A Travis County criminal court judge has tossed out DNA evidence ahead of the capital murder trial of a man accused of killing an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Texas at Austin.
KXAN-TV reports defense attorneys for Meechaiel Criner, a runaway accused of killing student Haruka Weiser as she walked to her dorm in 2016, argued that new software being used by the Texas Department of Public Safety to analyze DNA is not reliable.
"The main piece of evidence in question were swabs from Weiser's thigh that did not show Criner's DNA," KXAN reported. "A second swab was analyzed by hand and came up inconclusive because the amounts of genetic material were too low. But when that swab was analyzed using STRmix, the machine said analysts couldn't rule out the possibility that the DNA was Criner's."
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As a result of the finding, KXAN reports Judge David Wahlberg decided to throw out any YSTR evidence which highlights gender indicators in DNA.
Criner was indicted in June 2016 by a grand jury after being accused of robbing, kidnapping, strangling and sexually assaulting the young woman as she walked to her dorm in Austin.
Weiser, of Portland, Oregon, was last seen leaving a campus drama building around 9:30 p.m. on April 3, and her body was found two days later in Waller Creek near the campus alumni center and the massive football stadium -- an area that typically hums with activity day and night.
Criner was arrested April 7 at a shelter near campus and police said they found him with a number of Weiser's belongings, including her blue duffel bag and laptop.
Criner, whose trial is expected to begin July 9, faces up to life in prison if convicted. Criner isn't eligible for the death penalty because he was under 18 when the crime was committed.