In The News


2017-07-04 | Forensic Experts Granted ‘Qualified Immunity’ for 1990s Bite Marks Testimony
Two men were separately convicted in the 1990s of raping and killing 3-year-old girls who lived several miles apart in Noxubee County, Mississippi. One was sentenced to die. Both convictions featured bite mark evidence which was later discredited, due to DNA evidence that pointed to a single killer who later confessed to the crimes. The two convicted men, Kennedy Brewer and Levon Brooks, were released from Mississippi prisons in 2008, and filed federal lawsuits against the death investigators who had testified about the alleged bite marks on the bodies of the little girls that had led to the convictions.

2017-07-01 | Misidentification Defense – The 100% Method
In the criminal context misidentification is a phenomenon where victims or witnesses of criminal activity mistakenly identify one person as the perpetrator of the crime. When this happens the people making the identification become convinced that the person they identified is the person who they saw committing the crime. There are many reasons why this happens and we will not get into them here. But if you’re interested in the basic principles and causes of misidentification you can read this.

2017-07-01 | Sweden and the US to share fingerprint data
Before, the Swedish police had to file a request with the US to gain access to fingerprints from the FBI's database in a process that could take several weeks. After the summer, however, police in both countries will be able to browse in each other's fingerprint registers in the event of crimes punishable with over a year in jail. Only Sweden's Left Party voted against the decision in parliament.

2017-06-29 | Federal court: Despite ‘grossly negligent’ testimony that put two innocent men in prison, forensic experts can’t be sued
West testified in dozens of cases, Hayne in thousands. Both often gave testimony well outside the constraints of science. Hayne, for example, once claimed that the bullet wounds in a murder victim were “consistent with” a theory that two people were holding the murder weapon when it was fired. West has claimed to be able to trace bruises on a victim’s abdomen to the specific shoe that inflicted the injuries; claimed to match fingernail scrapes to the specific fingernails that made them; and in one particularly nutty case, claimed that the knife wounds in a murder victim could only have been caused by one specific knife, and then claimed to have found marks on the chief suspect’s hands that could only have been caused by gripping the handle of that knife — and only that knife.

2017-06-28 | Mold Found in Containers of About 850 Austin Police Rape Kits
Hundreds of sexual assault kits in Austin police storage have been determined to have mold growing on the outside of them, prompting officials to seek guidance from state and national experts about how to properly preserve the evidence and raising questions about whether forensic samples may have been compromised. So far, officials said they have no indication that the mold will prevent analysts from obtaining DNA samples and that, because the kits had never been tested, evidence from them has never been used to build a case against or convict a defendant.

2017-06-26 | Broward Judges Aren't Letting Defendants Challenge Bad DNA Evidence, Critics Say
At issue was DNA evidence based on complex samples, in which the genetic material comes from multiple people. Complex samples require a complicated analysis to determine which portion of DNA belongs to which person. When the DNA is minuscule or degraded, pieces can be missing or seem to exist where they do not. Because so much of that evidence is up to interpretation, the science can become more subjective and different experts often arrive at varying conclusions. That subjectivity led ASCLD in 2010 to issue new thresholds for interpreting DNA and calculating the odds that a particular person left DNA at a crime scene. Crime labs across the nation are grappling with the changes: Some are retesting thousands of cases to make sure old evidence was sound. At the Broward crime lab, complex DNA processing was stopped after ASCLD issued its findings last year. The State Attorney's Office then began sending notices about the issue to 2,000 defendants in cases that were resolved since 1999 where any type of DNA was involved.

2017-06-16 | Michigan Man Convicted on Single Hair Freed After 41 Years
Watkins was 20 years old when he was convicted of first-degree murder in the 1975 shooting death of 25-year-old Yvette Ingram during a robbery at her home. Police lab analysts tied Watkins to the crime based on a single hair found at the scene, according to the Innocence Project at the Western Michigan University-Cooley Law School, which took up Watkins' case and asked a court in January to set aside the conviction.

2017-06-14 | Orlando Fingerprint Examiner Suspended Over Possible Misconduct in 2,600 Cases
According to a recent Washington Post report, there may be a new item to add to the list. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office in Orlando, Florida announced it has suspended a fingerprint examiner for “reasons that aren’t totally clear.” At the time of his suspension, the examiner had worked on over 2,600 cases dating back to 2001. The report states that the state’s attorney’s office hasn’t identified a specific reason why it removed the examiner from duty, but it sent a letter to every defense lawyer involved in the nearly 3,000 cases the examiner worked on stating that the examiner was taken off fingerprint analysis due to performance issues that included “clerical errors, failure to identify prints of value, and mislabeling of print cards.”

2017-05-26 | Fighting Forgery with Paper 'Fingerprints'
One way of protecting against fraud is to embed electronics such as RFID chips within the document. This solution is currently used in e-passport to prevent forgery. However, the security of these relies on the tamper-resistance of the chip and the more secure systems bring with them a significant cost. As an example, with the addition of a "tamper-resistant" RFID chip to the U.K. passports in 2006, the cost of an adult passport sharply rose from £42 in 2005 to £72 in 2007. While on the surface a sheet of paper may seem like any other sheet, manufacturing paper is a complex process and each sheet is unique.

2017-05-25 | DPS: Forensic scientist hid backlog of 40 cases, delayed DNA testing for years
A forensic scientist at the state crime lab intentionally hid her backlog of cases for years, failed to test DNA submitted in 40 cases, and kept evidence from those cases in her possession, according to a DPS audit uncovered by a six-month 12 News Investigation. In at least one of those cases, justice may have been denied.

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