In The News


2015-09-29 | Who Should Have Access to DNA Evidence?
Next week, the West Virginia Supreme Court will hear a case in which 30 former prosecutors from around the country have taken the unusual step of siding with the defense. It’s a battle over a DNA test, and whether prosecutors must turn the results over to a defendant when they point to his innocence — even if he has made the decision to plead guilty.

2015-09-25 | Ethics at the Crime Scene
First, it’s important to remember that, as a CSO, when you’re called to a crime scene, you’re there because something has gone wrong. Whether you’re dealing with a burglary or a missing child or a major crime, your role, first and foremost, is to help the public. While each situation may vary in its specifics, your job is to approach each scene with the attitude that you’re there to help the victim(s) and to solve the case. In order to do your job well, you must assume each case is going to jury trial. With that assumption in mind, you must act professionally and take the time to process each scene properly. Let’s take a closer look now at what that means.

2015-09-24 | Forcing suspects to reveal phone passwords is unconstitutional, court says
The decision comes amid a growing global debate about encryption and whether the tech sector should build backdoors into their wares to grant the authorities access to locked devices. Ars reported today that an Obama administration working group "considered four backdoors that tech companies could adopt to allow government investigators to decipher encrypted communications stored on phones of suspected terrorists or criminals." Without this capability, the authorities are trying to get suspects to cough up their passwords instead. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the constitutionality of the issue. There's been a smattering of varying court rulings nationwide on the topic. In 2012, a federal appeals court said that forcing a child-porn suspect to decrypt password-protected hard drives would amount to a Fifth Amendment violation.

2015-09-24 | Forensic Failures at IL State Crime Labs May Jeopardize Cases
The ABC7 I-Team uncovered a pattern of forensic failures that could put criminal cases in jeopardy and risk thousands of charges and convictions being thrown out. Unreliability in science is like a bull in a china shop: it can wreck everything. The Illinois state crime lab is under fire by a criminal defendant who may have been wrongly charged- using evidence with inaccurate or unreliable test results - and under fire by defense attorneys and experts alarmed by what they see as shoddy science.

2015-09-23 | Austin Police revisiting 123 crimes following technician lapse
How did this go unnoticed by lab managers? Unlike police officers’ reports which are part of a computer-aided call dispatch system, crime scene techs self-generate their own reports in a separate system. Until Thornton’s alleged lapses, there was no regular auditing system. That is about to change.

2015-09-22 | Oregon Lab Analyst Allegedly Stole Prescription Pills from Evidence Locker
Further details about Larsen and the investigation have not yet been released by authorities. However, the Oregon State Police did confirm that a second analyst is under investigation for possible misconduct dating back over a decade.

2015-09-22 | DNA Sequencing Improved by Slowing Down
DNA sequencing is a technique that can determine exact sequence of a DNA molecule. One of the most critical biological and medical tools available today, it lies at the core of genome analysis. Reading the exact make-up of genes, scientists can detect mutations, or even identify different organisms. A powerful DNA sequencing method uses tiny, nano-sized pores that read DNA as it passes through. However, "nanopore sequencing" is prone to high inaccuracy because DNA usually passes through very fast. EPFL scientists have now discovered a viscous liquid that slows down the process up to a thousand times, vastly improving the method's resolution and accuracy. The breakthrough is published in Nature Nanotechnology.

2015-09-21 | Fingerprint ID issues hit Oklahoma
Background fingerprint checks conducted by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation were unreliable 117 times last year, a report has uncovered. "This current system is not designed to handle the volume of cards that are being submitted,” the OSBI said in its Open Records response. “Due to its age, the system requires regular attention from information technology personnel to keep it functioning. Technology in regards to searching algorithms and matchers has increased tremendously in the past decade.”

2015-09-21 | Contextual bias and cross-contamination in the forensic sciences: the corrosive implications for investigations, plea bargains, trials and appeals
Most forensic science evidence is produced in conditions that do not protect the analyst from contextual information about the case that could sway their decision-making. This article explores how these largely unrecognized threats raise real problems for the criminal justice system; from the collection and interpretation of traces to the presentation and evaluation of evidence at trial and on appeal. It explains how forensic analysts are routinely exposed to information (e.g. about the investigation or the main suspect) that is not related to their analysis, and not documented in their reports, but has been demonstrated to affect the interpretation of forensic science evidence.

2015-09-21 | Lawyers, Scientists Try to Unravel Thorny New DNA Standard
"One of the problems was DNA was called the gold standard," Bruce Budowle, director of the University of Texas Health Science Center's Institute of Applied Genetics, said. "Big mistake." DNA analysis provides answers, but there has to be rigorous interpretation of DNA results, the experts said.

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