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Phylogenetics' day in court

First use of phylogenetic analysis to prove guilt in attempted-murder case.

Peg Brickley(pegbrickley@hotmail.com)

A Louisiana courtroom drama that ended in an attempted-murder conviction will be discussed in a paper scheduled for publication later this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. At times, the story of a doctor accused of trying to murder his former girlfriend with HIV will read more like a movie script than a scholarly journal article.

Both Michael L. Metzker, an assistant professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and David Hillis, director of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, testified at the 1997 trial of Richard J. Schmidt, then a gastroenterologist in Lafayette, Louisiana. Together with another scientist whose phylogenetic comparison of two strains of HIV helped to convict Schmidt, they will soon publish their account, "Molecular Evidence of HIV-1 Transmission in a Criminal Case."

Metzker, Hillis, and David Mindell, a...

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