It's Evident... NCSTL's Quarterly e-Newsletter
FROM THE DIRECTOR’S DESK... Carol Henderson
This column is a synopsis of what NCSTL has accomplished since October, 2013 and highlights what is new. This issue of It's Evident
features articles related to forensic issues that Capital Litigators and Forensic Nurses may find relevant to their practice.
- http://www.ncstl.org’s “one-stop-shop” database currently holds almost 142,331 records of which over 8,100 are multimedia records. NCSTL continues to develop and consolidate forensic-based information including webcasts, podcasts, vodcasts, blog links, and training materials which focus on science, technology and law topics;
- People from over 170 countries search the growing database, read most current forensic-related news in the Spotlight section and It's Evident, locate events on the NCSTL Calendar, explore Education & Training resources, listen to talks given by forensic experts featured in the Multimedia area of the homepage, and subscribe to NCSTL's RSS Feeds.
- To inform NCSTL's constituency, which includes law enforcement, legal professionals, scientists, engineers, educators, and technologists, NCSTL representatives make presentations and offer training in-person and online on a multitude of topics. NCSTL has trained more than 13,500 professionals in-person and numerous people online.
NCSTL’s new Forensic Science Course for Capital Litigators is an online self-study which was just released in April, 2014. Hear pre-eminent experts and masters in forensic science discuss fourteen topics ranging from CSI to Toxicology. Earn up to 25 CLE General Credits, 2 CLE Mental Health Credits, and 2 CLE Substance Abuse Credits for participating in this self-study. This course is free and available to the public.
NCSTL reminds readers that the online course, Law 101: A Legal Guide for the Forensic Expert, housed on DNA.gov, is highly popular and was billed as “one of the most popular courses ever offered on DNA.gov”. It is also free and available to the public. To see it and/or take the course, go to https://law101.dna.gov and register for an account.
- I have been busy with various projects which benefit NCSTL. On October 12, 2013, I presented “Science and Technology” at the Fall Leadership Summit on Modern Technology and the Law for the ABA Law Student Division Circuits 9, 12, 14 and 15 at University of Nevada in Las Vegas. The presentation focused on the role science and technology plays in the law today and what can be anticipated as its role in the future. Information about the NCSTL and its value to lawyers researching the fields of science and technology was shared. On January 29, 2014, I participated on a panel “Digital Forensics in the Cloud and on Mobile Devices Plus a Discussion on the Role of Forensics Training” at the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Information Governance, Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence National Institute held at Stetson College of Law’s Tampa campus.
I attended the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) 66th Annual Scientific Meeting in Seattle, Washington from February 17-22, 2014 where I participated in the Mentorship in Motion Program and the Young Forensic Scientist’s Resume Review session. I was appointed to the AAFS International Affairs Committee and I am participating in the reinvigoration of the AAFS Forensic Sciences Foundation Think Tank committee. The committee was created by Dr. Froede to keep abreast of new technology developments and their potential impact on the forensic science community.
I was also appointed to the International Scientific Committee for the 20th International Association of Forensic Sciences (IAFS) meeting which will be held in Seoul, Korea October 13-17, 2014. In this role I will review abstracts before the conference, chair sessions during the conference, and present a lecture and a workshop. I continue to serve as the co-chair of the Life & Physical Sciences Division of the Science & Technology Law Section of the ABA.
Recently, I traveled to the UK where I delivered NCSTL information to Gary Pugh, OBE, Director of Forensic Services for the Metropolitan Police Service at New Scotland Yard, London and Andrew Rennison, the Forensic Science Regulator for the UK.
Wishing you all the best!
Preferring the “Wise Man” to Science: The Failure of Courts and Non-Litigation Mechanisms to Demand Validity in Forensic Matching Testimony
Jules Epstein, Professor of Law, Widener University School of Law
Forensic evidence is often critical in investigating cases and proving culpability. Studies from the 1980s “found [that] clearance rates of offenses with evidence scientifically analyzed were about three times greater than in cases where such evidence was not used[,]”1
and this trend has continued.2
Notwithstanding both its importance and its utility, much forensic evidence other than DNA has been criticized for its lack of scientific validation3
, with the most significant and trenchant assessment coming from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences (“NAS” or “Academy”) in its 2009 report “Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States: A Path Forward”4
(the “NAS Report”). There had been earlier criticisms, particularly from academics, questioning whether disciplines such as latent print and handwriting examinations were science and capable of “individualization,” the conclusion that the crime scene print came from one suspect to the exclusion of all other persons in the universe.5
There was even prompting from within forensic practitioners' communities for scientific research to validate (or confirm the self-perceived validity of6
) their methodologies and outcomes. Full paper
Best Practices and Admissibility of Forensic Author Identification
Carole Chaski, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Institute for Linguistic Evidence and President of ALIAS Technology, LLC.
Dr. Chaski presents results of validation testing. In this particular article, Dr. Chaski discusses author identification in relation to linguistics, research, and admissibility as evidence in U.S. courts.
Forensic linguistics provides answers to four categories of inquiry in investigative and legal settings: (i) identification of author, language, or speaker; (ii) intertextuality, or the relationship between texts; (iii) text-typing or classification of text types such as threats, suicide notes, or predatory chat; and (iv) linguistic profiling to assess the author’s dialect, native language, age, gender, and educational level. This article discusses author identification in relation to linguistics, research, and admissibility as evidence in U.S. courts. It focuses upon the forensic computational linguistic approach and contrasts this approach to the forensic stylistics and stylometric computing approaches. Full paper
The Evolution of Fire Investigation
John J. Lentini, CFEI, F-ABC, Scientific Fire Analysis, LLC
The first step in investigating an alleged arson fire is to make certain that the fire was, in fact, intentionally set. Except in the most obvious cases, this step requires expert assistance from a knowledgeable fire investigator. This article will describe the changes that have impacted the fire investigation profession over the last three
decades. Although the change has been gradual and at times maddeningly slow, the pace of change has stepped up even as our knowledge of fire behavior makes us less certain about the accuracy of fire origin and cause determinations. Criminal justice professionals should be aware of the changes in the science, to enable them
to decide whether to go forward with the prosecution, mount a defense, or challenge evidence based on its reliability or lack thereof. Full paper
FROM THE RESEARCH DESK...
Diana Botluk, Director of Research
Check out the NCSTL exclusive forensic videos created by NCSTL Research Attorney, Kevin Paget: Forensics of Firearms
and History of Fingerprints
Visit the NCSTL's Selected Books Added to the NCSTL Collection
in the Stetson Library and the NCSTL's Special Collections
from the collections.
TECHNOLOGY AND DISTANCE EDUCATION NEWS
Dr. Susan Zucker, Director Technology & Distance Education and Publisher and Editor of It's Evident
Released in April, 2014, NCSTL's Forensic Science Course for Capital Litigators
is a free self-study designed to help attorneys who are preparing capital cases. The course was approved by the Florida Bar for continuing education credit hours:
25 General Credits, 2 Mental Health Credits, and 2 Substance Abuse Credits.
NCSTL's Forensic Science Course for Capital Litigators features information on fourteen (14) forensic topics delivered by masters and pre-eminent forensic specialists. Topics include:
Forensic Anthropology, Blood Pattern Analysis, Crime Scene Investigation, Digital and Multimedia Sciences, DNA, Entomology, Expert Witnesses, Eyewitness Evidence, Forensic Science Research for Lawyers, Forensic Odontology, Forensic Pathology, Pattern Evidence, Forensic Psychology & Behavioral Sciences, and Toxicology.