LOS ANGELES—DNA, also known as Deoxyribonucleic Acid, contains specific genetic information that distinguishes one human being from another. Since the late 1980’s, scientists have analyzed samples of bodily fluids or tissue to create DNA profiles that have ultimately led to criminal convictions, as well as exonerating the innocent.
In the recent high profile Italian court case, college students Amanda Knox and Raffaele Sollecito were convicted of murder based on two pieces of DNA evidence. Upon appeal, Greg Hampikian, Ph.D., Professor of Biology and Criminal Justice at Boise State University (BSU) and forensic DNA expert, reanalyzed the DNA evidence and concluded it was likely contaminated and unreliable. Amanda and Raffaele are now free in part because of Dr. Hampikian’s work.
Dr. Hampikian will be speaking on “Amanda Knox: From DNA Error to DNA Exoneration,” at the 11th Armenian Medical World Congress in July in Los Angeles. “As our instruments get more and more sensitive, we need to be ever more careful about contamination,” states Dr. Hampikian. “In Amanda’s case we were able to show that the DNA evidence against her was unreliable, but it leaves you wondering how many other cases of DNA false-convictions there are.”
As founder and Director of the Idaho Innocence Project at BSU, Dr. Hampikian works with police agencies and defense lawyers in court cases involving DNA evidence. He has also helped establish the Georgia Innocence Project, the Irish Innocence Project, and the Innocence Project France. The Idaho Innocence Project is part of an international legal network that investigates wrongful conviction claims, helping to free those who are falsely imprisoned, and often indentifying the true perpetrators. His work has led to 13 exonerations, and he has been involved in hundreds of cases.
Dr. Hampikian’s research work has been published in leading scientific journals, major newspapers and magazines, as well as covered by major television networks from CNN to the BBC. Most recently, he published a review of 194 DNA exonerations in the prestigious Annual Review of Genetics and Genomics, and is publishing the account of how he and the French Police solved a high-profile decade-old murder by using familial DNA for the first time in Europe. Additionally, he co-authored the book “Exit to Freedom” with Calvin Johnson, Jr., a man who after 17 years in prison gained his freedom from a life sentence after DNA evidence proved his innocence. Dr. Hampikian is also an award-winning playwright, and is currently working on a musical about the Armenian Diaspora.
In 2013, Dr. Hampikian was inducted as a Charter Fellow of the National Academy of Inventors, and his DNA research covers a wide range of topics including pioneering work on the smallest sequences absent from nature that he has termed “Nullomers.” Using these Nullomers, Dr. Hampikian has invented a method of tagging DNA samples to prevent contamination of forensic evidence. His other inventions include 198 drugs made from Nullomer peptides that are effective against cancer and other diseases.
“Understanding and unlocking the powerful information contained in our genes is transforming science and medicine today,” says Vicken Sepilian, MD, FACOG, President of the Armenian American Medical Society and Chairman of the 11th Armenian Medical World Congress. “We are honored to have world renowned genetic scientist and pioneer, Dr. Greg Hampikian joining us at the 11th Armenian Medical World Congress where he will discuss cutting edge technologies that have allowed wrongfully convicted human beings gain back their freedom.”
For more information and to register for the 11th Armenian Medical World Congress, please visit our website at www.aamsc.com/congress.