In The News


2017-08-21 | Fallen Forensics: Judges Routinely Allow Disavowed Science
“Courts — unlike scientists — rely too heavily on precedent and not enough on the progress of science,” said Christopher Fabricant, director of strategic litigation for the Innocence Project. “At some point, we have to acknowledge that precedent has to be overruled by scientific reality.” Defense lawyers and civil rights advocates say prosecutors and judges are slow to acknowledge that some forensic science methods are flawed because they are the very tools that have for decades helped win convictions. And such evidence can be persuasive for jurors, many of whom who have seen it used dramatically on “Law & Order” and “CSI.” Rulings in the past year show judges are reluctant to rule against long-accepted evidence even when serious questions have been raised about its reliability:

2017-08-21 | Omaha Police Purge DNA Samples From Controversial 2004 Sweep
Warren defended the sweep, saying it was not random, but a targeted sweep authorized by a warrant issued by a judge. It was intended to catch a rapist who “would attack more women if he weren’t caught,” he said. “We would have used any lawful means to identify and apprehend the perpetrator,” Warren said. In the end, it wasn’t DNA from the sweep that led police to Weathers, but DNA taken from him by prison officials under a state law that requires anyone convicted of a felony or other specified offense to submit to DNA sampling.

2017-08-18 | New Scientific Research Shows Cleaning Fentanyl Spills with Household Product Effective
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey announced today that researchers have determined that household cleaner OxiClean ™ has proven scientifically to be effective in cleaning up fentanyl spills.

2017-08-18 | True ID of ‘Chameleon’ Killer Revealed: Terry Peder Rasmussen
Rasmussen, as of this identification, is believed to have killed at least six people females: the four Allenstown victims, Denise Beaudin, and Eunsoon Jun. But authorities acknowledge more victims may be out there among the unidentified bodies and unknown graves of America.

2017-08-18 | Whalen files innocence petition, new evidence cited
The importance of the palm print cannot be overstated, according to the petition filed by Slosar with the University of Chicago’s Exoneration Project. The opinion of Illinois State Police lab scientist John Dierker that the bloody print on the broken pool cue matched Don Whalen was crucial to the state's case. "The jury was told this palm print was everything," said Slosar. Documents given to Whalen’s former defense lawyer by the state in 2007 and recently discovered by Slosar indicate that Dierker called former Bloomington police Detective Randy McKinley on April 30, 1991, and told him the palm print was inconclusive.

2017-08-17 | Scientists Automate Key Step in Forensic Fingerprint Analysis
But scientists have been working to reduce the opportunities for human error. This week, scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Michigan State University report that they have developed an algorithm that automates a key step in the fingerprint analysis process. Their research has been published in IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security.

2017-08-11 | South Carolina Man Who Shot Cop, Caught on Glasses Camera, Sentenced to 35 Years
A small town South Carolina cop responded to a report of a suspicious person on New Year’s Day 2016 when the suspicious person turned on him and shot him multiple times. But Officer Quincy Smith of the Estill Police Department survived the four bullet wounds—and the glasses equipped with a camera he was wearing at the time have now resulted in a lengthy prison term for his attacker, 29-year-old Malcolm Antwan Orr.

2017-08-11 | Illinois Murder Case Challenges Longstanding Ballistic Tests
More than two decades later, technological advances have eroded confidence in ballistic experts, and the analyst who testified against Pursley is no longer so sure of his findings. Now Pursley is awaiting a new trial, and the case could become the first in which a database used to help put countless criminals behind bars sets someone free. The issue could also pave a new path for other convicts to challenge convictions. “I knew that this could exonerate me because there would be no bias. It would just be a computer algorithm saying it is or it isn’t,” said Pursley, who was convicted in 1994.

2017-08-10 | DNA Experts Present First Exoneration Based on False Y-STR Inclusion
“It could have come from all three defendants (including Suspect 3), or from just two defendants (not Suspect 3), because all of Suspect 3’s alleles are found in the combination of the other two defendants,” they write. “In fact, Suspect 3 is the only one of the three suspects whose alleles can be completely removed from the interpretation, leaving all the mixture’s alleles explained by the remaining two suspects.” A further look at 23 loci available after the trial found that Suspect 3 was actually excluded through the additional data, according to the report.

2017-08-09 | NIJ Report Outlines Best Practices for Sexual Assault Investigations, Rape Kit Processing
A multidisciplinary, victim-centered approach and standardized, efficient evidence processing in sexual assault cases are the focus of a new report by the National Institute of Justice. The report, National Best Practices for Sexual Assault Kits, released Tuesday, outlines 35 suggestions for laboratories and law enforcement to improve their sexual assault investigations, tackling issues such as evidence collection, storage and maintenance; backlog tracking and processing; victim advocacy and notification; and sensitivity to trauma in sexual assault victims.

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