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


Would-be Obama Assassin Identified by Cat Hairs, Authorities Say (The Guardian – 11/24/2017)

  • Fur on an explosive package was matched to cats owned by Julia Poff, accused of attempted postal attacks on former president and Texas governor


Wrongly Convicted Man Shares Holiday with Detective who Sought Release (Euro News – 11/26/2017)

  • Coley, 70, spent the past 38 years in prison for a double murder he didn’t commit, but this year he was able to eat Thanksgiving dinner with the retired detective who spent nearly three decades attempting to prove his innocence.


Petition Demands DNA Kit Companies Keep Genetic Data Private (New York Post – 11/27/2017)


Why do State Laws Put an Expiration Date on Sex Crimes? (PBS News Hour – 11/28/2017)


Plano PD’s New DNA Testing Tool Weeds Out Bad Samples, Cuts Wait Time for Results from Months to Minutes (Dallas News – 11/28/2017)

  • The Plano Police Department is testing a new tool that’s expected to help solve crimes faster and save money on forensic testing.

New Research Project to Focus on Use of Nuclear Techniques in Forensic Science (Forensic Magazine – 11/28/2017)

  • Experts from around the world, representing both practitioners of nuclear analytical techniques as well as forensic science stakeholder communities, met in Vienna last week to discuss the objectives of a new Coordinated Research Project on utilizing nuclear analytical techniques in forensic science. The project aims to determine how existing forensic methods can be complemented by the use of nuclear techniques to aid the work of police investigators, courts and customs officials.


Interview with Program Director Max Houck (Locard’s Lab – 11/28/2017)

  • My current role is Visiting Assistant Professor and Director of the Forensic Studies & Justice Program at University of South Florida St. Petersburg. The Program teaches forensic investigative techniques and scientific applications in criminal cases, using structured analytic techniques borrowed from the intelligence community to mitigate and reduce bias, and how to improve the criminal justice system and avoid wrongful convictions. I created the Program, teach in it, and conduct research in these areas.


Forensic Technology Developed in UK Will Make It “Impossible” for Criminals to Destroy Fingerprint Evidence (Forensic Magazine – 11/29/2017)

  • The advanced detection technique, which allows investigators to take prints from problematic exhibits, such as spent ammunition casings, was carried out in partnership with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) – an executive agency of the Ministry of Defence.


The Impenetrable Program Transforming How Courts Treat DNA Evidence (WIRED – 11/29/2017)

  • But now legal experts, along with Johnson’s advocates, are joining forces to argue to a California court that TrueAllele—the seemingly magic software that helped law enforcement analyze the evidence that tied Johnson to the crimes—should be forced to reveal the code that sent Johnson to prison. This code, they say, is necessary in order to properly evaluate the technology. In fact, they say, justice from an unknown algorithm is no justice at all.


Yeti Legends Are Based on These Real Animals, DNA Shows (National Geographic – 11/29/2017)

  • The best look yet at supposed Yeti samples also offers valuable insight into the genetic histories of rare Himalayan bears.


New York City Has Genetically Distinct ‘Uptown’ and ‘Downtown’ Rats (The Atlantic – 11/29/2017)

  • A graduate student sequenced rats all over Manhattan, and discovered how the city affects their genetic diversity.