trial of UT dance freshman Haruka Weiser.

On the third day of the pre-trial hearing, Wahlberg said he was dismissing DNA test results because of flawed techniques used by the forensic scientist when she analyzed the DNA with the STRmix software.

The DNA evidence was dismissed mainly because of yesterday’s testimony from Jody Koehler, a former DNA section manager for a Department of Public Safety crime laboratory in Austin, Wahlberg said. During her testimony, she could not produce a required portion of the handwritten notes taken during her DNA analysis.

All of the DNA collected from Weiser’s knee and her glasses that was analyzed by the contested DNA software, STRmix, will not be used during Meechaiel Criner’s trial on July 9. Prosecutors planned to use this DNA to tie Criner to the scene of Weiser’s murder.

Criner was indicted in 2016 in connection to Wesier’s death. The indictment accuses him of multiple charges, including murder, sexual assault, attempted kidnapping and robbery.

Defense attorney Ariel Payan said all of of the DNA analyzed by STRmix was dismissed because the techniques were not properly applied to the evidence.

“There was missing evidence (and procedural problems), and the judge was upset about that,” Payan said. “As of now, there is only mitochondrial DNA (data) left (to be admitted into the trial). (The defense is) very pleased with the judge’s ruling.”

Defense attorney Darla Davis said although none of DNA analyzed by the STRmix software is admissible, this was not a ruling on the admissibility of STRmix in general.

“There’s a group of attorneys who believe that (STRmix) is not reliable,” Davis said. “But there was not a ruling on the use of STRmix from the judge.”

The prosecution declined to comment on the ruling today.

If convicted, Criner could face life in prison with the possibility of parole in 40 years.

Criner’s trial is set to begin July 9 and is expected to last two weeks.