In The News


2016-09-08 | Murder charges: St. Paul man shot while trying to disarm robbery suspect
Mikulak’s girlfriend gave a suspect description to police at the scene, and authorities eventually matched the description to Harris, an ex-con, with the help of fingerprints they recovered from Mikulak’s car door and window. Police tracked Harris to his mother’s apartment on Marion Street several blocks north of the crime scene, according to the charges. Surveillance video at the building from the night of the shooting showed a man matching the shooting suspect’s description. Police arrested Harris on Sept. 6 as he walked out of the apartment building. A search of the apartment found clothing and a bandanna that matched descriptions provided by Mikulak’s girlfriend.

2016-09-08 | Subjective DNA Mixture Analysis, Used in Thousands of Cases, Blasted by WH Panel
DNA mixtures can by mind-bogglingly complex. The genetic traces of more than two people can create statistical chaos indicating someone’s DNA is included, or excluded, from a sample – based simply on the judgment of the person doing the testing. This chaos has been interpreted by mathematical forensic analysis. But it involves subjective estimations by trained experts. Those estimates – called the Combined Probability of Inclusion – have been used in crime labs nationwide for decades. But that method of statistical analysis has no grounding in science – and needs to be overhauled, a controversial White House report now contends.

2016-09-07 | 'Expert' witness under fire for false transcripts
HCIFS first employed Dr. Guale back in 2000. She's climbed up the ranks over time and started testifying in DWI and other felony cases as an expert witness for the Harris County District Attorney's office in 2006. "She needs to be credible," said Dr. Roger Kahn, director of Harris County's Crime Lab. "She needs to be accurate, and we need to be confident her testimony is reliable." Dr. Kahn says when his office realized Dr. Guale was misrepresenting her credentials in court, they took action and notified the DA's office.

2016-09-06 | Inside the White House Report Blasting Some Forensic Disciplines
“Casework is not scientifically valid research, and experience alone cannot establish scientific validity,” the report states. “In particular, one cannot reliably estimate error rates from casework because one typically does not have independent knowledge of the ‘ground truth’ or ‘right answer.’” The group included nine federal judges, a former U.S. Solicitor General, a state supreme court justice, law school deans, and statisticians. Overall, they concluded that forensic science results be “repeatable, reproducible, and accurate.”

2016-09-06 | DNA Phenotyping Recreates the Face of an Alleged Serial Killer
The Aurora Police Department has investigated the case since the bodies were discovered the morning of Jan. 16, 1984. The last in a series of attacks over a two-week period, the killer has never been found. Some hope in solving the cold case was mustered when a DNA profile from the Bennett crime scene was developed in 2002. But no match was made in any database. The case stayed cold. Now the police have turned to DNA phenotyping, using some of the clues in the genetic profile, to estimate the look of the killer, they announced last week. Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based company which specializes in phenotyping, put together a “Snapshot” predictive sketch of what the murderer would look like at age 25 and age 55 – an estimation of what he would look like today, if still alive.

2016-09-02 | Forensic Disciplines Questioned by White House Panel
Forensic analysis of firearms, DNA, and bite marks should be scientifically questioned, according to a draft report of recommendations from a White House panel of experts. The draft document by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, reported on by The Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times, is just the latest document to question the forensic science that has been in use in U.S. courtrooms for decades.

2016-09-01 | Aurora, counties creating joint crime lab to speed evidence processing
For almost a year Aurora Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office and the 18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office have been discussing building a joint crime lab officials say could help ease an evidence-testing backlog that law enforcement often faces. Now, with a lengthy feasibility study of the project complete, officials say they could hammer out an agreement on the new $14 million facility by the end of 2016.

2016-09-01 | Presidential Advisory Council Questions Validity of Forensics in Criminal Trials
The report, a copy of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, raises questions about the use of bite mark, hair, footwear, firearm and tool mark analysis routinely used as evidence in thousands of trials annually in state and federal courts. “It has become increasingly clear in recent years that lack of rigor in the assessment of the scientific validity of forensic evidence is not just a hypothetical problem but a real and significant weakness in the judicial system,” said the draft review by the advisory council of scientists and engineers. It is expected to be made final in September.

2016-08-31 | Nearly 1,400 DNA Cases May Have Been Improperly Analyzed by APD Lab
It has been more than two months since the Austin Police Department’s DNA lab was shut down after concerns of improperly trained staff and evidence verification. The Travis County District Attorney has sent hundreds of letters to defense attorneys to let them know about the problem. The Travis County Commissioners Tuesday approved a $150,000 grant that could be used to help defendants retest DNA samples related to their case.

2016-08-23 | Forensic Scientists Commended for Long Hours in Sexual Assault Investigation
A serial rapist was on the loose in Texas’s largest city, breaking into homes and sexually assaulting women in their beds at the point of a knife, or end of a gun. But there was evidence, and several suspects. A group of forensic scientists worked overtime, turned around crucial evidence in a crunch of just a few crucial hours – clearing one suspect, confirming another, and pulling the alleged attacker off the streets earlier this year. Coupled with a round-the-clock investigation by a Houston police detective, the suspect is now awaiting trial behind bars, without bail. "So much work was put into this - that's why it was a huge help from the lab to move so quickly," said Kim Miller, a Houston detective in the robbery division. The group of 13 analysts at the Houston Forensic Science Center will now be officially commended today for their role in the arrest of Reginald Dwayne Bond, currently awaiting trial.

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