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!
A bill currently under consideration in the German state of Bavaria is stirring up controversy regarding the promise of expanded forensic DNA testing to fight crime and the danger of discriminating against minorities along the way.
The animal kingdom is one of life’s great success stories — a collection of millions of species that swim, burrow, run and fly across the planet. All that diversity, from ladybugs to killer whales, evolved from a common ancestor that likely lived over 650 million years ago.
No one has found a fossil of the ur-animal, so we can’t say for sure what it looked like. But two scientists in Britain have done the next best thing. They’ve reconstructed its genome.
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.
Boston police are exploring how to use public genealogy databases to identify suspects in crimes where they collected DNA but cannot find a match after the high profile arrest of the suspected “Golden State Killer.”
Last month, the woman, who has not been identified, told investigators from the district attorney’s office and the Innocence Project the rape “never happened.” Her admission came after DNA testing connected the semen found on her body to another man through an F.B.I. database.
Although only 120 or so miles separated the two investigations, it would take more than 40 years for the right links to fall into place, likely looping together the bones in Alabama and the vanished New Orleans housewife Mary Ann Perez.
Now Parabon, a company known for its composite facial images drawn from DNA profiles, is offering a new forensic genealogy service to those detectives with those nagging unfinished investigations.Already the company has screened samples from 100 agencies around the country, according to Steven Armentrout, the Parabon CEO.
The DNA Doe Project, one of the first groups to apply forensic genealogy to criminal investigations nationwide, identified the victim of one of the most notorious 1980s cold cases last month. Now they have identified a motel suicide from 2001, using only the DNA to track down the surviving family members.
The Justinian Plague, which struck in 541 AD, may have killed as many as 25 million.Now, scientists say the outbreak probably originated in Asia, not Egypt as contemporary and more recent chroniclers had thought.
The finding comes from analysis of DNA found in 137 human skeletons unearthed on the Eurasian steppe.
Now the Texas Forensic Science Commission has cited the laboratory’s failings in an extensive report on the case, touching off a series of reviews and changes at the private lab.The report has prompted a lab-wide review of about 1,500 DNA analyses handled by National Medical Services (NMS), Inc., a Pennsylvania-based forensic and medical facility, to see if “overblown data” may have affected other cases across the country. The NMS lab has agreed to a major “course correction” requested by the Texas forensic watchdog agency.
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