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!
In a dizzying span over the past few months, some of the nation’s most frustratingly unsolvable cold cases have suddenly been, well, solved. These breakthroughs have come thanks to DNA evidence and a new field of study known as genetic genealogy — pioneered by a group of passionate and largely unpaid hobbyists.
While 1,400 crime scene investigators, fingerprint examiners, and forensic pathologists learned about the latest in forensic technology last week in San Antonio at the International Association for Identification’s annual International Educational Conference, questions remain around the current science that can lead to convictions.
After finding fault with testimony from its own analysts in over 90 percent of the reviewed cases, the FBI sounded a nationwide alarm. The agency notified state governors and crime labs of its concerns, urging a review of all cases that involved such evidence.
Arizona heeded the call, forming a hair-review task force, which grew out of the Arizona Forensic Science Advisory Committee. The task force includes representatives from the attorney general’s office, the Department of Public Safety, the Phoenix police crime lab, the nonprofit Arizona Justice Project and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University’s Post-Conviction Clinic.
The seven cold cases are the suspicious deaths of children and adults, five of which were found in water, who died between 1962 and 1984—and for whom there have never been answers since they were laid to rest in the Philadelphia City Cemetery decades ago.
Forensic science has been “under attack” in recent years—coming under fire for anything that doesn’t have a quantitative basis, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told the National Symposium on Forensic Science on Tuesday.
But the quickly-evolving statistics of DNA forensics and other pursuits doesn’t mean that traditional trace evidence like fingerprints, shell casings and shoe marks are any less scientific, Rosenstein said, cautioning against an “erroneously narrow view” of forensic critics.
Despite a stream of crime lab scandals, the doubt cast on forensics by DNA exonerations and blistering critiques of entire fields of forensics from the scientific community, Rosenstein insists that we should stop insisting that “forensic science” meet the standards of “science,” and that we should trust the Justice Department to fix these problems internally, without input from independent scientific bodies.
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