Post Tagged with: "forensics"

ProPublica Investigates Alleged Forensics Certification Mill ACFEI

ProPublica Investigates Alleged Forensics Certification Mill ACFEI

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.

Expert witnesses routinely sway trial verdicts with testimony about fingerprints, ballistics, hair and fiber analysis and more, but there are no national standards to measure their competency or ensure that what they say is valid. A landmark 2009 report by the National Academy of Sciences called this lack of standards one of the most pressing problems facing the criminal justice system.

Over the last two decades, ACFEI has emerged as one of the largest forensic credentialing organizations in the country.

Among its members are top names in science and law, from Henry Lee, the renowned criminalist, to John Douglas, the former FBI profiler and bestselling author. Dr. Cyril Wecht, a prominent forensic pathologist and frequent TV commentator on high-profile crimes, chairs the group’s executive advisory board.

But ACFEI also has given its stamp of approval to far less celebrated characters. It welcomed Seymour Schlager, whose credentials were mailed to the prison where he was incarcerated for attempted murder. Zoe D. Katz – the name of a house cat enrolled by her owner in 2002 to show how easy it was to become certified by ACFEI — was issued credentials, too. More recently, Dr. Steven Hayne, a Mississippi pathologist whose testimony helped to convict two innocent men of murder, has used his ACFEI credential to bolster his status as an expert witness.

ProPublica: No Forensic Background? No Problem

Remember as you read this that people are being put to death, or put in prison for decades, because of the testimony of forensic experts.

See also:

This post rounds up a lot of past coverage of Hayne and the situation in Mississippi.

Combine bad forensics with the psychology of false confessions and what do you get? A recipe for sending innocent people to prison.

April 23, 2012 0 comments
Identifying People by their Bacteria

Identifying People by their Bacteria

bacteria plate

The human body hosts hundreds of bacterial species that perform various salubrious housekeeping chores, from aiding digestion to helping the immune system identify foreign invaders. Every person—even an identical twin—has a unique distribution of bacteria on various body areas. Now some researchers are suggesting that these individual differences could lead to the development of new crime-solving tools.

Science: CSI’s Latest Clue—Bacteria

(via Schneier on Security)

March 29, 2010 0 comments
DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated, Scientists Show

DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated, Scientists Show

Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

New York Times: DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated, Scientists Show

(via Disinfo)

August 19, 2009 0 comments
High Tech Sleuths Get New Tool

High Tech Sleuths Get New Tool

Technology inspired by a NASA space probe will soon be helping detectives solve gun crimes and murder cases far faster. A simple handheld device that instantly confirms whether a suspect has recently fired a gun means lab delays will not allow suspects time to get away.

New Scientist: Space probe kit will fight terrestrial crime

(via Die Puny Humans).

October 19, 2002 0 comments