Rockne Harmon to present forensic science lecture on familial DNA

Rockne P. Harmon, former senior deputy district attorney for Alameda County in California, will present a lecture hosted by the Penn State Forensic Science program of the Eberly College of Science. The lecture, titled "Solving Cold Cases through Familial DNA Searching: Issues and Answers," will begin at 12:20 p.m. on Thursday, April 12, in the 129 Waring Building at the Penn State University Park campus. The free public lecture is sponsored by the Penn State Eberly College of Science.

In the lecture, Harmon will discuss "familial searches" of DNA databases to solve the most serious cold, or unsolved, cases involving rape and homicide. He will explain how he developed a highly successful protocol for solving cold cases using DNA typing, and how he was the driving force behind the California attorney general's decision to implement familial DNA searching in California that led to the arrest of the "Grim Sleeper" serial killer in 2010.

Harmon has long been an advocate of the use of DNA typing in criminal investigations. He was the prosecutor in a triple murder case -- the People v. Lawrence Reilly -- that established the general acceptance of conventional serological methods, the precursor to today's DNA technology. As a result of that case, Harmon was in a position to assist the forensic-science community as it began the implementation of DNA typing soon thereafter. He also was one of the prosecutors in the People v. O. J. Simpson case. He has written and lectured extensively on the subject of the admissibility of forensic evidence, particularly DNA evidence. In 1998, he received an award from the FBI director for his efforts supporting the FBI in their first decade of DNA typing. In 2003, he received the Achievement Award from the International Homicide Investigators' Association for his work on cold cases. He was the chairman of the California District Attorneys' Association Forensic Science Committee and was on the advisory board to the International Homicide Investigators' Association for many years.

Harmon graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1967 and was in active-duty service for four years. He served a combat tour in Vietnam as an officer in charge of a Navy Swift Boat and received the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. After his military service, he attended the University of San Francisco School of Law and graduated in 1974. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.

Since his retirement in 2007, Harmon continues to act as a consultant to numerous law-enforcement agencies dealing with cold-case investigations and other issues related to forensic DNA typing. He is also an instructor at the University of California at Davis in the Masters in Forensic Science program.

For more information or access assistance, contact Kathy Leon at kml142@psu.edu.

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Last Updated April 03, 2012