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


Scientists to Grow ‘Mini-Brains’ Using Neanderthal DNA (The Guardian – 5/11/2018)

  • Geneticists hope comparing prehistoric and modern biology will help them understand what makes humans unique


Pollen Breathes New Life Into Decades-Old Murder Investigation (Green Bay Press Gazette – 5/11/2018)

  • A decades-old murder mystery in the western part of Wisconsin just got a major boost from the same thing plaguing allergy-sufferers statewide: Pollen.


‘Fallen Through the Cracks:’ Overdue DNA Swabs Link to Murders, Sexual Assaults ( – 5/13/2018)

  • A project to collect swabs of DNA from more than 500 Cuyahoga County probationers whose profiles were missing from state databases has so far netted 21 hits to crimes that gave police leads in unsolved cases or confirmed previous convictions.


New Tool Predicts Eye, Hair, and Skin Color from a DNA Sample of an Unidentified Individual (EurekAlert! – 5/14/2018)

  • The rise of big data, whether it’s publicly searchable DNA databases or records from cellphone towers, has inverted traditional investigative tactics. Previously, law enforcement relied on evidence to build a case around an individual, then sought a warrant from a judge to confirm those suspicions. Modern tactics, enabled by technology, allow law enforcement to trawl a wider — and more indiscriminate — pool before narrowing in on a specific individual.



South Dakota Could be First State to Tweak ‘Marsy’s Law’ (Forensic Magazine – 5/14/2018)

  • The proposed changes — which the Marsy’s Law campaign supports — would require victims to opt in to many of their rights and specifically allow authorities to share information with the public to help solve crimes.


Rape Victims in Washington Can Now Track Status of Rape Kits Online (Q13 FOX – 5/14/2018)

  • The system is for hospitals, law enforcement and, most notably, victims.

    Once survivors leave the hospital, they will be able to go to the website, log in with their personal bar code and password and be able to find out exactly where the kit is in the process.


May 25 is Landmark Day for Bills That Target Backlog of Untested Rape Kits (LA Weekly – 5/14/2018)

  • On May 25, the state Senate Appropriations Committee will decide whether to advance two bills that would demand the speedy testing of California’s large backlog of rape kits and the timely testing of all newly collected rape kits.


A New Law Would Give More Money For Prosecuting Cold Cases Like the Golden State Killer (BuzzFeed – 5/15/2018)

  • The Justice Served Act, which just passed in the House, says that at least 5% of federal money set aside for testing rape kits should go toward prosecuting cold cases.


Delaware Finally Begins to Tackle its Backlog of Untested Rape Kits (Delaware Online – 5/16/2018)

  • Delaware now is reviewing 640 kits, which long languished in Delaware police evidence rooms, and have now been tested and are being compared to DNA records on file in the state and the national CODIS data base.


Phenotyping Webtool Developed by Academics, Who Want ‘Full Disclosure’ of Limitations (Forensic Magazine – 5/17/2018)

  • An international team of academics have pushed out a new webtool for predicting eye color, hair color and skin tone that they say is pushing new boundaries for the science—especially since it is free of charge and available to all law enforcement agencies who want to use it.