6.28.16: DNA Unraveled, Texas' Patent Empire, & Urogential Transplants

Jun 28, 2016

DNA evidence broke ground by taking the uncertainty out of criminal convictions. But what was once a slam dunk to judge, jury and the public is increasingly under scrutiny. Today, unraveling genetic evidence.

Plus, Marshall, Texas is not what you'd call an innovation hub, yet a quarter of the nation's patent cases are filed there. A reporter looks into why patent holders and trolls choose this sleepy town and its one powerful judge to settle their suits - fast.

Listen to the full show. 

DNA, Disintegrated

If you watch enough police procedurals and crime shows like CSI, you'd think DNA evidence is a slam dunk.  It's a little more complicated in real labs where technicians have to interpret data based not only on science, but often, judgment calls. The irony is that with forensic scientists now able to detect mere traces of DNA, comes the possibility that innocent people could be connected to the crime scene. That's at the heart of a case being made for one man imprisoned in Georgia.

Journalist Chris Berdik investigated the case, one of several challenging the precision and accuracy of genetic evidence. We read his article, “The Unraveling of DNA Forensics” in Playboy.

Texas' Patent Empire

In 2015, nearly half of patent cases filed in the country ran through US District Court of East Texas. And more than a quarter end up in front of one small-town judge. It's not that Texas is a hotbed of innovation, but that the mostly rural district made some tweaks to its rules to speed up the process of settling patent cases - the adjustments were made back in the early days of the tech revolution.

Since then, patent holders and the trolls who leverage them infringement cases have flocked to the district known to be friendly to their cause. Kaleigh Rogers, is a staff writer for Motherboard, who wrote the article "The Small Town Judge Who Sees a Quarter of the Nation's Patent Cases."

The Importance of Genital Urinal Transplants

Last month, news of a first of its kind transplant in the US made for some grabby headlines.  A surgical team at Massachusetts General Hospital announced the experimental urogenital transplant on a 64-year old man who'd had his penis removed because of cancer.

The breakthrough represents hope, especially among combat veterans who feel stigmatized and emasculated by loss or severe injury to the genitals and urinary tract - suicide rates are especially high among them. Denise Grady reported the story for the New York Times, where she'd also covered the progress of a surgical team at Johns Hopkins which has been focusing on wounded troops.

    

A Refugee's Journey to San Francisco

It's been five years since the conflict in Syria began. More than 250,000 Syrians have since been killed and almost 11 million displaced. Fleeing the country is often a long and perilous journey - especially for members of Syria's maligned LGBT community. Eli Wirtschafter shares an atypical refugee story as part of the KALW series Crosscurrents.

You can listen to this story again at PRX.org