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Category Archives: High Tech Forensics

Does “Body Recognition” Compare With DNA?

Does “Body Recognition” Compare With DNA?

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The forensic anatomy researchers at the University of Adelaide think this just might be the case. If so, this technique might be useful in identifying criminals and missing persons from photos and videos where facial features aren’t clearly shown.

Anthropomorphic measurements for identification aren’t new. In fact, they are over 100 years old. One of the pioneers in this endeavor was Alphonse Bertillon who devised a system hat became known as Bertillonage. It was the standard until fingerprints proved more reliable and discriminatory.

Alphonse Bertillon

Alphonse Bertillon

From HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS:

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ANTHROPOMETRY AND BERTILLONAGE

Anthropometry (anthrop means “human”; metry means “to measure”) is defined as the study of human body measurements for use in anthropological classification and comparison. Simply put, it is the making of body measurements in order to compare individuals with each other.

Using anthropometry, French police officer Alphonse Bertillon (1853–1914) developed the first truly organized system for identifying individuals in 1882.

Believing that the human skeleton did not change in size from about age twenty until death and that each person’s measurements were unique, he created a system of body measurements that became known as bertillonage.

According to Bertillon, the odds of two people having the same bertillonage

measurements were 286 million to one. This belief led Bertillon to state that all people could be distinguished from one another by key measurements, such as height, seated height from head to seat, length and width of the head, right ear length, left little finger length, and width of the cheeks, among others. His greatest triumph came in February 1883, when he measured a thief named Dupont and compared his profile against his files of known criminals. He found that Dupont’s measurements matched a man named Martin. Dupont ultimately confessed that he was indeed Martin.

For many years, this system was accepted by many jurisdictions, but by the dawn of the twentieth century cracks began to appear. The measurements were inexact and subject to variation, depending upon who made them. And because the measurements in two people who were of the same size, weight, and body type varied by fractions of a centimeter, flaws quickly appeared and the system was soon discontinued. Its death knell tolled with the famous Will West case.

FORENSIC CASE FILES: THE WILL WEST CASE

Though landmark in its importance, this case was an odd comical coincidence.

On May 1, 1903, Will West came to Leavenworth Penitentiary in Kansas. The records

clerk apparently thought that the man looked familiar, but the new inmate denied ever having been in the prison before. As part of his intake examination, anthropometry was performed and officials were surprised to find that Will’s measurements exactly matched those of William West, another inmate at Leavenworth. The two men even looked eerily similar as if they were twins.

They were brought together into the same room, but each stated that they were not brothers. Fingerprints were then used to distinguish between the two Wills after which Leavenworth immediately dumped anthropometry and switched to a fingerprint-based system for identifying prisoners. New York’s Sing Sing prison followed a month later.

But was the similarity between Will and William West just a bizarre coincidence?

Not really. A report in the Journal of Police Science and Administration in 1980 revealed that the two actually were identical twins. They possessed many fingerprint similarities, nearly identical ear configurations (unusual in any circumstance except with identical twins), and each of the men wrote letters to the same brother, same five sisters, and same Uncle George. So, even though the brothers denied it, it seemed that they were related after all.

In 2010 and also in 2012, I posted on Bertillon’s technique:

https://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2009/10/10/fingerprints-and-the-forensic-world-part-2/

https://writersforensicsblog.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/handprints-and-stature-whats-old-is-now-new/

 

Crime and Science Radio: Spy vs Spy vs Spy: An Interview with the Queen of Espionage Gayle Lynds

3-14-15: Crime and Science Radio: Spy vs Spy vs Spy: An Interview with the Queen of Espionage Gayle Lynds This Saturday, 3-14-15 at 10 a.m. PDT, join DP Lyle and Jan Burke in conversation with best-selling author and Queen of Espionage Gayle Lynds and learn about the world of clandestine activity, both real and fictional.   Gayle at BEA   BIO: Gayle began her writing career as a reporter for The Arizona Republic, where her investigative reporting made such an impact that it led to changes in state legislation. Later she was an editor with rare Top Secret security clearance at a government think tank, where assorted shadowy figures passed through silently and not only ideas but people seemed to bounce off the walls. She was inspired. Soon she began writing literary short stories, which were published in literary journals, and at the same time in what some considered schizophrenic, she also wrote male pulp novels in the Nick Carter and Mack Bolan series. She is now a New York Times bestselling author of ten spy novels. Library Journal has called her the Reigning Queen of Espionage. Her latest espionage thriller is The Assassins, which you can preorder now. It will be in stores June 30th.

LISTEN: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2015/02/16/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-gayle-lynds

LINKS: Gayle Lynd’s Website: http://www.gaylelynds.com

Gayle Lynd’s Spy Files: http://www.gaylelynds.com/spyfiles.html

CIA Homepage: https://www.cia.gov/index.html

CIA World Factbook: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/index.html

MI5: https://www.mi5.gov.uk

MI6 (Secret Intelligence Service): https://www.sis.gov.uk/index.html

The Assassins-300   Last Spymaster-300             Book of Spies- 300

 

Assessing The Crime Scene in 3D

Crime scene documentation is a critical step in criminal investigations. Knowing the spatial relationships between perpetrator, victim, and evidence items such as weapons, shoe prints, blood spatter, etc., as well as the physical layout of the scene, affords investigators a better look at who did what to whom. For many years, crime scene sketches, photos, and videos have proven useful in this regard.

Such techniques are discussed in detail in my book HOWDUNNIT: FORENSICS

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But wouldn’t a 3D holograph of the scene offer an even better understanding? Wouldn’t it be useful to “show” jurors how the crime actually went down? Looks like that might now be possible.

The process begins with laser mapping of the scene:

CS Laser

As stated by Jeremy Bailenson of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford University in California: ”Imagine you could transport the entire jury, the judge, the litigators – everybody – back to the crime scene during the crime.”

Yeah. Imagine that.

 

Murder Solved By Clever DNA Testing of an Old Stamp

DNA PROFILE

DNA PROFILE

Here is an amazing and convoluted story that involves good police work and clever DNA testing, including the use of old and very small samples and familial DNA techniques (instrumental in identifying the serial killer known as the Grim Sleeper). More proof that criminals can run but they can’t hide. Not for long anyway.

 

Crime and Science Radio This Saturday: An Interview With Barry A.J. Fisher, Past President of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

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Crime and Science Radio: The Changing World of Forensic Science: An Interview With Barry A.J. Fisher, past president of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences

Join DP Lyle and Jan Burke for a discussion with Barry A.J. Fisher, who spent two decades as the director of the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department’s crime labs. We’ll talk about his career, the present and future state of forensic science, new legislation and and how  the public can help to ensure the betterment of forensic science services.

BIO: An internationally regarded forensic scientist and leader in his field, Barry A. J. Fisher retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s crime lab after a 40 year distinguished career, the last 20 as crime lab director. He was responsible for conceptualizing, planning and coordinating the new LASD/LAPD crime lab located at California State University named the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center and the creation of the California Forensic Scince Institute.

Barry received his B.S. degree in chemistry from CCNY, his M.S. degree in organic chemistry from Purdue University and an M.B.A. from California State University, Northridge. He is a past president of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors, past chair of the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board, past president and distinguished fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences where he was awarded its highest honor, Gradwohl Medallion. He served as president of the International Association of Forensic Sciences and is a member of many other professional organizations including the IAI, CAC, TIAFT, CAT, and the IACP. 

His current interests concern the interrelationship between forensic science and the law along with public policy issues concerning the timely delivery of quality forensic support services to the criminal justice system. He served as a member of the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section’s Ad Hoc Committee to Ensure the Integrity of the Criminal. 

He is a founding director and served on the Board of Directors of the National Forensic Science Technology Center from 1995 until 2007. Fisher is a member of several editorial boards:  the Journal of Forensic Sciences, the Journal of Forensic Identification, Forensic Science Policy and Management and the McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science and Technology. Fisher is an alumni member of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents and a life member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police and was a member of the IACP’s Forensics Committee. 

His textbook, Techniques of Crime Scene Investigation, in its 8th edition, enjoys wide popularity.  He is a co-author of two other books, Forensics Demystified and An Introduction to Criminalistics: The Foundation of Forensic Science.

Fisher lectures throughout the United States, and has spoken in Canada, England, Australia, Singapore, France, Israel, Japan, China, Turkey and Portugal on forensic science laboratory practices, quality assurance and related topics.  In 2000, he led a forensic science delegation to lecture to forensic scientists in the People’s Republic of China.  In 2012, he was invited again to China to lecture on forensic science developments in the United States.

Since retiring, Fisher has consulted for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United States Department of Justice, International Criminal Investigative Training Program (ICITAP) and Analytic Services Inc., a not-for-profit institute that provides studies and analyses to aid decision-makers in national security, homeland security, and public safety. He also consults on forensic science matters with Park Dietz and Associates.

Fisher, a native New Yorker, is married. He and his wife Susan reside in Indio in Riverside County, California. They have two married sons: David, a criminalist with the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner Forensic Biology Department, and Michael, an entrepreneur, and eight grandchildren.

LISTENhttp://www.blogtalkradio.com/suspensemagazine/2014/06/24/crime-and-science-radio-with-special-guest-barry-fisher

LINKS:

Announcement of Formation of the National Commission on Forensic Science

LASD Scientific Services Bureau

LAPD Scientific Investigation Division

American Academy of Forensic Sciences

American Society of Crime Lab Directors

American Society of Crime Lab Directors – Laboratory Accreditation Board

Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center

World Forensic Festival, Seoul, Korea, October 2014

International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program

National Academy of Sciences 2009 Study: Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States

National Forensic Science Technology Center

American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section

International Association of Chiefs of Police

American Bar Association Science and Technology Section

 

Can Odor Reveal the Time Of Death?

One of the most important determinations that the medical examiner must make in any death investigation is the Time Of Death (TOD). This alone might help solve a homicide. Who had the motive, means, and opportunity? The time of death relates to the opportunity. If the death occurred while the primary suspect was in another state or had a solid alibi, then he moves down the suspect list. On the other hand, if the TOD was determined to be a time frame where he was in the neighborhood, then he remains a viable suspect.

The ME uses many techniques to help estimate the TOD. Check out this ARTICLE for a brief overview of these techniques. One of the methods he employs is the degree of decay that has occurred. He must take into account the environmental conditions near the corpse and then must make a best estimate as to how fast the decomposition process would have advanced under those conditions. This is always a best guess, as is the case with each of the techniques he employs.

When a corpse decays it undergoes a chemical decomposition and this process releases many volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the surrounding air. These compounds are at least partially responsible for the odor of decay and they tend to be released in a predictable pattern as the decay process progresses. What if these VOCs could be sampled and used as a more scientific method for determining the Post Mortem Interval (PMI)? That is, the time since death.

Research is currently underway to assess this technique. Using the combination of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS), researchers have found that these volatile chemicals can be trapped and analyzed. Hopefully this technique will prove to be useful in narrowing down the TOD. We’ll see.

 

Gas Chromatograph

Gas Chromatograph

 

 

 

Futuristic Robotic Surgery Is Here

Robotic Device

 

My second Dub Walker thriller HOT LIGHTS, COLD STEEL dealt with the future of robotic surgery. Future as in way down the road. But now it seems it’s not all that far away. Virtual Incision in Lincoln, Nebraska is working on a very clever device that could make space missions safer. Very cool stuff.

 

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