Tag Archives | Forensics

The Strange Case of the ‘Time Travel’ Murder

Bright orange nail tipsThe set up for this tale reads like a really clever Scandi-crime novel, but it’s a real case from Britain reported by BBC News:

A woman’s body is found in London. DNA turns up a hit, yet the suspect apparently died weeks before the alleged victim. Here, forensic scientist Dr Mike Silverman tells the story of one of the strangest cases of his career.

It was a real-life mystery that could have come straight from the pages of a modern-day detective novel.

A woman had been brutally murdered in London and biological material had been found under her fingernails, possibly indicating that she might have scratched her attacker just before she died.

A sample of the material was analysed and results compared with the National DNA database and quickly came back with a positive match.

The problem was, the “hit” identified a woman who had herself been murdered – a full three weeks before the death of her alleged “victim”.

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For Science: Watch Sea Lice Eat a Pig from Inside Out

Via New Scientist: In order to better understand how human bodies decompose in the ocean, Simon Fraser University forensic scientist Gail Anderson tracked the decomposition of a pig. The pig's body was caged (to prevent larger predators like sharks from swimming away with it) and then submerged. Time lapse photography documents the pig's remains as they're consumed to the bones by sea lice and other small scavengers.
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Forensic Evidence Is Foolproof on TV’s ‘CSI': What is the Reality?

SkullsLeah Bartos writes on ProPublica:

This is how I — a journalism graduate student with no background in forensics — became certified as a “Forensic Consultant” by one of the field’s largest professional groups.

One afternoon early last year, I punched in my credit card information, paid $495 to the American College of Forensic Examiners International Inc. and registered for an online course.

After about 90 minutes of video instruction, I took an exam on the institute’s web site, answering 100 multiple choice questions, aided by several ACFEI study packets. As soon as I finished the test, a screen popped up saying that I had passed, earning me an impressive-sounding credential that could help establish my qualifications to be an expert witness in criminal and civil trials.

For another $50, ACFEI mailed me a white lab coat after sending my certificate. For the last two years, ProPublica and PBS Frontline, in concert with other news organizations, have looked in-depth at death investigation in America, finding a pervasive lack of national standards that begins in the autopsy room and ends in court.

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U.S. Justice System Rampant With ‘Bad Science’

44794518-30152305-300225 Every year, convictions for serious crimes occur based on debunked pseudo-science such as forensic dentistry and arson science. Add in poor usage of police lineups and fingerprinting, and the potential for finding innocent people guilty is immense. All in all, our courts are scientifically impaired to a degree that’s a menace to justice. Via Yahoo News:

The story of an American man cleared of a rape and robbery conviction by DNA evidence after spending 30 years in jail made headlines across the world on Tuesday.

But despite advances in science and technology, such exonerations are rare, and experts say the US criminal justice system remains riddled with problems that arise from outdated practices and, quite simply, bad science.

Perhaps the worst offender is the police lineup. Research shows that 75 percent of all wrongful convictions that are later cleared by DNA evidence start with eyewitness mistakes.

That was the case for Cornelius Dupree, who was fingered in 1979 by a rape victim who incorrectly picked him out of a photo array.

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Your Hands’ Germs Can Identify You

Another reason to whip out the Purell? AFP reports:

Forensic scientists could soon use hand germs to help identify criminals and victims, a study said Monday.

Researchers led by Noah Fierer of the University of Colorado at Boulder swabbed individual keys on three personal computer keyboards, extracted bacterial DNA from the swabs and compared the results with bacteria on the fingertips of the keyboards’ users.

They also lifted germs from an unspecified number of other private and public computer keyboards that the three individuals did not use to see if there was a cross-over between the bacteria on an individual’s hands and bacteria on keyboards that had never been touched by that individual.

The bacteria on each person’s fingers were “personal” and gave a much closer match to the germs on the keyboard they used than to bacteria found on keyboards they had never touched, the researchers said.

The researchers also swabbed nine personal computer mice that had not been touched for at least 12 hours and took bacteria samples from the palms of their owners.

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