In The News


2016-08-23 | DNA samples in Travis County cases will undergo extra scrutiny
The abrupt closure of the Austin Police Department’s DNA lab will impact cases that are moving through the Travis County court system. On Monday, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office said they have hired a leading expert in forensic DNA to review all casework by the APD DNA lab before the plea or trial of pending cases. Last week, APD suspended operations at its DNA lab after an audit conducted by the Texas Forensic Science Commission determined the lab did not have enough properly trained staff. The report also indicated the lab was not up to date on standard protocols.

2016-08-20 | Under the Gun: Forensic Scientists as Stressed as Cops and Jail Guards
“The fact that forensic scientists appear to have as much stress as police and corrections officers was somewhat surprising,” said Thomas J. Holt, the lead author, a criminal justice professor at Michigan State University. Surveys of 670 scientists in 25 states produced the data about career happiness and pressures on the job. Females made up 62 percent of the respondents. About 78 percent of the participants reported mid- to high- levels of stress. The women were about two times likelier to report high stress levels, they found.

2016-08-16 | Guilty Plea for Crime-Lab Analyst Accused of Stealing Prescription Pills
A disgraced former crime lab analyst plead guilty, today, to stealing some 700 pills from 50 separate evidence items, according to reports. Nika Larsen, now 36 of Bend, Ore., was accused of stealing prescription pills including Morphine and Methadone from state-run crime labs in, at least, two counties, according to federal court documents filed in July. Larsen plead guilty to two counts of stealing controlled substances, today, in federal court.

2016-08-15 | ‘Making a Murderer’ Nephew’s Conviction Tossed
The troubled teenager convicted of helping his uncle torture and murder a woman – a case scrutinized in the popular Netflix series “Making a Murderer” – had his conviction tossed by a federal judge, based on a tainted confession extracted by detectives. Brendan Dassey’s confession was unconstitutional and coerced, ruled U.S. Magistrate William Duffin on Friday, citing some of the same allegations made in the hit series.

2016-08-11 | Rape Kit Evidence IDs Suspect in 1980 Murder, Rape of Teens
An unknown killer gunned down a teen boy, and then robbed and raped his girlfriend, off a dirt path late on a winter night in South Carolina. The evidence the murderer left behind remained on file for decades, as he remained at large. But as technology improved, the killer’s later attack on another person got him caught, police said.

2016-08-08 | Can We Protect Against Computers Being Fingerprinted?
"Fingerprinting on computers is invisible to most people but there are companies out there who are already using these techniques to learn more information about individuals, about their interests and their habits," says Lachlan Kang, a Computer Science PhD student who is conducting this study as part of a wider project on privacy, within the University's Schools of Computer Science and Mathematical Sciences. "This can be quite powerful information to have, especially if it's used to tailor advertising to you. In countries that are less benign than ours, it could also be used to spy on people," he says.

2016-08-07 | N.J. sent people to prison with junk science. Now we owe them justice | Editorial
The federal experts were part of an elite unit that testified in trials all across the country, over more than a two-decade period before 2000. An audit just found that virtually all gave flawed testimony that favored prosecutors, 95 percent of the time. Over those two decades, the FBI was also instructing New Jersey's state hair analysts, who were likely using the same bogus science.

2016-08-05 | Let Forensic Science Help Prevent a Crime or a Disaster
But hardly any time, resources or support are used to try to detect certain patterns across those traces. Forensic scientists worldwide are not encouraged or even allowed to be proactive; rather, they are simply reactive. The main reason behind the lack of support and shortage in funding for forensic scientists is that the relationship between law enforcement and forensics is more of control and dominance rather than true partnership. In other words, the vast majority of law enforcement agencies worldwide still control forensic science practice, set their priorities and set the budget for things such as research and training.

2016-08-04 | Forensic Research Finds Bone Density Affects Size of Bullet Holes
For this proof-of-concept study, Ross and undergraduate student Anna Paschall evaluated the bone density of 18 skulls - all had been victims of gunshot wounds to the head -- for which the bullet caliber was known. "Based on this small sub-sample, we found that the strongest correlation was between bone density and minimum diameter size of the entry wound," Ross says. "The second highest correlation was between bullet caliber and minimum diameter size. That tells us that bone density is an important variable.

2016-07-28 | Former Lab Analyst Charged with Stealing Morphine from Evidence Locker
A former Oregon State Police crime lab technician has been charged with stealing prescription pills—including Morphine and Methadone—from labs in, at least, two counties, according to federal court documents filed last week.

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