Thursday, June 28, 2007

Wanted: Fingerprint Removal Surgeon

found by troym

The charges conspiring to distribute marijuana and being an accomplice and accessory after the fact to marijuana dealing stem from surgery he performed on a Jamaican man to replace his fingerprints with skin from his feet...

...In an interview after his arrest, Covarrubias admitted that he performed the fingerprint procedure on five people, including his co-defendant, and that he was aware that all of them were wanted by the law, Ballou said.

Spector Case... experts or hired guns?

Guilty... of a hair-don't.
by blogger jgl

I have been following this trial in a half-assed sort of way. Some of the testimony bothers me. Sure, it is reasonable that 2 scientists come to different conclusions over "objective" physical evidence, but it seems like both sides are strongly declaring themselves right and the other side wrong. Scientists know it is not black and white. Do you have to fake it in court?

For example, Spector claims to have been 6 feet away from where the actress shot herself. He had blood spatter on him. Can blood spatter travel 6 feet? One person says blood spatter can only travel 2 feet. Another person says it's consistent with traveling 6 feet. They both are using different studies to support themselves.

DiMaio also defended his reliance on a German study of blood spatter in which a scientist shot calves to collect evidence on how far blood spatter can travel. American studies cited by the prosecution involved experiments shooting into sponges.

Can't we just have one expert giving both sides of the argument? (sure, that's a stupid question)

What really bothered me is a statement that DiMaio made that went something like... since 99% of oral gunshots are suicides, statistically, this is probably a suicide. Then he implies his "statistical reasoning" is just like DNA testimony.

Dr. Vincent DiMaio said he was basing his opinions on scientific evidence and not trying to help Spector, for whom he is working.

Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson accused DiMaio of relying too heavily on statistics that the majority of women who commit suicide use handguns.

"Statistics don't get us any closer to the facts of this case, do they?" asked Jackson.

"If we didn't use statistics you would have to discard DNA," said DiMaio. "DNA is all probabilities."

I'm no statistician and don't know much about no logic... but isn't there a flaw with that comparison?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Forensic Entomology - Worst Job Ever (almost)

submit by troym; comments by blogger jgl

Two links for this post. Both about forensic entomology...

The first was submitted by troy m about how tricky species ID of insects can be. Identifying the species of a maggot is the first step in accurately estimating how old the maggot is, which helps estimate how long a body has been dead.
Click here for the full story.

Misidentification of insects can also lead forensic scientists astray, says Kimsey. At a recent North American Forensic Entomology meeting she assembled six blowfly specimens and asked attendees to identify them. "No one identified them all correctly," says Kimsey. "We were very discouraged. If you can't identify the blowfly correctly, then your estimation of the postmortem interval could be wrong."

Next is one I found floating around the web. A look at the worst jobs in science. Look who comes in at number 9.

As a result of the success of such television shows as "CSI," the forensics field has undergone a dramatic overhaul in the eyes of the public. But don't be fooled, forensic entomology is not for the faint of heart, the squeamish, nor the insectophobic. These scientists spend their days basking in the florescent light of the city or county morgue analyzing bugs on decaying corpses. They check maggots, larvae, blowflies and anything that breeds off of decaying human flesh in order to determine the "postmortem interval," or the gap between the time of death and time of the body's discovery.

"It's incredibly gross," Ward said. "The people who handle [forensic entomology] are a whole other species of human, as far as I can tell,...

Man, rough week for the bug guys.

Monday, June 18, 2007 says you are not the father!

by blogger jgl

At first glance, this story is of minor interest.

The rapidly growing field of online genealogical searches is expanding to genetic testing, courtesy of a new partnership between the Internet's largest family history Web site,, and Sorenson Genomics, a privately held DNA research firm... plans to launch the DNA testing product by the end of summer, offering customers the possibility of finding DNA matches in the site's 24,000 genealogical databases.

But then I started thinking about a statistic I heard many ago about paternity. I can't remember what the estimate was, or how reliable it was... but apparently if everyone took a paternity test there would be some very surprised kids and husbands. This could be a very dangerous road.

I wonder how would handle a situation like that.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Spector's DNA, or lack thereof

by blogger jgl

This is one drawback with the glorification of forensic science. Incorrect conclusions are being drawn when DNA evidence is NOT found.

The Phil Spector murder trial entered its seventh week with the emphasis again turning to forensic evidence and the defense losing a bid for a mistrial.

A criminalist testified Monday that the music producer's DNA was not detected on the gun that killed Lana Clarkson, but suggested it might have been hidden under the large amount of the actress' blood on the weapon...

...The defense is expected to argue that the absence of Spector's DNA on the gun means he did not pull the trigger and that Clarkson killed herself. The prosecution may argue that Spector wiped off the gun at some point...

Shame on you, defense team. It's tough to recover DNA from touch. He could have shot the gun and licked the sides, but there still might not be enough DNA to produce a profile... especially when a mixture is involved.

Just because you can't see the needle, doesn't mean it's not in the haystack.