Forensic Database

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Evolution of Fingerprint Practices and Implications to Litigation

The National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law is pleased to host Latent Print Expert and Principal Forensic Analyst Mr. Henry Swofford for our most recent offering in NCSTL's webinar series Evolution of Fingerprint Practices and Implications to Litigation. The webinar covers a broad overview of key issues related to traditional fingerprint examination practices raised by various scientific committees over the last decade. Salient findings from major research studies (e.g., black-box error rate studies) and their implications will be discussed. Mr. Swofford will present a "litigator's checklist" that highlights key areas to focus on during litigation of fingerprint evidence. Click here for registration link



NCSTL Mourns the Passing of Professor Carol Henderson

The National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law is saddened to announce the passing of our Founding Director, Professor Carol Henderson. While it is both a personal and professional loss for the NCSTL staff, we know that her passing is felt just as deeply among her worldwide circle of colleagues and friends. For more information about honoring Carol’s memory, please check the online memorial site.



Webinars On Demand

Under the Capital Litigation Initiative, the Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics series currently offers eleven on-demand webinars on the following topics: crime scene processing, crime labs, pathology, toxicology, fire analysis, document examination, OSAC, certification/accreditation, electronic evidence, forensic psychology, and drug chemistry. Earn CLE credit as you watch these complimentary webinars. View more information and a full list of webinars.



NCSTL Offers Live Train The Trainer Seminars

NCSTL is hosting a complimentary seminar series called Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics: Train the Trainer. These live training seminars are part of the Capital Litigation Initiative Training. These two-day training seminars will focus on providing forensic information for people who will take that information back to their offices to teach their colleagues. Intended for defense attorneys and prosecutors who actively try capital cases, the interactive seminar will cover a variety of forensic topics with an emphasis on how to teach them. Keep checking back for information about the next live training opportunities.

Attendees will earn CLE credit. Registration and travel expenses will be provided for all eligible attendees. These seminars are made possible by BJA Grant # 2015-CP-BX-K006. More information can be found in the Training and Education section of the NCSTL website.



New Technology Uses DNA to Create Composite Sketches

According to an article in the Vancouver Sun by Lori Culbert, “Vancouver police have for the first time used an innovative technology that allowed them to create a composite sketch based on DNA found at the crime scene of an unsolved murder. They hope the picture will lead to fresh tips in the 2003 case.

The Snapshot analysis service — developed by Virginia-based Parabon — uses DNA to estimate the colour of an individual’s hair, skin and eyes, as well as face shape, and then creates an image that should look similar to the person.

The composite is a scientific approximation of what the man police are searching for looked like, and not an exact replica of his appearance. Because DNA can’t tell how old or heavy-set a person is, Parabon’s composites show what people should look like at age 25 and at an average weight. Facial hair, scars and whether the person wore glasses are also unknowns.

Parabon developed this technology several years ago, funded by the United States Department of Defense. Skeptics have questioned how accurate the composites can be, but company officials say they are intended to provide enough of a likeness of a person to jog the memories of witnesses or to help police decide which suspects to focus on.”



Learn More About the Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science

The Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) for Forensic Science works to strengthen the nation’s use of forensic science by facilitating the development of technically sound forensic science standards and by promoting the adoption of those standards by the forensic science community.

These standards are written documents that define minimum requirements, best practices, standard protocols, and other guidance to help ensure that the results of forensic analysis are reliable and reproducible.

OSAC is administered by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), but the great majority of its more than 550 members are from other government agencies, academic institutions, and the private sector. These members have expertise in twenty-five specific forensic disciplines, as well as general expertise in scientific research, measurement science, statistics, law, and policy.

To learn more about OSAC, forensic sciences and their place in the ever changing legal landscape, view our training materials and on demand webinar OSAC Essentials: Forensic Science Resources.



PCAST Report -- Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature Comparison Methods

PCAST Report

PCAST, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, released a report on September 20, 2016, discussing the role of scientific validity in the legal system. The report, Forensic Science in Criminal Courts: Ensuring Scientific Validity of Feature-Comparison Methods, evaluated validity of seven areas:

  • DNA analysis of single-source and simple-mixture samples
  • DNA analysis of complex-mixture samples
  • Bitemark anaysis
  • Latent fingerprint analysis
  • firearms analysis
  • footwear anaylsis
  • hair analysis
  • The report concludes by making several recommendations to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Organization for Scientific Area Committees (OSAC), the FBI Laboratory, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Judiciary.

    Several organizations responded to the PCAST Report, including:

    For more information on the PCAST Report, see https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/09/20/pcast-releases-report-forensic-science-criminal-courts

    Education and Training
    Capital Litigation picture

    A new grant in the amount of $400,000 was awarded to Stetson University College of Law for the National Clearinghouse for Science, Technology and the Law (NCSTL) to develop a forensic evidence training program for lawyers who work on death penalty cases. “This training program is crucial at a time when life or death often hinges on the presentation of forensic evidence in the courtroom,” said NCSTL Founding Director and Professor of Law Carol Henderson.

    The grant, awarded by the U.S. Attorney General as part of the Adjudication and Law Enforcement National Initiatives, will support the development of a “Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics” program. The new training program will provide in-person and webinar training on forensic science evidence and the use of expert testimony.

    “Training in forensic evidence is essential to improve the quality of legal representation and to ensure reliable jury verdicts,” said Henderson. Stetson’s National Clearinghouse was developed to foster communication between the scientific, technological and legal communities, providing comprehensive scientific, technological and legal information to promote justice based on sound science and technology. The NCSTL has trained more than 13,500 legal and scientific professionals since its inception in-person and online. The NCSTL has released the following CLE/CE Programs: SANE-SART Training for Forensic Nurses, A Collaboration Between NCSTL and SANE-SART Resource Services, Law 101: Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert, sponsored by National Institute of Justice (NIJ), housed on DNA.gov, billed by NIJ as "one of the most popular courses EVER", Forensic Science Course for Capital Litigators - Self-Study which focuses on forensic science. Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert has been a very popular course published on DNA.gov two years ago.

    Under grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), NCSTL has conducted many training in-person workshops on the use of forensic science in capital cases over the past several years. See Education and Training Section of this website. In 2016, two more in-person workshops will be conducted for prosecutors and defense attorneys - who litigate capital cases.



    This Web site is funded in whole or in part through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. Neither the U.S. Department of Justice nor any of its components operate, control, are responsible for, or necessarily endorse, this Web site (including, without limitation, its content, technical infrastructure, and policies, and any services or tools provided).

    What is NCSTL?

    NCSTL.org is the only online resource in the world that concentrates on the nexus of science, technology, and the law. Focusing on forensic science and scientific evidence, NCSTL.org educates and shares information with scientists, legal professionals, law enforcement, academics, and the public.


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    Calendar
    Thursday Sep 16, 2021

    Capital Litigation Initiative Webinars: Crime Scene to Courtroom Forensics Training

    Latest webinar:

    Emerging Issues in Forensic Genealogy -- November 17, 2020. This webinar, presented by Investigative Genealogy Consultant, Barbara Rae-Venter and DNA Expert, Tiffany Roy, examined the benefits of using investigative genetic genealogy to solve crime cases and the legal implications of using this emerging technique.

    NCSTL offers a series of webinars about forensic science and scientific evidence. Funded by a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance through its Capital Litigation Initiative, the webinars are intended for potential capital litigators, both prosecution and defense, who want to learn more about forensic science as it relates to capital cases.

    Attendees who complete each webinar are eligible for free Continuing Legal Education credits. Stetson University College of Law's Office of Professional Education will work with each individual participant for reporting specifics. Email ope@law.stetson.edu for further information and state specific requests.

    More information about the webinars and CLE credit.



    NCSTL also offers the following webinars on demand: