Apr 13 2017

This Week in Forensic Science


No one has hours to scour the papers to keep up with the latest news, so we’ve curated the top news stories in the field of Forensic Science for this week. Here’s what you need to know to get out the door!


This week in forensic science header

State Will Study Whether to Expand DNA Database (WRIC – 4/7/2017)

  • Nearly a year after Jesse Matthew was convicted for the murder of University of Virginia student Hannah Graham, her parents came to the Capitol asking lawmakers to take a closer look at expanding the state’s DNA database. They say it could have saved their daughter’s life.


North India to get DNA Bank for Wildlife (The Hindu – 4/7/2017)

  • North India is all set to get its first DNA bank for wildlife. Scientists at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly are in the process of collecting DNA samples of all wild animals to set up the bank. It is expected to help in research and also in bringing down poaching.


Knife-Wielding Stabbing Machine Could Help Solve Violent Crimes (Popular Science – 4/6/2017)


CSI Strathclyde: How University Forensic Experts Helped Solve Some of the Most High-Profile Crimes of the Past Fifty Years (The Herald – 4/9/2017)

  • For the last fifty years, forensic scientists at the University of Strathclyde have been involved in giving evidence in criminal cases, to both secure convictions and prove the innocence of wrongfully accused. Their expertise has been called on, not just in Britain, but from across the world.


Eliminating Crime Lab Backlog (Bluefield Daily Telegraph – 4/9/2017)

  • Legislation has passed the House and Senate to designate more funding to the lab, which has seen long delays in processing evidence because of a lack of money, personnel and equipment.


Is Sketching a Killer’s Face from DNA Science or a Scam? (The Daily Beast – 4/9/2017)

  • Darlene Krashoc was slain 30 years ago, and now authorities say they know what her murderer looks like. It’s given her parents hope—and that’s what forensic experts fear.


Standardized Rape Kits Good Idea (mySA – 4/9/2017)

  • Nancy Downing, an associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing and one of the newest members to the Texas Forensic Science Commission is pushing to standardize rape kits in Texas. Appointed to the commission in November by Gov. Greg Abbott, she is concerned about the way the evidence from the sexual assault kits are being handled at different crime labs.


DNA Study Reveals Genealogy of Ancient Alaskan Remains (New Historian – 4/9/2017)

  • A DNA study of ancient remains found in a cave in Alaska has revealed that the ancient Native American tribes living in the region today are directly related, revealing how long the locale has been inhabited.


Final Meeting of National Commission on Forensic Science ‘Reflects Back’ (Forensic Magazine – 4/10/2017)

  • But this will be its final meeting. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this morning that the Trump administration is taking stock of the state of forensic science aside from the Obama-era reevaluation of the criminal justice system embodied by the NCFS.


Human Remains Display Reveals Shocking Tales of Death Over the Centuries (The Guardian – 4/10/2017)

  • Skeletons: Our Buried Bones exhibition includes woman buried in expensive stone coffin with throat slit 2,000 years ago


Fingerprint Challenge Aims to Automate How Best Prints Get Taken (New Scientist – 4/10/2017)

  • The Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) has launched a challenge that pits security companies and research groups against each other, in a bid to build a device that accurately captures every part of a fingerprint. This “nail-to-nail” scan covers the whole fingertip, from one side of a fingernail to the other.


How a Small School in Pennsylvania Became the Hub of Wildlife Forensics (Forensic Magazine – 4/11/2017)

  • This is the type of forensic analysis Chinnici performs in her laboratory—the Northeast Wildlife DNA Laboratory at East Stroudsburg University (Pennsylvania)—under the tutelage of Distinguished Professor of Biology Dr. Jane Huffman. Wildlife forensics applies scientifically analyzed evidence to public discourses on legal issues involving wild animals.


Sessions Is Wrong to Take Science Out of Forensic Science (The New York Times – 4/11/2017)

  • Prosecutors applauded the April 10 announcement by Attorney General Jeff Sessions that the Department of Justice was disbanding the nonpartisan National Commission on Forensic Science and returning forensic science to law enforcement control. In the same statement, Mr. Sessions suspended the department’s review of closed cases for inaccurate or unsupported statements by forensic analysts, which regularly occur in fields as diverse as firearm and handwriting identification, and hair, fiber, shoe, bite mark and tire tread matching, and even fingerprinting analysis.


Eyewitness Confidence Can Predict Accuracy of Identifications, Researchers Find (Forensic Magazine – 4/12/2017)

  • Psychological scientists John T. Wixted (University of California, San Diego) and Gary L. Wells (Iowa State University), leading researchers in the field of eyewitness memory, joined forces in authoring the report, taking an in-depth look at the available science on eyewitness identifications. Based on their comprehensive analysis, Wixted and Wells conclude that recent advancements in identification procedures warrant reconsideration of the role that eyewitness confidence can play in the legal system.


Police Begin Reopening Rape Cases as Kentucky Tests Old DNA Evidence (Lexington Herald Leader – 4/12/2017)

  • Kentucky prosecutors must prepare for a wave of newly reopened sexual assault cases as several thousand previously untested sexual assault evidence kits — some dating back to the 1970s — begin to yield crucial DNA evidence, Attorney General Andy Beshear said this week.


Eyes of the Highways: Raising a ‘Trucker Army’ for Trafficking Fight (CNN – 4/12/2017)

  • “[Traffickers] are constantly moving these people. They stay in the darkness. That’s why they can’t be anywhere too long,” he explains. “But when you’re moving them, then you come into my world. If we know the signs and are vigilant then we can make a big piece of this problem go away.”


Ancestry.com Helps Family of Dead Boy Find Man Posing as Him (Forensic Magazine – 4/13/2017)

  • A Pennsylvania man who assumed the identity of a baby who died in Texas in 1972 has been arrested on charges of Social Security fraud and aggravated identity theft after the baby’s aunt discovered the ruse on Ancestry.com.


Even Without Forensic Commission, Forensic Science Overhaul Proceeds at OSAC (Forensic Magazine – 4/13/2017)

  • But the “forensic overhaul”—the reconsideration of much of the science in the criminal justice system in America—is still underway. The Organization of Scientific Area Committees for Forensic Science, known as OSAC, continues to travel the course set by the NCFS since 2013.