Sample of Scientific Forensics in the News

Image result for hair isotopes

This edition will focus on the presence of research-based forensics being talked about in our part of the world where “rigorous science is good” is coming out of the White House . Seem that the Science March got most of the news this weekend along with the Arkansas execution.

Isotopes from hair creating a path to micro-substances is recorded so far in a few cases.   This article from the ISHI blog is more detailed. One researcher presents the need for more than “one off” results before getting too excited. Another experimented on himself. Few labs have this specialized equipment.

A couple previous blog posts here and here lend some modulation to the current enthusiasm.

Mosquitos, Zika, viruses and our warming climate (not in Washington DC however).

Sadly, that’s about it for today on the science side.

Here is a bunch involving criminal justice.

Remember in 1980-90s when PANIC, not , put around 100 innocent people in prison? It’s happening again x10

Baton Rouge DA and Innocence Project tangle over missing evidence in old rape case –

Why more falsely accused people are being exonerated today than ever before.


About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
This entry was posted in forensic science reform protecting the innocent and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Sample of Scientific Forensics in the News

  1. If you’d like to see some research testing the accuracy of hair isotopes, you can see my NIJ symposium at Go to the link “2017 NIJ R&D Series: Anthropology & Microbial Forensics”. My talk is on the “Isotopic Taphonomy of Human Hair”. You have to register, but then can watch the talk free. I’m working on a long technical report that should be released in the next couple of months (it has to go through peer-review), as well as articles in prep for release. We studied 10 donors from two body farms and measured hair, teeth and bone to see if these signatures used for estimating where someone is from are accurate – and are preserved over time.

    Some of these signatures, such as carbon and nitrogen, don’t show any change over time. Others such as oxygen and particularly hydrogen have some variation – we’re still evaluating how much this would impact region-of-origin determinations. A third set – strontium and lead isotopes – change a great deal and I would strongly recommend NOT using them at all for region-of-origin.

    One challenge is in forensics, there is an inherent tension between a fact for an individual cases versus the means of studied groups or populations of data. Very few measurements can uniquely with absolute confidence determine a question of fact – which is why accuracy, precision, specificity and sensitivity are so critical to know, as well as to communicate to juries. The studies to determine these statistical factors are tedious, time-consuming and expensive to do, but that’s what the science needs to rest on before it should be used to convict someone. Those studies are also not flashy and won’t get the press of the cool new technique.

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