In The News


2016-03-28 | Houston, Harris County officials renew calls to merge crime labs
Merging Houston's and Harris County's crime labs, an idea that was rejected several years ago by the city's mayor when forensic work was shifted from the police department to a new independent agency, is getting a fresh look by local officials eager to save money and avoid duplication. All of the members of the Harris County Commissioners Court are renewing calls for the county to take over forensic work from the city lab, and Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said last week that he is interested in pursuing either a merger or further partnership with the county, in contrast to his predecessor.

Ancestry.com and competitor 23andme report a total of five requests from law agencies for the genetic material of six individuals in their growing databases of hundreds of thousands. Ancestry.com turned over one person's data for an investigation into the murder and rape of an 18-year-old woman in Idaho Falls, Idaho. 23andme has received four other court orders but persuaded investigators to withdraw the requests.

2016-03-25 | Houston crime lab revises policies after mishandling evidence
Houston's Office of Inspector General recommended Wednesday that the city's forensic science center revise its policy procedures concerning quality control, following an investigation into three separate incidents last year in which analysts mistakenly contaminated evidence.

2016-03-18 | Fingerprints of World’s Most Wanted Terrorist Lifted in Belgium
In the aftermath of a police raid on a Brussels apartment that left one alleged terrorist dead, on Tuesday, authorities might have found some of the most significant evidence in the search to find one of the world’s most wanted terrorists. Authorities believe they have recovered fingerprints from fugitive Salah Abdeslam, a leader in the Paris attacks, last November, that killed 130 people. Belgian federal prosecutor Eric Van der Sypt confirmed the fingerprints to the AP, but it is not yet known whether Abdeslam was one of the men who fled the apartment during the raid Tuesday.

2016-03-09 | Post-Conviction DNA Testing Confirms Guilt for 1974 Rapist, Not Innocence
Post-conviction DNA testing has exonerated a growing list of the wrongfully convicted – some that have even spent time on death row – but, it only added to the evidence against one convicted man in a particular case in Virginia. The conviction of a man for a 1974 home invasion and rape appears to be confirmed from the most recent DNA testing that had been sought by the Innocence Project, according to multiple reports. But the order filed last month confirmed the samples of sperm from the rape kit were indeed Stevenson’s, according to the results from a private lab, Forensic Analytical Sciences, according to The Virginian-Pilot. At the time of the arguments for the additional testing last year, the Virginia Beach commonwealth’s attorney’s office argued against it – but the Innocence Project eventually won, based on arguments about the strength of the technology’s accuracy.

2016-03-09 | No need for UNMC crime lab, Sheriff’s Office says, but county attorney, mayor, police chief still support merger proposal
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is pushing back on a plan to create a new, independent crime lab at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. But Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine, who has long advocated for a merger between Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and Omaha police crime analysis operations, said he wants to see the plan move forward. “We want the highest standards that we can have, and we’re not there right now,” Kleine said. “And it’s been too long. It hasn’t happened the way it should have.”

2016-03-07 | Reversing the legacy of junk science in the courtroom
The short answer, if you ask any statistician, is that he couldn’t. There was some unknown chance that a different gun struck a similar pattern. But for decades, forensic examiners have sometimes claimed in court that close but not identical ballistic markings could conclusively link evidence to a suspect—and judges and juries have trusted their expertise. Examiners have made similar statements for other forms of so-called pattern evidence, such as fingerprints, shoeprints, tire tracks, and bite marks.

2016-03-03 | Lab Tech Suspended after Allegedly 'Dry Labbing' Drug Evidence
A forensic scientist allegedly seen “dry labbing” a suspected marijuana sample in December has been suspended, as prosecutors and defense attorneys consider thousands of other cases in which he handled evidence. According to state documents, he wrote “test results” for suspected marijuana, without actually performing tests. The alleged problem was discovered on Dec. 10, 2015, authorities said.

2016-03-03 | Reviewing DNA-Mixture Convictions: Here We Go, Again
Recent developments in the Texas criminal justice system may point towards the necessity of, once again, looking back at convictions because of DNA. This time however, the issue is not the certainty which DNA can provide a jury that other evidence cannot. Rather, the issue centers around the recent changes in interpretation guidelines for mixtures, and the extent to which convictions based on the previous methods of calculating results were misleading to juries. This issue may be much more problematic for criminal justice systems to deal with then the first time DNA gave us reason to look backwards. But deal with it they must.

2016-03-01 | Flawed FBI Hair Analysis Leads to $13.2M Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit
A man who served more than 27 years in prison based on flawed FBI hair analysis has now been awarded $13.2 million in his wrongful conviction lawsuit. The multimillion-dollar award is just the latest in the nation’s capital – and is part of a wave of reconsidered convictions involving the repudiated hair analysis across the U.S.

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