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1.
Forensic Sci Int ; 317: 110499, 2020 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32947240

ABSTRACT

The impetus to begin a legal investigation or prosecution of the crime of genocide is a "trigger mechanism," which serves as the prima facie case against the accused state or actor. Unlike domestic cases of homicide, the trigger mechanisms for international genocide investigations to date have not included any forensic evidence nor have they sought input from forensic scientists. The jurists tasked with addressing the trigger mechanisms were fully capable of assessing forensic evidence but unable to generate it. This study reviews four recent large-scale investigations of genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda, Darfur and Myanmar to reveal pitfalls in the cases that could have been avoided by the earlier inclusion of scientific expertise, and identifies the potential contributions of forensic science in future investigations.


Subject(s)
Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Genocide/legislation & jurisprudence , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Humans , International Law , Myanmar , Rwanda , Sudan , United Nations
2.
Forensic Sci Int ; 315: 110433, 2020 Oct.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32763747

ABSTRACT

Forensic testimony plays a crucial role in many criminal cases, with requests to crime laboratories steadily increasing. As part of efforts to improve the reliability of forensic evidence, scientific and policy groups increasingly recommend routine and blind proficiency tests of practitioners. What is not known is how doing so affects how lay jurors assess testimony by forensic practitioners in court. In Study 1, we recruited 1398 lay participants, recruited online using Qualtrics to create a sample representative of the U.S. population with respect to age, gender, income, race/ethnicity, and geographic region. Each read a mock criminal trial transcript in which a forensic examiner presented the central evidence. The low-proficiency forensic examiner elicited a lower conviction rate and less favorable impressions than the control, an examiner for which no proficiency information was disclosed. However, the high-proficiency examiner did not correspondingly elicit a higher conviction rate or more favorable impressions than the control. In Study 2, 1420 participants, similarly recruited using Qualtrics, received the same testimony, but for some conditions the examiner was cross-examined by a defense attorney. We find cross-examination significantly reduced guilty votes and examiner ratings for low-proficiency examiners. These results suggest that disclosing results of blind proficiency testing can inform jury decision-making, and further, that defense lawyering can make proficiency information particularly salient at a criminal trial.


Subject(s)
Expert Testimony/legislation & jurisprudence , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Professional Competence , Adolescent , Adult , Aged , Aged, 80 and over , Female , Humans , Male , Middle Aged , Young Adult
3.
J Forensic Sci ; 65(6): 1978-1990, 2020 Nov.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32790911

ABSTRACT

Knowledge of task-irrelevant information influences judgments of forensic science evidence and thereby undermines their probative value (i.e., forensic confirmation bias). The current studies tested whether laypeople discount the opinion of a forensic examiner who had a priori knowledge of biasing information (i.e., a defendant's confession) that could have influenced his opinion. In three experiments, laypeople (N = 765) read and evaluated a trial summary which, for some, included testimony from a forensic examiner who was either unaware or aware of the defendant's confession, and either denied or admitted that it could have impacted his opinion. When the examiner admitted that the confession could have influenced his opinion, laypeople generally discounted his testimony, as evidenced by their verdicts and other ratings. However, when the examiner denied being vulnerable to bias, laypeople tended to believe him-and they weighted his testimony as strongly as that of the confession-unaware examiner. In short, laypeople generally failed to recognize the superiority of forensic science judgments made by context-blind examiners, and they instead trusted examiners who claimed to be impervious to bias. As such, our findings highlight the value of implementing context management procedures in forensic laboratories so as not to mislead fact-finders.


Subject(s)
Bias , Decision Making , Expert Testimony , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Female , Humans , Male
4.
J Forensic Leg Med ; 74: 102021, 2020 Aug.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32769042

ABSTRACT

In coming to a European Forensic Evidence Area, an European Union ambition to be reached by 2020, judicial cooperation in criminal matters should be levelled-up. Grounded on the legal basis provided by the Lisbon Treaty, this research identifies the minimum standards to be developed by looking into the actions taken both from a legal and from a forensic-scientific perspective to standardise the collection, storage and use of forensic expert evidence. In examining the feasibility of such standards, primary sources of legislation, policy documents and case-law on a European level are compared with a comparative study of domestic norms in six jurisdictions. Depending on the phase in the chain of custody and fundamental principle involved, but also on the level of cooperation between the forensic and legal actors, it was noticeable that the comparison led to different conclusions, depending on the refusal grounds provided by the member states and the necessity of intervention at the European level to safeguard the underlying fundamental values.


Subject(s)
Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Information Dissemination/legislation & jurisprudence , Civil Rights/legislation & jurisprudence , Crime/legislation & jurisprudence , DNA Fingerprinting/legislation & jurisprudence , Dermatoglyphics , European Union , Expert Testimony/legislation & jurisprudence , Humans
5.
Int J Legal Med ; 134(5): 1875-1895, 2020 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-32440888

ABSTRACT

Taphonomy is the study of decaying organisms over time and their process of fossilization. Taphonomy, originally a branch of palaeontology and anthropology, was developed to understand the ecology of a decomposition site, how site ecology changes upon the introduction of plant or animal remains and, in turn, how site ecology affects the decomposition of these materials. In recent years, these goals were incorporated by forensic science to understand the decomposition of human cadavers, to provide a basis on which to estimate postmortem and/or postburial interval, to assist in the determination of cause and circumstances of death, and to aid in the location of clandestine graves. These goals are achieved through the study of the factors that influence cadaver decomposition (e.g. temperature, moisture, insect activity). These studies have also provided insight into the belowground ecology of cadaver breakdown and allowed to develop useful protocols for mass disaster managements in humanitarian medicine. From the results obtained, new scientific disciplines have arisen, gathered under the word "taphonomics" such as the study of microorganisms living below/on a cadaver (thanatogeomicrobiology), and join the more classical forensic sciences such as anthropology, botany or entomology. Taking into account the specificities of the study object (human cadaver), primordial requirements are needed in terms of security (physical and environmental) as well as ethical and legal concerns which are studied in the Swiss context. The present review aims to present in a first part the concept of human forensic taphonomy facilities (HFTF, also colloquially named "body farm") leading to an enrichment of forensic sciences with new "taphonomics". The second part is focused on the mandatory points that must be addressed for a HFTF approach, especially because it requires a specific place to undertake this research which must be performed in conformity with a country's human ethics and laws.


Subject(s)
Forensic Sciences/ethics , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Forensic Sciences/methods , Private Facilities , Animals , Cadaver , Forensic Sciences/trends , Humans , Postmortem Changes , Switzerland
6.
J Forensic Leg Med ; 69: 101852, 2020 Jan.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31733462

ABSTRACT

In the light of the recent judgments issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), including two acquittals and one very recent condemnation of the accused on all charges, analysing and assessing evidentiary practice before the Court is all the more pressing. This article focuses on one particular type of evidence used by the Prosecution, namely, forensic evidence, to critically review how it has been used so far at the ICC and consider whether the prosecutorial strategy of focusing on a certain sample of crimes is finally paying off.


Subject(s)
Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Internationality/legislation & jurisprudence , War Crimes/legislation & jurisprudence , Humans
8.
Sci Justice ; 59(5): 573-579, 2019 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-31472803

ABSTRACT

The goal of this paper is to discuss scientific integrity, consumerism, conflicts of interest, and transparency within the context of forensic science. Forensic scientists play crucial roles within the legal system and are constantly under various pressures when performing analytical work, generating reports based on their analyses, or testifying to the content of these reports. Maintaining the scientific integrity of these actions is paramount to supporting a functional legal system and the practice of good science. Our goal is to discuss the importance of scientific integrity as well as the factors it may compromise, so that forensic practitioners may be better equipped to recognize and avoid conflicts of interest when they arise. In this discussion we define terms, concepts, and professional relationships as well as present three case studies to contextualize these ideas.


Subject(s)
Conflict of Interest , Ethics, Professional , Forensic Sciences/ethics , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Forensic Sciences/standards , Professional Practice/ethics , Expert Testimony/ethics , Guidelines as Topic , Humans
10.
J Forensic Sci ; 64(5): 1379-1388, 2019 Sep.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30791101

ABSTRACT

Contextual bias has been widely discussed as a possible problem in forensic science. The trial simulation experiment reported here examined reactions of jurors at a county courthouse to cross-examination and arguments about contextual bias in a hypothetical case. We varied whether the key prosecution witness (a forensic odontologist) was cross-examined about the subjectivity of his interpretations and about his exposure to potentially biasing task-irrelevant information. Jurors found the expert less credible and were less likely to convict when the expert admitted that his interpretation rested on subjective judgment, and when he admitted having been exposed to potentially biasing task-irrelevant contextual information (relative to when these issues were not raised by the lawyers). The findings suggest, however, that forensic scientists can immunize themselves against such challenges and maximize the weight jurors give their evidence by adopting context management procedures that blind them to task-irrelevant information.


Subject(s)
Bias , Decision Making , Expert Testimony , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Judgment , Adult , Bites, Human , Criminal Law , Female , Humans , Male
11.
Forensic Sci Int ; 296: 123-131, 2019 Mar.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30716551

ABSTRACT

Forensic Advisors, at the Belgian National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology, occupy a centralising role in regards to analytical information and forensic questions in the judicial cases. Magistrates can request their advice but remain formally responsible for all decisions regarding trace processing. Nevertheless, magistrates' decisions are guided by the fact that a trace is recommended for analysis by a Forensic Advisor in all three types of cases studied (homicide, robbery, burglary). Moreover, this advice leads to more potentially useful information (in the case of biological traces). The advice formulated by the Forensic Advisor is however not easily modelled and depends on a multitude of factors, as they take into account all available information about the condition of the traces and case circumstances, magistrates' questions and available analytical results. This study underlines that their involvement in the case, as early and integrated as possible, presents a valuable forensic generalist contribution to the judicial case.


Subject(s)
Advisory Committees , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Belgium , Criminal Law , Decision Making , Decision Trees , Humans
12.
Forensic Sci Int ; 296: 57-66, 2019 Mar.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30690252

ABSTRACT

Following the technological rise of surveillance cameras and their subsequent proliferation in public places, the use of information gathered by such means for investigative and evaluative purposes sparked a large interest in the forensic community and within policing scenarios. In particular, it is suggested that analysis of the body, especially the assessment of gait characteristics, can provide useful information to aid the investigation. This paper discusses the influences upon gait to mitigate some of the limitations of surveillance footage, including those due to the varying anatomical differences between individuals. Furthermore, the differences between various techniques applied to assess gait are discussed, including biometric gait recognition, forensic gait analysis, tracking technology, and marker technology. This review article discusses the limitations of the current methods for assessment of gait; exposing gaps within the literature in regard to various influences impacting upon the gait cycle. Furthermore, it suggests a 'morphometric' technique to enhance the available procedures to potentially facilitate the development of standardised protocols with supporting statistics and database. This in turn will provide meaningful information to forensic investigation, intelligence-gathering processes, and potentially as an additional method of forensic evaluation of evidence.


Subject(s)
Biometric Identification/methods , Forensic Sciences/methods , Gait Analysis , Video Recording , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Humans , Image Processing, Computer-Assisted , Lower Extremity/anatomy & histology , Lower Extremity/physiology
13.
FEMS Microbiol Lett ; 366(3)2019 02 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30689874

ABSTRACT

The microorganisms with which we share our world go largely unnoticed. We are, however, beginning to be able to exploit their apparently silent presence as witnesses to events that are of legal concern. This information can be used to link forensic samples to criminal events and even perpetrators. Once dead, our bodies are rapidly colonised, internally and externally. The progress of these events can be charted to inform how long and even by what means a person has died. A small number of microbial species could actually be the cause of such deaths as a result of biocrime or bioterrorism. The procedures and techniques to respond to such attacks have matured in the last 20 years. The capability now exists to identify malicious intent, characterise the threat agent to isolate level and potentially link it to perpetrators with a high level of confidence.


Subject(s)
Environmental Microbiology , Forensic Sciences/trends , Microbiota , Bioterrorism , Crime , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Genetics, Microbial/legislation & jurisprudence , Homicide , Humans , Microbiota/genetics
14.
Drug Test Anal ; 11(1): 140-156, 2019 Jan.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30109771

ABSTRACT

Following the implementation of prison smoke-free policies, there have been reports of prisoners creating substitute cigarettes made from nicotine replacement therapy patches or lozenges infused with tea leaves ("teabacco"). No studies have analyzed the chemical constituents of teabacco made from nicotine lozenges, so as to document any potential related health hazards. Teabacco samples were made by a participant who reported creating teabacco while incarcerated in a smoke-free prison in Queensland, Australia, and the process was video-recorded for replication in a laboratory. A simple linear smoking system captured the teabacco smoke for analysis. Inductively coupled plasma optical emission spectroscopy (ICP-OES) was used to analyze elemental composition and gas chromatography coupled with a mass spectrometer (GC-MS) analyzed the captured smoke using the National Institute of Standards and Technology mass spectral library. Analyses determined that quantities of copper, aluminum, and lead concentrations, and levels of inhaled total particulate matter, were above recommended guidelines for safe ingestion. Analysis of teabacco smoke using GC-MS identified potentially toxic compounds catechol and nicotine. However, our findings show that smoking this form of teabacco is less harmful than smoking teabacco made from nicotine patches, or smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes. Considering the limited potential health harm of smoking teabacco made from lozenges, and that nicotine lozenges represent the only form of smoking cessation support for individuals entering smoke-free prisons, we caution against the removal of nicotine lozenges from Queensland's prisons, at least until further research directly establishes health harms associated with this form of teabacco.


Subject(s)
Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Prisons/legislation & jurisprudence , Smoke-Free Policy/legislation & jurisprudence , Smoking Cessation/methods , Tobacco Products/analysis , Tobacco Use Cessation Devices , Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry/methods , Humans , Queensland/epidemiology , Tobacco/chemistry
15.
Forensic Sci Med Pathol ; 15(1): 41-47, 2019 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-30519987

ABSTRACT

A major task of forensic investigations is the documentation and interpretation of evidence to reconstruct a forensically relevant incident. To accomplish this task, a scene is documented not only with photographs but also with 3D documentation technologies. The resulting 3D data are used for 3D visualization and to perform 3D reconstructions. In this article, we present an approach for using forensic 3D data in conjunction with virtual reality to perform scene walkthroughs in the context of witness or suspect interrogations. The aim is to provide a method for scene visits showing the original scene even years after the incident. These scene walkthroughs in VR can be reproduced and allow to see through the eyes of a witness by recording their behavior and actions. These recordings allow subsequent examinations and reconstruction to support the investigation and scene understanding and can be used as evidence in court.


Subject(s)
Forensic Sciences/methods , Virtual Reality , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Humans
16.
Sci Justice ; 58(4): 292-298, 2018 Jul.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29895463

ABSTRACT

The use of gait analysis is a well-established facet of practice for many professions and a fundamental aspect of clinical practice. In recent times, gait analysis evidence has emerged as a new area of forensic practice. As its use has continued to spread and develop, the area of work has come under close scrutiny and subsequent criticism. The purpose of this paper is to examine the historical use of gait analysis evidence and consider the criticisms of this work. Through the use of the historical records of cases within the public domain it has been determined that gait analysis as evidence was first presented in court over 175 years ago, although it has only been utilized by experts in more recent times. The quality of analysis underpinning such evidence has been variable, and has been undertaken by both non-expert and expert witnesses. The work undertaken by expert witnesses appears to have been both non-scientific and scientific in nature, though there is limited reporting of cases involving scientific approaches. Given the variation in the quality of the methodologies utilized, there is the potential for confusion within the courts, where it may be difficult for the judge or jury to determine the appropriate weight that can be attributed to the evidence. It is concluded that future publications should explore the scientific basis of forensic gait analysis to evaluate standards, reliability and validity, as well as reporting the methodologies utilized in relevant cases in the field. It is also recommended that courts consider in greater depth an expert's theoretical approach and experience prior to admitting their evidence. The publication of 'Forensic gait analysis: a primer for courts', although limited in some aspects of its consideration of practice, is a welcome addition to the information available for guidance.


Subject(s)
Biometric Identification/methods , Gait , Expert Testimony , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Humans
18.
Psychon Bull Rev ; 25(6): 2346-2355, 2018 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29667124

ABSTRACT

Forensic handwriting examiners currently testify to the origin of questioned handwriting for legal purposes. However, forensic scientists are increasingly being encouraged to assign probabilities to their observations in the form of a likelihood ratio. This study is the first to examine whether handwriting experts are able to estimate the frequency of US handwriting features more accurately than novices. The results indicate that the absolute error for experts was lower than novices, but the size of the effect is modest, and the overall error rate even for experts is large enough as to raise questions about whether their estimates can be sufficiently trustworthy for presentation in courts. When errors are separated into effects caused by miscalibration and those caused by imprecision, we find systematic differences between individuals. Finally, we consider several ways of aggregating predictions from multiple experts, suggesting that quite substantial improvements in expert predictions are possible when a suitable aggregation method is used.


Subject(s)
Calibration , Expert Testimony/legislation & jurisprudence , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Handwriting , Judgment , Public Opinion , Bayes Theorem , Humans , Likelihood Functions , Probability
19.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A ; 115(18): 4541-4544, 2018 05 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29650539

ABSTRACT

Forensic science is critical to the administration of justice. The discipline of forensic science is remarkably complex and includes methodologies ranging from DNA analysis to chemical composition to pattern recognition. Many forensic practices developed under the auspices of law enforcement and were vetted primarily by the legal system rather than being subjected to scientific scrutiny and empirical testing. Beginning in the 1990s, exonerations based on DNA-related methods revealed problems with some forensic disciplines, leading to calls for major reforms. This process generated a National Academy of Science report in 2009 that was highly critical of many forensic practices and eventually led to the establishment of the National Commission for Forensic Science (NCFS) in 2013. The NCFS was a deliberative body that catalyzed communication between nonforensic scientists, forensic scientists, and other stakeholders in the legal community. In 2017, despite continuing problems with forensic science, the Department of Justice terminated the NCFS. Just when forensic science needs the most support, it is getting the least. We urge the larger scientific community to come to the aid of our forensic colleagues by advocating for urgently needed research, testing, and financial support.


Subject(s)
Forensic Sciences/education , Forensic Sciences/methods , Criminal Law , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Humans , Research
20.
Forensic Sci Int ; 285: 181-188, 2018 Apr.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: mdl-29510362

ABSTRACT

Forensic Advisors at the National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology in Brussels act as advising body to the magistrate regarding analytical possibilities and the usefulness of trace analysis in a case. Initially, their function was devised to assist in complex murder cases with unknown offender. However, in a previous study, the increasing diversity of the cases they are requested for has been observed (Bitzer et al., in press). In order to deepen our understanding of the decision steps in the criminal investigation process, the decision to involve a Forensic Advisor and the factors leading to their involvement were evaluated. The study focused on homicide, robbery and burglary cases with and without requests for a Forensic Advisor between January 2014 and June 2016. The factors were categorised into five knowledge dimensions: strategic, immediate, physical, criminal and utility. Decision tree modelling was carried out in order to identify the factors influencing the request for a Forensic Advisor in the case. The decision to request a Forensic Advisor differs between different types of offences. It also depends on the complexity of the case in terms of the number of traces and objects collected at the crime scene, and the availability of witness reports. Indeed, Forensic Advisors take the role of trace analysis coordinator by providing an overview of all available traces, objects, analyses and results. According to the principal implication factors and the performed case study, the contribution of Forensic Advisors consists mainly in summarising all information and advise on potential additional analyses. This might be explained by a loss of overview of the information and the possibilities regarding trace analysis by the magistrate responsible of the case.


Subject(s)
Consultants , Criminal Law , Forensic Sciences/legislation & jurisprudence , Forensic Sciences/organization & administration , Belgium , Decision Trees , Humans , Professional Competence
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