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!




AI Could Revolutionize DNA Evidence – But Right Now We Can’t Trust the Machines (The Conversation – 1/29/2020)

  • And now, more sophisticated artificial intelligence (AI) techniques are being developed in an attempt to extract DNA profiles and try to work out whether a DNA sample came directly from someone who was at the crime scene, or whether it had just been innocently transferred.

    But if this technology is successful, it could introduce a new problem, because it’s currently impossible to understand exactly how this AI reaches its conclusions.



Scientists Develop New Way to Extract, Analyze DNA from Museum Specimens (UPI – 1/31/2020)

  • Scientists in the United States and Australia have developed a new way to extract and analyze DNA from samples stored in formaldehyde, which can damage genetic material.


Jane Doe Case of ‘Lime Lady’ Solved 40 Years Later Using DNA Evidence (ABC News – 2/1/2020)

  • Almost 40 years ago, police with the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office investigated the murder of a woman that ended up becoming the department’s “most publicized Jane Doe case” ever.

    With the assistance of the DNA Doe Project’s volunteer genealogists and Oklahoma City’s medical examiner’s office, the woman’s identity was revealed on Thursday as 21-year-old Tamara Lee Tigard, police said at a press conference.


DNA Twice Clears Man for Brutal 1991 Homicide as Prosecutors Search for Victim’s Family (ABC News – 2/2/2020)

  • Almost 30 years ago, a 33-year-old Asbury Park, New Jersey, man was falsely accused of the 1991 brutal beating, sexual assault and strangulation of a 58-year-old woman. Now, Monmouth County prosecutors are on the hunt to find the victim’s family and give them some closure.


Innocence Project Client Rafael Ruiz Exonerated of Charges in 1985 East Harlem Sexual Assault Case (Forensic – 2/3/2020)

  • The Hon. Stephen Antignani of the Supreme Court of the State of New York granted a joint motion to vacate the 1985 conviction of Innocence Project client Rafael Ruiz and entered an order dismissing all charges against him. He was previously released after serving 25 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Today’s exoneration was the result of newly discovered evidence found as part of a dual investigation by the Innocence Project and the New York County District Attorney’s Office’s Conviction Integrity Program that proves Ruiz’s innocence.


Phoenix PD Turns to Genetic Genealogy to ID Victim in 2004 Cold Case (AZ Family – 2/3/2020)

  • The Phoenix Police Department teamed up with the DNA Doe Project (DDP) to use genetic genealogy to identify a woman whose body was found in west Phoenix in 2004. Ginger Lynn Bibb has been known only as Jane Doe for almost 16 years. Because police could not identify Bibb, her case went cold.



New Bill Would Allow More DNA Testing in Old Cases (WCTV – 2/3/2020)

  • Advances in DNA testing now make it possible to identify perpetrators that would have gone undetected a decade or two ago, but people convicted of a crime have been blocked from having crime scene DNA except in the most unusual circumstances.

    However, new legislation could lead to more being exonerations and convictions.



City Agrees to Test DNA in Landmark Case That Could Exonerate an Executed Man (SLATE – 2/3/2020)

  • On Friday, the city of Jacksonville, Arkansas, agreed to test DNA evidence in the case of Ledell Lee, who was put to death in 2017 after the Supreme Court voted 5–4 to allow the state to proceed with a series of executions to meet a deadline for an expiring lethal injection cocktail. Questions have swirled around Lee’s possible innocence for decades. The city’s decision clears a major hurdle in a case that could result in DNA evidence for the first time proving that a state has wrongfully executed an innocent man.



Tulsa Plans to Dig for Suspected Mass Graves from a 1921 Race Massacre (The Washington Post – 2/4/2020)

  • Nearly a century after a race massacre left as many as 300 people dead, the city plans to dig for suspected mass graves that may have been used to dispose of African American bodies.


    Archaeologists searching for mass graves connected to the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre agreed Monday night that Tulsa will conduct “limited excavations” in a city-owned cemetery to determine whether a “large anomaly” detected by ground-penetrating radar contains human remains.


Forensic Nucleic Acid Analysis of Uncultivatable Microbes: New Method Expand the Microbial Toolkit (News Medical Life Sciences – 2/4/2020)

  • The molecular characterization of microorganisms is achieved by microbial culturing techniques which yield enough nucleic acids for amplification and genetic analysis.



About Half of Americans are OK with DNA Testing Companies Sharing User Data with Law Enforcement (Pew Research Center – 2/4/2020)

  • Roughly half of Americans (48%) say it is acceptable for DNA testing companies to share customers’ genetic data with law enforcement agencies to help solve crimes, according to a Pew Research Center survey of U.S. adults conducted June 3-17, 2019. Fewer – a third – say this is unacceptable, while 18% are unsure.