In The News


2015-08-10 | Social Science Research on Forensic Science: The Story Behind One of NIJ's Newest Research Portfolios
This article looks at the evolution of NIJ's portfolio of social science research on forensic science and provides examples of some of the studies NIJ has funded along the way. We hope that this retrospective — of how we got from there to here in just 10 years — will inspire other innovative ideas as new technological advancements are adopted in the field of criminal justice.

2015-08-10 | Testing Utah’s shelved rape kits is paying off as new leads emerge
Of the 30 kits Provo sent to the FBI lab, a dozen had usable samples. Four of them were connected to other attacks in the FBI database, and now detectives have been assigned to reopen two of those cases. The third was connected to an offender in a neighboring state, and police there have been notified. The fourth kit connected the sexual assault to a juvenile already convicted of a 2013 assault.

2015-08-01 | Do You Really Need a New Lab?
In the face of increasing demand for services and a mounting backlog of cases, many lab directors feel their only option is to add more personnel, increase or redesign lab space, or build a new facility altogether. In some cases, one of these options may be appropriate, but in others, improvements to existing procedures and work flow may be sufficient to solve the problem.

2015-07-31 | 'Body Farm' Finds Microbial Ecosystems Could Pinpoint Time of Death
The study probing the environment underneath a body in the soil was published in PLoS One. DeBruyn and her team found that there were two distinct changes in the decomposition patterns. The first dynamic change is when there is a “smorgasbord” of new activity caused by the release of decompositional fluids, and the aerobic feast that happens within the rich decaying matter. The second change is when that “bloom” is mostly spent, and biomass accretion slows down to anaerobic respiration levels.

2015-07-28 | Let crime fighters do our job: Another view
There is plenty of discussion in our communities and among elected officials over the processing of sexual assault exam kits, better known as “rape kits.” The kits, used to collect evidence, are often securely stored but might not necessarily be sent to a crime lab for processing. The forensic evidence, including DNA left behind by an accused perpetrator, would certainly be “Exhibit A” in any criminal prosecution.

2015-07-20 | Court Ruling Opens DNA Technology Advances to Old Cases
People convicted of crimes through inconclusive or outdated DNA testing procedures should be allowed new tests using the latest technological advances without regard to a three-year time limit set by law, a federal appeals court ruled. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is the first in the nation to rule that the advances in DNA technology mean previously useless samples should be considered newly discovered evidence that is not subject to statutory time limitations.

2015-07-17 | Identity crisis
As a result of such doubts, the use of some forms of forensic evidence has been suspended. In January a New York judge threw out evidence obtained from mixed DNA analysis, where two profiles are extracted from one sample. The FBI has abandoned the use of gunshot residue. Skepticism has grown in other countries, too: the Netherlands has given up the use of handwriting analysis, for instance.

2015-07-17 | Trace DNA Hair Samples Getting Cheaper and Faster, Researchers Say
A method to get DNA profiles form human hairs could improve criminal forensics, according to a new study by University of Adelaide researchers. The trace amount of DNA in hair follicles – which are often severely dehydrated when shed – can now effectively be analyzed without hugely time-consuming and expensive laboratory analysis, according to the study published in the journal Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology.

2015-07-14 | Ultrasound sensors dig deeper into your fingerprints and fat
This new device scans a fingerprint by releasing pulses of ultrasound that bounce off the fingertip’s skin, creating an echo. It takes more time for sound waves to reflect off the valleys of a fingerprint versus its ridges, allowing the device to pinpoint and paint a picture of the crevices. However, some of the ultrasound waves also penetrate through the outer skin layer — the epidermis — reaching the inner layer called the dermis.

2015-07-14 | Pathologist with problematic record 'un-appointed' as associate state medical examiner
As a forensic pathologist, Bennett testifies as an expert witness in wrongful death cases on behalf of automobile manufacturers. James Butler of Butler, Wooten, Cheeley and Peak took the deposition after hearing Bennett testify multiple times. "He hires out to the automobile companies all the time. He comes up with this bogus theory about how somebody who got killed didn't suffer at all," Butler said. Other medical professionals discredit him, and the literature contradicts his theories, Butler said. The lawyer said he had grown tired of the sham. "I just got to the point where what Bennett does was offensive, you know?" Butler said.

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