Professor David A. Harris of the University of Pittsburgh has published an interesting book entitled Failed Evidence: Why Law Enforcement Resists Science. His 2012 book looks at problems with the traditional investigative tools in order to understand why wrongful convictions occur. Harris asks why law enforcement and prosecutors are resistant to changing the techniques they have long relied on, including interrogations and eyewitness identifications. He describes techniques that scientists use to ensure valid results and discusses how they could be applied to forensic examinations and why law enforcement resists applying techniques like blind verification and proficiency testing.
Because this book examines the barriers to adopting new techniques, it is important for anyone working to improve forensic practices. The first chapter can be downloaded for free here. Professor Harris also has a blog where he posts regularly on issues related to forensic evidence, wrongful convictions, and improving police practices.
For attorneys with questions about the appropriate procedures for conducting a sexual assault examination or a medical forensic examination, there is a new resource available here. The page includes links to national protocols and standards of practice that have been developed by the Department of Justice and other professional organizations.
Attorneys can access training on this topic by following the link to free recorded webinars. The resource page also contains information about how to access current scientific articles on this topic and a link to case law compiled by the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys. For assistance with understanding medical records and reports, the page has links to two online dictionaries that define abbreviations and medical terminology commonly found in medical records.
Judge Joseph R. John, Director of the North Carolina State Crime Laboratory, announced today that members of the North Carolina Forensic Science Advisory Board have been appointed. This board was statutorily created by the Forensic Sciences Act of 2011 which was signed into law on March 31, 2011. The members of the board are:
- Mr. Kermit B. Channell, II, Executive Director, Arkansas State Crime Laboratory
- Dr. Tracey D. Cruz, Associate Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Forensic Science
- Dr. Marcia T. Eisenberg, LabCorp, Research Triangle Park
- Dr. Roger Kahn, Director, Harris County (TX) Forensic Biology Laboratory
- Dr. David Hinks, Professor of Textile Chemistry, North Carolina State University
- Judge Joseph R. John, Sr., Director, North Carolina State Crime Laboratory
- Ms. Alka B. Lohman, Virginia Department of Forensic Science
- Mr. Peter M. Marone, Laboratory Director, Virginia Department of Forensic Science
- Dr. Bruce R. McCord, Professor, Florida International University Department of Chemistry
- Dr. Christopher S. Palenik, Vice President and Research Microscopist, Microtrace
- Ms. Bethany P. Pridgen, Forensic Chemist, Wilmington Police Department
- Dr. Peter R. Stout, Senior Forensic Scientist, RTI International
- Dr. Deborah Radisch, North Carolina Chief Medical Examiner
- Dr. Michael Coble, National Institute of Standards and Technology
- Mr. Ronald Singer,Technical and Administrative Director, Tarrant County (TX) Medical Examiner’s Office
- Dr. Leonard Stefanski, Professor, North Carolina State University Department of Statistics
- Dr. Robert Eugene Zipf, Jr, Pathologist (Retired)
The board will meet for the first time on March 22-23, 2012 at the State Crime Laboratory. The board is to review the State Crime Laboratory operations and make recommendations on issues including testing and examination methods, plans for implementation of new programs and qualification standards for the lab’s forensic scientists. For more information, see the NC DOJ’s announcement.
I recently posted on the IDS Forensics website a list of the books that I have available for attorneys to use at the IDS Main Office in Durham. For attorneys who cannot travel to Durham, please call me (919-354-7217) if you need access to these texts. If you are a North Carolina public defender, assistant public defender or private appointed counsel, I am available to assist you with legal or scientific research on topics of forensic science.
Take a look at the titles below and contact me if you need research assistance:
- John M. Butler, Forensic DNA Typing: Biology, Technology, and Genetics of STR Markers (2d ed. 2005).
- Larry E. Daniel & Lars E. Daniel, Digital Forensics for Legal Professionals: Understanding Digital Evidence From the Warrant to the Courtroom (2012).
- Vincent J.M. DiMaio, Gunshot Wounds: Practical Aspects of Firearms, Ballistics, and Forensic Techniques (2d ed. 1999).
- David L. Faigman et al., Modern Scientific Evidence: Forensics (Student ed. 2008).
- David L. Faigman et al., Modern Scientific Evidence: The Law and Science of Expert Testimony, Vol. 1: Statistics & Research Methods (2010-2011).
- James C. Garriott, Ed., Garriott’s Medicolegal Aspects of Alcohol (5th ed. 2008).
- Brian J. Heard, Firearms and Ballistics: Examining and Interpreting Forensic Evidence (2d ed. 2008).
- National Fire Protection Association 921: Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations (2008).
- Richard Saferstein, Ed., Forensic Science Handbook: Volume I (2d ed. 2002).
- Richard Saferstein, Ed., Forensic Science Handbook: Volume II (2d ed. 2005).
- Richard Saferstein, Ed., Forensic Science Handbook: Volume III (2d ed. 2010).
- James Shellow, Cross-Examination of the Analyst in Drug Prosecutions (2009).
- William W. Shockley & Harold C. Pillsbury III, The Neck: Diagnosis and Surgery (1994).
- Werner U. Spitz, Ed., Spitz and Fisher’s Medicolegal Investigation of Death: Guidelines for the Application of Pathology to Crime Investigation (4th ed. 2006).
If you are encountering an issue of forensic science for the first time or if you’re looking for an in-depth training on a specific topic, online forensic trainings are a great way to access the knowledge of national experts from the comfort of your home or office.
I’ve compiled over 100 of these free trainings and put them in the training section the IDS Forensics website. Topics include crime scene investigation, DNA evidence, child abuse, toxicology, working with experts, and many more. Some of the training organizations require you to register before you take the training, but it just takes a few minutes to sign up.
These online trainings are sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology & the Law, the Women’s Information Network and local organizations – RTI International, and the UNC School of Government. Check them out!
Here’s the link: www.ncids.com/forensic/resources/training.asp
A Texas appeals court affirmed the exclusion of evidence that a dog identified a defendant’s scent in a “scent-lineup” in State v. Dominguez. The trial court found that human scent identification by a canine is not sufficiently reliable to be admitted in evidence in a criminal trial, based on the defendant’s motion to suppress and the testimony of a state and a defense expert. The appeals court affirmed that finding.
It may be worthwhile to take a look at the defendant’s arguments regarding reliability, especially in light the recent North Carolina legislation. Session Law 2011-283 makes several changes to the Rules of Evidence, including new tort limits, but the changes to G.S. 8C-702(a) apply to expert testimony in criminal cases as well. The rule requires for expert testimony, as a condition of admissibility:
(1) The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data.
(2) The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods.
(3) The witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.
Welcome to the Forensic Science in North Carolina blog. This blog will serve as a forum to provide information about issues of forensic science in North Carolina. It is administered by Sarah Rackley, Forensic Resource Counsel of Indigent Defense Services in Durham, NC.