As everyone who has watched TV in the last fifteen years is aware, forensic science is a vital and infallible part of our criminal justice system. Using the latest laser calibrated magneto-gravity wave time detectors the police are often able to create audio and video replications of crimes. You don’t hear too much about those ones because once a defendant is faced with such overpowering evidence they always plead out. It’s also one of the few cases where TV is behind the actual science.
Sure CSI shows modern computer databases abilities to instantly match partial prints, instantly conduct DNA analysis, and recreate a victims last words from the sound waves imprinted on to the clay she was using at the time of her death, but they often times miss the more technical and less “sexy” science like the MGWT. Don’t buy it? Still reading this wall of text? Good because you are in for an educational treat you wouldn’t normally get outside of criminal representation or lab work. In case anyone is wondering there are no computer matches, no instant DNA, and certainly no goddamn sound waves in the clay.
Forensic science is actually still relatively uncommon in criminal prosecutions. It’s almost unheard of in civil cases. As technological limits and costs have fallen, the presence of true scientific evidence in the courtroom has blossomed. Unfortunately, courts have been constantly bombarded with crank and fictional science practically since court cases began. It is only in the last 80 years there have been any true standards of admissibility, and only in the last 20 have there been any rational standards of admissibility. Although, as I will note in later posts, some of the “bad” science has been grandfathered in despite modern innovations in the law which would have excluded it.
I’ll do a series of posts about individual forensic fields and techniques I am familiar with and if there is any interest I’ll do some posts about admissibility standards. In some areas, I’ll be unable to resist discussing aspects of admissibility as certain debunked techniques are almost automatically admissible in certain states functionally without the ability to object.
Unfortunately, I’ve been out of this field for a bit so if anyone has updates or corrections to the science, techniques or the law please feel free to jump in. In addition, I’ve only been able to find about 60% of my old working materials so if anyone has serious questions about DNA they’ll have to wait until I can find/reacquire the remainder.
Right now I can brush up on/feel comfortable discussing:
– The Polygraph
– Fingerprint Evidence
– Firearms ID
– Dental IDs
– Voice IDs
– Neutron Activation Analysis
– Hypnosis/”Assisted memories”
– Social science evidence (eyewitness, battered women, weapon focus, etc)
– Crime Scene Processing
– Admissibility Standards
– Rules of Evidence & Courtroom procedure
You’ll have to wait if you want me to outline DNA analysis, Arson investigation, Toxicology/Alcohol testing, or Forgery/Handwriting matching/Questioned Documents analysis, or blood spatter patterns/analysis in any kind of depth.
As long as interest continues, I’ll probably write up most of the above list but the order is up to you schmucks. So vote because otherwise I’m going to get distracted and rant about fingerprint evidence for a year.