In The News


2015-11-24 | D.C. court considers how to screen out ‘bad science’ in local trials
Lawyers from D.C.’s Public Defender Service said in court papers that the rules for admitting experts are particularly important in criminal cases because juries often rely heavily on scientific evidence and because unreliable forensic evidence is a leading cause of wrongful convictions.

2015-11-24 | DNA Frees Man After 16 Years, Links Infamous ‘Teardrop Rapist’ to Crimes
A man who spent 16 years in prison after being convicted of three sexual assaults in Los Angeles was cleared by DNA – and is set to be released. Now the three crimes are instead linked to an infamous serial rapist apparently still at large. Ominously, Luis Vargas told a courtroom in 1999, shortly before sentencing, that he was innocent: “I’m concerned (the) individual (who) really did these crimes might really be raping someone out there, might really be killing someone out there.”

2015-11-19 | DNA prompts re-arrest of man set free in 1983 murder
Investigators determined that Scott, who was 35 years old at the time, was the last person seen with Ray in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco. He was arrested as a suspect in her murder but later released because there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him at the time, sheriff's officials said.

2015-11-17 | Oxygen Isotopes Offer New Details in 30-Year-Old Multiple-Murder Case
One November morning in 1985, hunters came upon the 55-gallon drum in the New Hampshire woods. They opened it, and made a horrifying discovery. Stuffed inside were the bodies of a woman and a young girl. Fifteen years later, investigators combing the woods for clues on the long-unsolved case came upon the unthinkable, just a short distance away: yet another barrel. This one contained the bodies of two more little girls.

2015-11-16 | DNA Mixture Calculation Method Just ‘Random Number Generator,’ Says New Study
The method used at crime labs nationwide for 15 years, the Combined Probability of Inclusion (CPI), is not accurate, according to a new study published by a company that says they have the big-computing solution to analyze the data more accurately. Both prosecutors and defense attorneys could benefit by using their software, more than a decade in development by the Pittsburgh-based company Cybergenetics. “CPI’s a random number generator,” said Mark Perlin, the company’s founder, told Forensic Magazine in a phone interview. “The culture in forensic science makes it normative to spend an hour or two ‘normalizing’ data… But (in medicine) you don’t hear of X-ray techs playing with an image for hours on end.”

2015-11-16 | Not so fast with that rapid DNA
In the United States, the FBI is currently seeking to use the rapid DNA technology in law enforcement, particularly in police stations and at crime scenes. Unlike in Canada, many American jurisdictions allow for collection of DNA samples from arrestees, which then get added into a national DNA databank. Samples collected on arrest are checked against DNA evidence in open investigations — such as those collected from break-and-enter or sexual assault crime scenes — to see if that particular arrestee is implicated in unsolved cases.

2015-11-10 | It's Time to Take 'The Bite' Out of Court Convictions
The popular criminal forensic investigation television shows portray every forensic science investigation tool and technique as infallible and always accurate. But, in real life, this is not true. Some of the forensic science procedures used in criminal investigations are very controversial. One example is whether or not the bite marks left on a human body by another human being should be used as evidence in court during criminal trials. This has been debated for decades, with some scientists, dentists and legal scholars claiming that using bite marks left by a human being on the body of another human being, as criminal evidence in court, is junk science. Other scientists, dentists and legal scholars say human bite marks are solid criminal evidence if the investigator knows what he/she is doing when they analyze them.

2015-11-10 | Why Post-Conviction DNA Testing Works: An Interview with Kirk Bloodsworth
After being exonerated in 2003, Bloodsworth devoted his life to reforming the justice system and ensuring that the accused have adequate access to a proper defense. But most importantly that they have the means to test significant evidence for any traces of DNA that may not have been tested during the trial. Called post-conviction DNA testing, the technique eventually helped Bloodsworth prove his innocence.

2015-11-09 | Secondary Transfer a New Phenomenon in Touch DNA
The results won’t cause a wholesale reevaluation of criminal convictions, contends Cynthia Cale, the lead author of the study forthcoming in the January issue of the Journal of Forensic Science. 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. Cale’s experiments began with a two-minute handshake between two people then handling a knife led to the DNA profile of the person who never touched the weapon being identified on the swab of the weapon handle in 85 percent of the samples, according to a new study by University of Indianapolis researchers, entitled “Could Secondary DNA Transfer Falsely Place Someone at the Scene of a Crime?” In one-fifth of those experiments, the person who had never directly touched the knife was identified as the main or only contributor of the DNA on the handle, according to the study. Cale called the results potentially “scary,” in a school statement announcing the results.

2015-11-02 | Medical-Marijuana Patient Alleges Prosecutors Swayed Crime Lab Drug Tests
"Michigan State Police laboratory policy was changed to include the statement “origin unknown” when it is not possible to determine if THC originates from a plant (marihuana) or synthetic means," Banner wrote to Forensic. "This change makes it clear that the source of the THC should not be assumed from the lab results."

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