In The News


2013-10-07 | Amherst drug lab chemist shocked to learn of allegations of tampering against Sonja Farak
Employees from the now-closed Amherst drug laboratory testified they had no idea that one of their colleagues Sonja Farak was allegedly tampering with drug evidence that sent dozens of people to jail, but said there were some questionable procedures at the lab where she worked. In a hearing before Judge C. Jeffrey Kinder, a fellow chemist who worked side-by-side with Farak and her supervisor testified Monday to their shock of learning about the accusations. The hearing in Hampden Superior Court broke for lunch during James Hanchett’s testimony.

2013-09-26 | Crime Lab Backlog Delays DNA Match in Serial Rapes
DNA matches enabled investigators of a sexual assault at a Riverside massage parlor to discover the pattern of a serial rapist, but getting those lab results took more than two years, according to Riverside Police. After submitting a sample to California's Department of Justice in late 2009, Riverside detectives were notified in 2012 of matches to four other assaults in massage businesses in two neighboring counties, said Detective Aurelio Melendrez of the Riverside Police Department. Riverside investigators already had security camera video of the perpetrator from their case. They acquired additional video from the victimized massage businesses in Corona and from San Bernardino County, and at one point identified a suspect. But his DNA did not match that recovered at the five crimes.

2013-09-01 | Crime labs under the microscope after a string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results
The review, then about half complete, had already turned up 26 cases in which the former technician failed to detect the presence of DNA evidence, including one in which the evidence has since led to an arrest in a 10-year-old rape case. The review uncovered 19 cases in which DNA evidence was commingled with DNA evidence from other cases.

2013-08-26 | The United States Has a Huge Backlog of Untested DNA Evidence
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito called it "the most important criminal procedure case that this court has heard in decades." But for now, the Court's decision in the Maryland v. King case—regarding whether police can swab your cheeks for DNA during booking—may be functionally irrelevant. The nation doesn't have a genetic-processing apparatus in place to deal with the current overload of DNA samples. There's a massive backlog of biological evidence in crime labs, and efforts to combat that backlog in recent years have failed. In the case, the majority reasoned your DNA is like a fingerprint—used to maintain identity—rather than a piece of personal information, which would require a search warrant. In a 5-4 decision, the Court maintained in Maryland v. King that it is OK for police to take a swab of a person's cheek cells after that person is booked for a crime, and that it is also OK if that DNA swab implicates the person in custody in a cold case.

2013-08-15 | St. Paul Police crime lab back up and running
St. Paul’s embattled police lab is back up and running after a scandal closed the facility last summer. The new facility has added staff and new equipment. Police Chief Tom Smith hopes the lab, now called the “Forensic Services Unit,” will earn professional accreditation in the next 18 months to two years.

2013-08-03 | Victims’ fingerprints must be taken
The requirement doesn’t make sense to the Las Cruces Police Department, whose chief is trying to schedule a meeting with Purcell for clarification, said Lt. Kerry Clements. “There are several possible ramifications of this requirement,” Clements said. “Number one, a victim may feel re-victimized by the police department … I can see why someone would think: ‘I’m the one who got burglarized. Why do you need my prints?’ ” The requirement also will create more work for Las Cruces officers who respond to property crime calls, he said.

2013-06-07 | Retested crime lab evidence can be used at trials, judge rules
St. Paul police spokesman Howie Padilla said Friday, "Obviously, we're happy with the judge's decision. ... One thing that has happened since this testimony began is we recognized the challenges that we had in our own crime lab. Since then ... we are moving forward with changes and improvements that would bring our lab back up to the standards that we expect and the community members of St. Paul deserve." The lab's recent work has been guided by accredited consultants while employees continue training, Padilla said. The lab is to reopen June 15, with its own employees doing latent fingerprint analysis, processing crime scenes and collecting DNA evidence (the lab does not process DNA).

2013-05-03 | New St. Paul police crime lab chief says quality is top priority
Her goal is to officially apply for accreditation by the end of the year, a step she calls critical to the lab’s progress. “We’re going to set some high standards for our lab,” she said Thursday afternoon at police headquarters. Lab staffers now training through the help of consultants will be tested before they work on evidence of their own, Caswell said. Continuing education and training would also be encouraged, such as routine classes for latent print examiners that focus on palm prints. She also wanted to encourage the staff to attend professional conferences.

2013-02-25 | Genetic Sleuthing, Or How To Catch The Right Identical Twin Criminal
The police in Marseille France are struggling to solve a sexual assault case. They have solid video evidence and have even matched DNA from the crime scene with two suspects but they still can’t figure it out. See, the problem is that the suspects are identical twins. Identical twins look pretty similar so unless the police get lucky like they did in Boston, video evidence can’t usually be used to tell them apart. And identical twins share the same DNA so conventional DNA tests can’t be used either. The police are in a real pickle.

2013-02-20 | Cognitive and Contextual Influences in Determination of Latent Fingerprint Suitability for Identification Judgments
Knowledge of another examiner's previous determination that the latent was unsuitable was found to increase the likelihood that the examiner would conclude that the latent was unsuitable. However, knowledge of a previous "suitable" determination by another examiner did not increase the likelihood of a "suitable" conclusion by examiners. The finding that effects were weaker, although not entirely removed, in those with IAI certification suggests that training may be an appropriate route for reducing the effect of contextual influence and bias in suitability determinations. It was also shown that a latent prints that were previous classed as "unsuitable" in a non-biasing context tended to still be judged to be "unsuitable" by examiners that were presented with the latent in a strongly biasing context (a major case in which a previous examiner was purported to have made an Individualization).

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