“Why am I as I am? To understand that of any person, his whole life, from birth must be reviewed. All of our experiences fuse into our personality. Everything that ever happened to us is an ingredient.” ― Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm The dawning of a new year brings a fresh opportunity to […]
When police lab results are weak or ambiguous, juries commonly use non science circumstances to increase its value. https://phys.org/news/2019-10-csi-current-impact-bias-crime.html
For decades, television shows have conditioned people to believe that people can pinpoint a criminal suspect with a shoe print, tire mark, or a single strand of hair, and they can do it with absolute certainty. However, the advent of DNA technology has proven that other forensic disciplines, once thought to be bulletproof, are susceptible. Those errors have put hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent people in prison.
The conviction and exoneration of Robert Lee Stinson
When Robert Lee Stinson walked out of New Lisbon Correctional Center at the age of 44, his smile revealed a full set of teeth.
“It’s been a long time. Twenty-three years. I was accused of something I didn’t do,” Stinson said when he was released in 2009.
More than two decades earlier, one of those teeth was missing, and that’s all it took to convict him of murder.
“That was essentially the case. The whole case against Mr. Stinson,” said Keith Findley, co-founder of the Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences.
In fall 1984, the body of 63-year-old Ione Cychosz was discovered in the backyard of a home near 7th and Center. She’d been raped and beaten to death. There were bite marks all over her skin.
“Whoever left these bite marks had some irregular dentition,” Findley explained.
Milwaukee police brought in a dental expert from Marquette University to examine the marks. Doctor L. Thomas Johnson helped police develop a sketch, which showed the killer would likely have a cracked or missing upper right tooth.
“It’s a difficult job,” Dr. Johnson said during a 2007 interview with FOX6 about forensic odontology.
Stinson lived just steps from the crime scene, and had a missing upper right tooth.
“The detectives closed this case after seeing Mr. Stinson,” said Heather Lewis Donnell, Stinson’s attorney since 2009.
The jury never saw the sketch, which showed a different tooth missing than the one in Stinson’s mouth, but they did hear Dr. Johnson say that the bite marks “had to have come” from Stinson. There was no margin for error. A second expert agreed.
“So they were saying, ‘It has to be him,'” Lewis Donnell explained.
She said the level of certainty the dental experts relayed to the jury in 1985 was never supported by the science.
“That they had the ability, their science had the ability to say, ‘It was this person, and only this person,'” Lewis Donnell said.
“It’s really kind of preposterous,” Findley said.
Twenty-three years would pass before Findley and the Wisconsin Innocence Project would prove the doctors were wrong.
“Did you ever think this would come?” a reporter asked Stinson after his 2009 release.
“No, I didn’t. No, I didn’t, but with the help of the Innocence Project — came through,” Stinson responded.
DNA technology would eventually identify the real killer as Moses Price, but Findley said the bite mark analysis that put Stinson away instead was flawed from the start, and more recent research proves it.
“It’s essentially junk,” Findley said.
Questioning bite mark analysis
For more than 50 years, Dr. Johnson was a pioneer in the field of forensic odontology. He led a team of dentists that identified victims of the 1985 Midwest Airlines crash, and he helped police identify the remains of victims dismembered by serial killer Jeffery Dahmer.
However, Findley said using bite marks to solve crimes is an entirely different process.
“Matching human remains is not the problem. Matching bite marks to a particular individual is a huge problem,” Findley said.
Matching actual teeth to actual dental records is precise, but a growing body of research finds that bite marks left on the skin are unreliable, because skin is a terrible medium for retaining bite mark indentations.
“Because skin is malleable,” Lewis Donnell explained.
“It stretches. It bloats. You bruise in funny patterns,” Findley explained further. “And that’s where the science has completely fallen apart.”
Study after study now questions the validity of bite mark analysis, with one expert calling it “the poster child for bad forensic science.” A 2009 report by The National Academy of Sciences went further, citing “serious problems” across the entire “forensic science system,” from fingerprints to firearms, and footwear to hair comparison.
Changing the face of forensic science
It was that government report and another that followed in 2016 that ultimately prompted Findley to join some of the nation’s leading criminal defense experts in launching The Center for Integrity in Forensic Sciences. The first symposium was held in June at Northwestern University.
“This is one of our inaugural events,” Findley said during the symposium. “We can’t wait for the federal government to fix this.”
“We want to ensure that the science we’re producing is reliable and defendable,” said Jennifer Naugle, deputy administrator of the Wisconsin State Crime Lab.
Naugle said she’s on board with improving the science behind forensic science.
“‘The only thing we’re trying to do is seek the truth through science. That’s it. That’s really all it is,” Naugle said.
She said a 2016 report by the Obama Administration unfairly lumped more reliable techniques used every day, like fingerprint and firearms analysis, with things like hair and bite mark analysis, which has been largely discredited.
“That’s not something we would ever do at the Wisconsin State Crime Lab,” Naugle said.
“We’re not suggesting that all of the forensic disciplines are useless. They’re not, but what we are suggesting is that they need to be improved,” Findley said.
Dr. Johnson retired in 2013, but the following year, he published his final study on bite mark analysis. It concluded it is sometimes possible to narrow the source of a human bite mark to about 5% of the population. In other words, nowhere near a precise individual match. The FOX6 Investigators contacted Dr. Johnson by telephone, but he is 93 years old and unable to hear well. His wife declined an interview on his behalf.
Now that Dr. Johnson is retired, there is only one board-certified forensic odontologist in Wisconsin — Dr. Donald Simley in Madison. He declined an interview for this story because Dr. Johnson is a close personal friend and mentor. Dr. Simley has not testified in a bite mark case since 2003. While he believes there is still value in this type of evidence, he said police are better off swabbing a bite mark for DNA than trying to match a suspect’s teeth.
Across the country, the Innocence Project has exonerated more than 160 people who were convicted with flawed forensic evidence, including 10 because of bite marks.
“This evidence is dreadful,” said Jennifer Mnookin, UCLA School of Law, during the symposium.
Yet, bite mark evidence is still admissible in more states, including Wisconsin, where, ironically, Stinson’s case still serves as the legal precedent.
“Even though Stinson has now been conclusively exonerated, and the bite mark evidence in his case has been shown to be false,” Findley said.
Robert Lee Stinson seeks justice in federal court
Ten years after Stinson’s release, his federal civil rights case against the dentists and the City of Milwaukee finally went to trial.
“There was a lot of powerful and moving testimony,” Lewis Donnell said.
Just before the case went to the jury, they settled out of court. The City of Milwaukee will pay Stinson $7.5 million. Stinson’s attorney said the remaining terms of the settlement — including any amount other defendants have agreed to pay — will remain confidential.
“We’re just really grateful that this is how it ended, and that Mr. Stinson got some measure of justice after all he’s been through,” said Lewis Donnell.
Thirty-four years later, Stinson can finally move on, but the injustice he endured is sure to leave a mark.
MILWAUKEE — He spent 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Now, a Milwaukee man is finally getting justice for a conviction based on flawed evidence. His long-awaited day in court came amid a national effort to put forensic science on trial. For decades, television shows have conditioned people to believe that people can pinpoint a criminal suspect with a shoe print, tire mark, or a single strand of hair, and they can do it with […]
Civilizations that have thousands of years invested in perfecting a field tend to NAIL IT with more accuracy….
Many research and development solutions can be obtained through information sharing from countries that have had centuries of trial and error based experiementation. Seek to learn from mentors in the field, and save yourself from complicating your analysis.
China has been investing time, energy and resources into forensic science since the 1980’s and globally-renowned forensic scientist Henry Chang-yu Lee believes it’s about to pay off tipping China to become a world leader in high-tech evidence collection.
“I believe the technology in China will be more advanced than ever in the United States within five years,” the Chinese-American expert said in a recent interview with China Daily.
Lee, who has racked up more than five decades of experience in forensic science, has worked on a number of high-profile criminal cases in the US, but has also shared his wealth of knowledge with students, lawyers, judges and law enforcement in China over the years.
“The apparatus and devices used to identify fingerprints or footprints, for example, were very simple when I first visited Chinese forensic laboratories,” he said.
However, he has seen the technology improve over the years and there have been many advances, particularly in electronic evidence collection and fraud prevention by means of real-time monitoring.
In 2016, Lee and several other experts established the Silk Road Forensic Consortium in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, to fight crime and safeguard security by boosting scientific exchanges among countries involved in the Belt and Road Initiative.
The consortium, which has 150 members from 30 countries and regions, provides an open platform for forensic specialists, police officers and judges to share ideas and difficulties as well as experiences in DNA identification studies.
Lee, who acts as chairman, said, “Although we speak different languages in our daily lives, we all speak the same ‘language’ at work, and that’s the language of the criminal investigation. We share the same goal – to speak for the dead using forensic science.”
In September, at the organisation’s third annual conference in Yantai, Shandong province, Lee announced plans to unify DNA identification standards among its members to try and build a mutual DNA database that can better solve criminal cases.
Unified standards are essential to the world of forensic science, he told China Daily.
“If we can achieve unification in China, it can be extended across Asia, to the consortium and finally the world,” he added. “It would mean a brighter future for forensic science.”
6. European Network of Forensic Institutes
Although not a country, the European Network of Forensic Institutes (ENFSI) is recognized as a pre-eminent voice in forensic science worldwide. It is a network of forensic specialists covering a broad range of fields of expertise, from 38 countries geographically spread across Europe:
Austria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Malta, Montenegro, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
The ENFSI has seventeen Expert Working Groups working on a diverse range of forensic specialisms, from textiles and hair to explosives and firearms. It also provides invaluable training to police officers and crime scene investigators.
Police in the German state of Bavaria have the power to use forensic DNA profiling after a controversial law passed in 2018 in the Landtag, the state parliament in Munich. The law was the first in Germany to allow authorities to use DNA to help determine the physical characteristics, such as eye colour, of an unknown culprit.
The new DNA rules are part of a broader law which has drawn criticism of the wide surveillance powers it gives the state’s police to investigate people they deem an “imminent danger,” people who haven’t necessarily committed any crimes but might be planning to do so.
The move was prompted, in part, by the rape and murder of a medical student in Freiburg, Germany, in late 2016. An asylum seeker, originally from Afghanistan, was convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.
But some authorities complained that they could have narrowed their search more quickly if they had been able to use trace DNA to predict what the suspect would look like.
Federal and state laws previously only allowed investigators to use DNA to look for an exact match between crime scene evidence and a potential culprit, either in a database of known criminals or from a suspect.
Germany also forms part of the aforementioned ENFSI.
4. South Korea
To say that smartphones have changed the digital forensic landscape is an understatement. The device has become the core of every criminal investigation and helped propel digital forensics as a serious, scientific investigation tool.
South Korea is leading the way in digital forensics, with its largest digital forensic firm, Hancom GMD, playing a crucial role in prosecuting some of the country’s most powerful politicians.
In late 2016, South Korea was rocked by one of its biggest political corruption scandals in history – its President Park Guen-hye was accused of bribery and by law, investigators only had 60 days to investigate and prosecute.
They had confiscated over 300 smartphones as from suspects and needed to analyse tens of thousands of phone records and chat messages within a tight deadline. Hancom GMD successfully analysed all of the data in the 300 smartphones and extracted crucial evidence that led to several convictions.
With 5G set to be rolled out globally this year, forensic teams in South Korea are already preparing for this further growth in the collection of digital evidence.
Hancom GMD is planning to launch a service that recovers data from the cloud, though privacy regulations in each country are expected to be a challenge to overcome.
3. United Kingdom
Prior to its closure in 2012, the UK Forensic Science Service (FSS) was a world-leader in forensic technology. It pioneered the use of the handheld breath alcohol roadside tester and the DNA national database was first worked on and initially tested on all staff and police forces to ensure its reliability.
The organisation later pioneered the use of large scale DNA profiling for forensic identification and crime detection when it moved the facilities to Birmingham.
This enabled the launch of the world’s first DNA database on 10 April 1995. The FSS’s innovative and highly sensitive DNA profiling technique called LCN (low copy number) was used in convicting Antoni Imiela (the M25 rapist).
As well as, Ronald Castree (for the murder of Lesley Molseed in 1975) but the organisation came under attack when it failed to recover blood stains from a shoe in the murder of Damilola Taylor.
Forensic laboratories in the UK are now privately-owned but are experiencing similar financial difficulties, a recent inquiry by the House of Lords heard.
Mark Pearse, the commercial director in the forensics division of Eurofins, one of the three major providers in the UK, described an “unsustainable toxic set of conditions” when he appeared before the inquiry.
Representatives from the two other largest providers – Key Forensics, which had to be bailed out by police last year after going into administration, and Cellmark – raised similar concerns.
However, that’s not to say that the UK is not involved in researching and implementing new forensic technologies.
Forensic scientists are currently working with the British military to open the United Kingdom’s first body farm — a site where researchers will be able to study the decomposition of human remains.
Details are not yet finalized, but the plans are at an advanced stage: project leaders hope this year to open the farm, also known as a forensic cemetery or taphonomy facility, after the discipline devoted to the study of decay and fossilization.
Such sites generate data on tissue and bone degradation under controlled conditions, along with chemical changes in the soil, air and water around a corpse, to help criminal and forensic investigators.
2. The Netherlands
The Netherlands Forensic Institute (NFI) is one of the world’s leading forensic laboratories. From its state-of-the-art, purpose-built premises in The Hague, the NFI provides products and services to a wide range of national and international clients.
To ensure that their work remains at the forefront of developments, the Netherlands Forensic Institute invests heavily in Research and Development. In this way, it lays the foundations for innovative forensic methods and technologies that will play an important part in the coming decades.
Amongst these innovative forensic technologies is the invention of Hansken, a system that can store large quantities and diverse data easily from different sources. All data is stored, indexed, enriched and made rapidly searchable, cutting down the turnaround time of forensic evidence.
It now contains over 150 samples of glass from a large number cases. In several cases, this glass database has linked suspects to several crimes.
Offenders who carry out robberies, smash-and-grab raids or ARM gas attacks may have splinters of glass on their clothes or in the soles of their shoes and these splinters of glass can remain in place for months, even though they are barely visible to the naked eye, if at all.
These splinters can be of great value. The composition of each piece of glass is unique because of minuscule contaminants in the raw materials for making glass.
By comparing the unique composition of splinters of glass found on a suspect to glass from the database, it is possible to check whether that glass originates from a crime committed earlier.
The glass analysts of the NFI measure the concentration of twenty elements in each piece of glass. This produces a kind of ‘chemical fingerprint’ of the material.
1.United States of America
It will come as no surprise that at the forefront of cutting-edge forensic technology is the USA, home to over 400 crime labs and the biggest crime lab in the world, the FBI Laboratory.
To help train government and industry organisations on cyberattack prevention, as part of a research project for the U.S. Army, scientists at The University of Texas at San Antonio, have developed the first framework to score the agility of cyber attackers and defenders.
“The DOD and U.S. Army recognize that the cyber domain is as important a battlefront as ground, air and sea,” said Dr. Purush Iyer, division chief, network sciences at Army Research Office, an element of the Army Futures Command’s Army Research Laboratory.
“Being able to predict what the adversaries will likely do provides opportunities to protect and to launch countermeasures. This work is a testament to successful collaboration between academia and government.”
The framework developed by the researchers will help government and industry organizations visualize how well they out-maneuver attacks.
Their work is published in IEEE Transactions on Information Forensics and Security, a top journal for cybersecurity.
Education and training programs in the field of forensics are also on the rise, supported by organisations such as The Forensic Sciences Foundation and the American Academy of Forensic Sciences.
In fact, there are 485 Forensic Science schools in the US, so it’s no wonder that it is the home of the some of the most influential forensic scientists, such as Dr. Michael M. Baden and Ellis R. Kerley, and is sure to produce a great deal more talent in the future.
This is certainly an exciting time to be working in forensic science, with the challenges presented by the world of AI, Smartphones and Cloud data calling for rapid improvements to existing technology.
With these challenges comes the need for those countries with more developed forensic facilities to provide training and education opportunities to those in less developed areas so that science can play its rightful part in the criminal justice system.
For now, these are among the 7 countries who have the most advanced forensic technology and it is not the end. As the world continues to evolve, so will technology and the forensic industry itself.
Hi! I’m Isabella and I’m an Italian living in the UK studying for a Masters in Crime & Justice. I currently work in the prison education sector and have a background in teaching, having completed a PGCE after reading languages at the University of Durham. I love travelling, cooking, reading and playing the piano.
Technology is at its peak moment and with it has bought about some of the finest forensic techs. Here are 7 countries with the best forensic technology.
ISO 13485 Medical devices — Quality management systems — Requirements for regulatory purposes is an International Organization for Standardization standard published for the first time in 1996; it represents the requirements for a comprehensive quality management system for the design and manufacture of medical devices.
The essentials of validation planning, protocol writing, and change management will be explained.
A counting statistic is simply a numerical count of the number of some item such as “one million missing children”, “three million homeless”, and “3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025.” Counting statistics are frequently deployed in public policy debates, the marketing of goods and services, and other contexts. Particularly when paired with an emotionally engaging story, counting statistics can be powerful and persuasive. Counting statistics can be highly misleading or even completely false. This article discusses how to evaluate counting statistics and includes a detailed list of steps to follow to evaluate a counting statistic.
Checklist for Counting Statistics
- Find the original primary source of the statistic. Ideally you should determine the organization or individual who produced the statistic. If the source is an organization you should find out who specifically produced the statistic within the organization. If possible find out the name and role of each member involved in the production of the statistic. Ideally you should have a full citation to the original source that could be used in a high quality scholarly peer-reviewed publication.
- What is the background, agenda, and possible biases of the individual or organization that produced the statistic? What are their sources of funding?What is their track record, both in general and in the specific field of the statistic? Many statistics are produced by “think tanks” with various ideological and financial biases and commitments.
- How is the item being counted defined. This is very important. Many questionable statistics use a broad, often vague definition of the item paired with personal stories of an extreme or shocking nature to persuade. For example, the widely quoted “one million missing children” in the United States used in the 1980’s — and even today — rounded up from an official FBI number of about seven hundred thousand missing children, the vast majority of whom returned home safely within a short time, paired with rare cases of horrific stranger abductions and murders such as the 1981 murder of six year old Adam Walsh.
- If the statistic is paired with specific examples or personal stories, how representative are these examples and stories of the aggregate data used in the statistic? As with the missing children statistics in the 1980’s it is common for broad definitions giving large numbers to be paired with rare, extreme examples.
- How was the statistic measured and/or computed? At one extreme, some statistics are wild guesses by interested parties. In the early stages of the recognition of a social problem, there may be no solid reliable measurements; activists are prone to providing an educated guess. The statistic may be the product of an opinion survey. Some statistics are based on detailed, high quality measurements.
- What is the appropriate scale to evaluate the counting statistic? For example, the United States Census estimates the total population of the United States as of July 1, 2018 at 328 million. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates about 156 million people are employed full time in May 2019. Thus “3.5 million STEM jobs” represents slightly more than one percent of the United States population and slightly more than two percent of full time employees.
- Are there independent estimates of the same or a reasonably similar statistic? If yes, what are they? Are the independent estimates consistent? If not, why not? If there are no independent estimates, why not? Why is there only one source? For example, estimates of unemployment based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics Current Population Survey (the source of the headline unemployment number reported in the news) and the Bureau’s payroll survey have a history of inconsistency.
- Is the statistic consistent with other data and statistics that are expected to be related? If not, why doesn’t the expected relationship hold? For example, we expect low unemployment to be associated with rising wages. This is not always the case, raising questions about the reliability of the official unemployment rate from the Current Population Survey.
- Is the statistic consistent with your personal experience or that of your social circle?If not, why not? For example, I have seen high unemployment rates among my social circle at times when the official unemployment rate was quite low.
- Does the statistic feel right? Sometimes, even though the statistic survives detailed scrutiny — following the above steps — it still doesn’t seem right. There is considerable controversy over the reliability of intuition and “feelings.” Nonetheless, many people believe a strong intuition often proves more accurate than a contradictory “rational analysis.” Often if you meditate on an intuition or feeling, more concrete reasons for the intuition will surface.
(C) 2019 by John F. McGowan, Ph.D.
John F. McGowan, Ph.D. solves problems using mathematics and mathematical software, including developing gesture recognition for touch devices, video compression and speech recognition technologies. He has extensive experience developing software in C, C++, MATLAB, Python, Visual Basic and many other programming languages. He has been a Visiting Scholar at HP Labs developing computer vision algorithms and software for mobile devices. He has worked as a contractor at NASA Ames Research Centerinvolved in the research and development of image and video processing algorithms and technology. He has published articles on the origin and evolution of life, the exploration of Mars (anticipating the discovery of methane on Mars), and cheap access to space. He has a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a B.S. in physics from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).
A counting statistic is simply a numerical count of the number of some item such as “one million missing children”, “three million homeless”, and “3.5 million STEM jobs by 2025.” Counting statistics are frequently deployed in public policy debates, the marketing of goods and services, and other contexts. Particularly when paired with an emotionally engaging […]