In The News


2016-02-16 | Couple sues state over mishandled evidence
Court documents stated that while the medical examiner’s controlled substances laboratory initially had deemed a powdery substance found in Mr. Dollard’s car during a June 13, 2012, traffic stop to be cocaine, a retest in November 2014 showed the bricks held in evidence were powdered sugar. In the October trial of Mr. Dollard, a medical examiner chemist testified evidence found in the vehicle tested to be cocaine; Mr. Dollard was convicted on Nov. 6, 2013, of aggravated possession of Tier 5 cocaine, drug dealing of Tier 4 cocaine, and second-degree conspiracy, all felonies, and misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. On Jan. 14, 2014, Mr. Dollard was sentenced to separate consecutive 10-year prison sentences, according to the lawsuit. He appealed the conviction and 20-year sentence to the Delaware Supreme Court.

2016-02-12 | Sleepy Suspects More Likely to Give False Confessions, Study Says
Sleep deprivation leads to increased rates of false confessions, according to a new study by a team of psychologists. Subjects who were kept up 24 hours were 4.5 times more likely to sign a false confession than those who had a full night’s sleep, according to the paper, in the latest Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

2016-02-12 | Fingerprint Brushes Could Transfer Touch DNA, Study Says
Locard’s Principle of Exchange has been an absolute fundamental in criminal forensics for a century. The concept that the perpetrator will always take traces of the victim and the scene with them, leaving traces of themselves in exchange, is the basis of all modern investigation. However, the principle has gotten a little more complex with how sensitive DNA tests have become in recent years. Secondary transfer of human DNA has been demonstrated through handshakes. Now, a study has found that fingerprint brushes used at crime scenes to find latent prints could actually be picking up and then dropping genetic material in different locations.

2016-02-11 | ISO 18385
Forensic DNA laboratories rely on reagent and plastics manufacturers to supply high-quality products with minimal interference from contaminating DNA. With the increasing sensitivity of short tandem repeat (STR) amplification systems, levels of DNA that were previously undetected may now generate partial profiles. To address the concern of laboratories worldwide regarding the potential of low-level DNA contamination in consumables, ISO 18385 has been developed to provide requirements for minimizing the risk of human DNA contamination events during the manufacturing process.

2016-02-08 | Deposition Shows Mismanagement, Lax Oversight led to BSO Crime Lab Failure
Two years ago, discrepancies arose regarding the amounts of drugs that were seized as evidence in cases McDonald had worked on. She had been involved with more than 5,800 separate drug cases since 2006. In 2012, 0.4 grams of cocaine was unaccounted for in the lab, and she was deemed responsible. The Broward Public Defender’s Office then hired an independent analyst to reweigh drugs in a separate cocaine case and found that the weight of that cocaine had mysteriously shrunk by about 5 grams since McDonald initially weighed it. She was then asked to re-weigh a random sampling of drugs from 20 other cases — 19 matched, but one case had also shrunk, this one by about 12 grams.

2016-02-03 | 1992 Rape Conviction Overturned Due to Flawed FBI Hair Analysis
Judge Robert J. Kane ruled that the hair analysis by an FBI expert was so flawed – and the results so important in the conviction – that the 48-year-old Perrot must now have a new trial. Perrot will get a bail hearing next week as Hampden County prosecutors decide whether to appeal, try him again, or drop the case.

2016-02-03 | Secondary Transfer a New Phenomenon in Touch DNA
Cale told Forensic Magazine that now is a crucial time to begin understanding how touch DNA needs to be interpreted and analyzed – not just by forensic analysts, but also by prosecutors and defense attorneys. The new technology means we have to relearn how to think about DNA, she said in the phone interview. “With the increased sensitivity, we’re going to be detecting more DNA regardless,” Cale said. “It could be any DNA left on that object, and it’s going to cause interpretation to be more complicated. I don’t think it’s calling into question old cases – it’s now and into the future,” she added.

2016-02-03 | Forensic Science is in Danger of Becoming Irrelevant
Pooled government resources, and private contracting can both be part of a plan to increase quality, expand the availability of testing, and reduce turn around time. Competition can also drive higher quality, lower cost and increase availability. You don't have to look very far to find examples of how privatization and pooled resources have lead to lower costs and better quality.

2016-02-03 | The latest from the world of bite mark evidence
While there was evidence that the Prades had a contentious relationship, the only physical evidence linking Douglas to his wife’s murder scene was testimony from a bite mark analyst, who claimed that marks found on Margo Prade, allegedly made through her lab coat, could only have been made by Douglas’s lower teeth. Another bite mark analyst said the marks were “consistent with” Prade’s teeth. Three jurors later said in interviews that the bite mark evidence was critical to their vote to convict.

2016-02-02 | Court Supports Expert Testimony on Eyewitness IDs, Affirms New Trial for Convicted Killer
A Chicago man convicted of gunning down his neighbor will get a new trial, because he was not allowed to bring an expert on eyewitness testimony to testify during his trial. “We not only have seen that eyewitness identifications are not always as reliable as they appear, but we also have learned, from a scientific standpoint, why this is often the case,” wrote the Supreme Court judges.

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