Journal Cover Science & Justice
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   Hybrid Journal Hybrid journal (It can contain Open Access articles)
   ISSN (Print) 1355-0306
   Published by Elsevier Homepage  [3120 journals]
  • A systematic analysis of misleading evidence in unsafe rulings in England
           and Wales
    • Authors: Nadine M. Smit; Ruth M. Morgan; David A. Lagnado
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 25 September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Nadine M. Smit, Ruth M. Morgan, David A. Lagnado
      Evidence has the potential to be misleading if its value when expressing beliefs in hypotheses is not fully understood or presented. Although the knowledge base to understand uncertainties is growing, a challenge remains to prioritise research and to continuously assess the magnitude and consequences of misleading evidence in criminal cases. This study used a systematic content analysis to identify misleading evidence, drawing information from case transcripts of rulings argued unsafe by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. In the 7-year study period, 218 applications were successful on appeal, containing 235 cases of misleading evidence. The majority (76%) of successful appeals were based upon the same materials available in the original trial, rather than the presentation of new relevant information. Witness (39%), forensic (32%), and character evidence (19%) were the most commonly observed evidence types, with the validity of witnesses (26%), probative value of forensic evidence (12%), and relevance of character evidence (10%) being the most prevalent combinations of identified issues. Additionally, the majority (66%) of misleading evidence types relate to their interpretation at activity level. The findings suggest that many of these misleading aspects could have been prevented by providing more transparency in the relationship between evidence and hypotheses. Generally, the results contribute to gaining a more complete picture of the role of misleading evidence in the criminal justice system.

      PubDate: 2018-01-09T19:31:50Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.09.005
       
  • Editorial
    • Authors: Tim Thompson
      First page: 403
      Abstract: Publication date: November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 6
      Author(s): Tim Thompson


      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.11.003
       
  • Rapid identification information and its influence on the perceived clues
           at a crime scene: An experimental study
    • Authors: Madeleine de Gruijter; Claire Nee; Christianne J. de Poot
      Pages: 421 - 430
      Abstract: Publication date: November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 6
      Author(s): Madeleine de Gruijter, Claire Nee, Christianne J. de Poot
      Crime scenes can always be explained in multiple ways. Traces alone do not provide enough information to infer a whole series of events that has taken place; they only provide clues for these inferences. CSIs need additional information to be able to interpret observed traces. In the near future, a new source of information that could help to interpret a crime scene and testing hypotheses will become available with the advent of rapid identification techniques. A previous study with CSIs demonstrated that this information had an influence on the interpretation of the crime scene, yet it is still unknown what exact information was used for this interpretation and for the construction of their scenario. The present study builds on this study and gains more insight into (1) the exact investigative and forensic information that was used by CSIs to construct their scenario, (2) the inferences drawn from this information, and (3) the kind of evidence that was selected at the crime scene to (dis)prove this scenario. We asked 48 CSIs to investigate a potential murder crime scene on the computer and explicate what information they used to construct a scenario and to select traces for analysis. The results show that the introduction of rapid ID information at the start of an investigation contributes to the recognition of different clues at the crime scene, but also to different interpretations of identical information, depending on the kind of information available and the scenario one has in mind. Furthermore, not all relevant traces were recognized, showing that important information can be missed during the investigation. In this study, accurate crime scenarios where mainly build with forensic information, but we should be aware of the fact that crime scenes are always contaminated with unrelated traces and thus be cautious of the power of rapid ID at the crime scene.

      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.05.009
       
  • Blast injury prevalence in skeletal remains: Are there differences between
           Bosnian war samples and documented combat-related deaths'
    • Authors: Marie Christine Dussault; Ian Hanson; Martin J. Smith
      Pages: 439 - 447
      Abstract: Publication date: November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 6
      Author(s): Marie Christine Dussault, Ian Hanson, Martin J. Smith
      Court cases at the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) have seen questions raised about the recognition and causes of blast-related trauma and the relationship to human rights abuses or combat. During trials, defence teams argued that trauma was combat related and prosecutors argued that trauma was related to executions. We compared a sample of 81 cases (males between 18 and 75) from a Bosnian mass grave investigation linked to the Kravica warehouse killings to published combat-related blast injury data from World War One, Vietnam, Northern Ireland, the first Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan. We also compared blast fracture injuries from Bosnia to blast fracture injuries sustained in bombings of buildings in two non-combat ‘civilian’ examples; the Oklahoma City and Birmingham pub bombings. A Chi-squared statistic with a Holm-Bonferroni correction assessed differences between prevalence of blast-related fractures in various body regions, where data were comparable. We found statistically significant differences between the Bosnian and combat contexts. We noted differences in the prevalence of head, torso, vertebral area, and limbs trauma, with a general trend for higher levels of more widespread trauma in the Bosnian sample. We noted that the pattern of trauma in the Bosnian cases resembled the pattern from the bombing in buildings civilian contexts. Variation in trauma patterns can be attributed to the influence of protective armour; the context of the environment; and the type of munition and its injuring mechanism. Blast fracture injuries sustained in the Bosnian sample showed patterns consistent with a lack of body armour, blast effects on people standing in enclosed buildings and the use of explosive munitions.

      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.05.010
       
  • Estimating the age of the adult stages of the blow flies Lucilia sericata
           and Calliphora vicina (Diptera: Calliphoridae) by means of the cuticular
           hydrocarbon n-pentacosane
    • Authors: Victoria Bernhardt; Werner Pogoda; Marcel A. Verhoff; Stefan W. Toennes; Jens Amendt
      Pages: 361 - 365
      Abstract: Publication date: September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 5
      Author(s): Victoria Bernhardt, Werner Pogoda, Marcel A. Verhoff, Stefan W. Toennes, Jens Amendt
      Age estimation of insects like blow flies plays an important role in forensic entomology and can answer questions in regard to time of death. So far the focus is on the immature stages of these insects, but recently the adult fly became a target of interest. It has been established that the profile of specific cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) changes in a consistent pattern as adult insects age; thus, their analysis could be a promising tool for the age estimation of adult insects. We investigated the CHC n-pentacosane (nC25) on the legs of the adult blow flies Lucilia sericata and Calliphora vicina with gas chromatography–mass spectrometry. The flies were kept at room temperature (17°C±2°C) and 12:12 L:D from Day 1 to Day 20 post-emergence. For each of five flies per species, the amount of nC25 on all legs was determined daily. The amounts of nC25 on C. vicina increased linearly (R2 =0.949). No significant difference between sexes could be detected. While L. sericata showed the same linear increase in general, we found significant (p<0.001) differences in the amount of nC25 between males and females. Although the amounts of nC25 increased linearly for both sexes (males: R2 =0.948; females: R2 =0.920), female L. sericata produced more nC25 than males. An equation for the prediction of fly age is constructed from these data. Although the influence of various environmental factors, e.g., fluctuating temperatures, still needs to be tested, nC25 seems to be a promising tool for the age estimation of adult flies.

      PubDate: 2017-09-14T15:11:50Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.04.007
       
  • Three-dimensional analysis of third molar development to estimate age of
           majority
    • Authors: Ana Belén Márquez-Ruiz; María Concepción Treviño-Tijerina; Lucas González-Herrera; Belén Sánchez; Amanda Rocío González-Ramírez; Aurora Valenzuela
      Pages: 376 - 383
      Abstract: Publication date: September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 5
      Author(s): Ana Belén Márquez-Ruiz, María Concepción Treviño-Tijerina, Lucas González-Herrera, Belén Sánchez, Amanda Rocío González-Ramírez, Aurora Valenzuela
      Third molars are one of the few biological markers available for age estimation in undocumented juveniles close the legal age of majority, assuming an age of 18years as the most frequent legal demarcation between child and adult status. To obtain more accurate visualization and evaluation of third molar mineralization patterns from computed tomography images, a new software application, DentaVol©, was developed. Third molar mineralization according to qualitative (Demirjian's maturational stage) and quantitative parameters (third molar volume) of dental development was assessed in multi-slice helical computed tomography images of both maxillary arches displayed by DentaVol© from 135 individuals (62 females and 73 males) aged between 14 and 23years. Intra- and inter-observer agreement values were remarkably high for both evaluation procedures and for all third molars. A linear correlation between third molar mineralization and chronological age was found, with third molar maturity occurring earlier in males than in females. Assessment of dental development with both procedures, by using DentaVol© software, can be considered a good indicator of age of majority (18years or older) in all third molars. Our results indicated that virtual computed tomography imaging can be considered a valid alternative to orthopantomography for evaluations of third molar mineralization, and therefore a complementary tool for determining the age of majority.

      PubDate: 2017-09-14T15:11:50Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.04.002
       
  • The sharing of ballistics data across Europe and neighbouring territories
    • Authors: F. Jeane Gerard; Rebecca L. Crookes; Susan Elliott; Michael Hellenbach; Athanasios Stamos; Helen Poole; Erica Bowen
      Pages: 384 - 393
      Abstract: Publication date: September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 5
      Author(s): F. Jeane Gerard, Rebecca L. Crookes, Susan Elliott, Michael Hellenbach, Athanasios Stamos, Helen Poole, Erica Bowen
      The current study explored the use of ballistic examinations and cross-border information sharing across 14 European countries. The presented data were collected using a mixed methods technique consisting of semi-structured interviews and questionnaires that were completed by participants. The results painted a very heterogeneous picture of the use of automated ballistic systems across these countries, as well as how ballistic analyses are integrated in the fight against gun-enabled crime. Three super-ordinates themes emerged from the thematic analysis: use of automated ballistic systems; Ballistic evidence recovery and analysis; knowledge exchange and best practices. The ability to draw firm conclusions regarding the value of ballistics comparison systems, either on a national or cross-border basis, is hampered by inconsistencies regarding data recording practices and definitions. Therefore, key recommendations are suggested to establish better cross border cooperation between member states and develop a better understanding of data sharing procedures.

      PubDate: 2017-09-14T15:11:50Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.04.010
       
  • Reply to Morrison et al. (2016) Refining the relevant population in
           forensic voice comparison – A response to Hicks et alii (2015) The
           importance of distinguishing information from evidence/observations when
           formulating propositions
    • Authors: T. Hicks; A. Biedermann; J.A. de Koeijer; F. Taroni; C. Champod; I.W. Evett
      Pages: 401 - 402
      Abstract: Publication date: September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 5
      Author(s): T. Hicks, A. Biedermann, J.A. de Koeijer, F. Taroni, C. Champod, I.W. Evett


      PubDate: 2017-09-14T15:11:50Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.04.005
       
  • Avoiding overstating the strength of forensic evidence: Shrunk likelihood
           ratios/Bayes factors
    • Authors: Geoffrey Stewart Morrison; Norman Poh
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 22 December 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Geoffrey Stewart Morrison, Norman Poh
      When strength of forensic evidence is quantified using sample data and statistical models, a concern may be raised as to whether the output of a model overestimates the strength of evidence. This is particularly the case when the amount of sample data is small, and hence sampling variability is high. This concern is related to concern about precision. This paper describes, explores, and tests three procedures which shrink the value of the likelihood ratio or Bayes factor toward the neutral value of one. The procedures are: (1) a Bayesian procedure with uninformative priors, (2) use of empirical lower and upper bounds (ELUB), and (3) a novel form of regularized logistic regression. As a benchmark, they are compared with linear discriminant analysis, and in some instances with non-regularized logistic regression. The behaviours of the procedures are explored using Monte Carlo simulated data, and tested on real data from comparisons of voice recordings, face images, and glass fragments.

      PubDate: 2017-12-26T18:49:05Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.005
       
  • The use of a quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) model to
           predict GABA-A receptor binding of newly emerging benzodiazepines
    • Authors: Laura Waters; Kieran R. Manchester; Peter D. Maskell; Shozeb Haider; Caroline Haegeman
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 22 December 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Laura Waters, Kieran R. Manchester, Peter D. Maskell, Shozeb Haider, Caroline Haegeman
      The illicit market for new psychoactive substances is forever expanding. Benzodiazepines and their derivatives are one of a number of groups of these substances and thus far their number has grown year upon year. For both forensic and clinical purposes it is important to be able to rapidly understand these emerging substances. However as a consequence of the illicit nature of these compounds, there is a deficiency in the pharmacological data available for these ‘new’ benzodiazepines. In order to further understand the pharmacology of ‘new’ benzodiazepines we utilised a quantitative structure-activity relationship (QSAR) approach. A set of 69 benzodiazepine-based compounds was analysed to develop a QSAR training set with respect to published binding values to GABAA receptors. The QSAR model returned an R2 value of 0.90. The most influential factors were found to be the positioning of two H-bond acceptors, two aromatic rings and a hydrophobic group. A test set of nine random compounds was then selected for internal validation to determine the predictive ability of the model and gave an R2 value of 0.86 when comparing the binding values with their experimental data. The QSAR model was then used to predict the binding for 22 benzodiazepines that are classed as new psychoactive substances. This model will allow rapid prediction of the binding activity of emerging benzodiazepines in a rapid and economic way, compared with lengthy and expensive in vitro/in vivo analysis. This will enable forensic chemists and toxicologists to better understand both recently developed compounds and prediction of substances likely to emerge in the future.

      PubDate: 2017-12-26T18:49:05Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.004
       
  • Single source DNA profile recovery from single cells isolated from skin
           and fabric from touch DNA mixtures in mock physical assaults
    • Authors: Katherine Farash; Erin K. Hanson; Jack Ballantyne
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 22 December 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Katherine Farash, Erin K. Hanson, Jack Ballantyne
      The ability to obtain DNA profiles from trace biological evidence is routinely demonstrated with so-called ‘touch DNA evidence’, which is generally perceived to be the result of DNA obtained from shed skin cells transferred from a donor's hands to an object or person during direct physical contact. Current methods for the recovery of trace DNA employ swabs or adhesive tape to sample an area of interest. While of practical utility, such ‘blind-swabbing’ approaches will necessarily co-sample cellular material from the different individuals whose cells are present on the item, even though the individuals' cells are principally located in topographically dispersed, but distinct, locations on the item. Thus the act of swabbing itself artifactually creates some of the DNA mixtures encountered in touch DNA samples. In some instances involving transient contact between an assailant and victim, the victim's DNA may be found in such significant excess as to preclude the detection and typing of the perpetrator's DNA. In order to circumvent the challenges with standard recovery and analysis methods for touch DNA evidence, we reported previously the development of a ‘smart analysis’ single cell recovery and DNA analysis method that results in enhanced genetic analysis of touch DNA evidence. Here we use the smart single cell analysis method to recover probative single source profiles from individual and agglomerated cells from various touched objects and clothing items belonging to known donors. We then use the same approach for the detection of single source male donor DNA in simulated physical contact/assault mixture samples (i.e. male ‘assailant’ grabbing the wrist, neck or clothing from the female ‘victim’, or being in transient contact with bedding from the ‘victim’). DNA profiles attributable to the male or female known donors were obtained from 31% and 35% of the single and agglomerated bio-particles (putative cells) tested. The known male donor ‘assailant’ DNA profile was identified in the cell sampling from every mixture type tested. The results of this work demonstrate the efficacy of an alternative strategy to recover single source perpetrator DNA profiles in physical contact/assault cases involving trace perpetrator/victim cellular admixtures.

      PubDate: 2017-12-26T18:49:05Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.006
       
  • The effect of antifreeze (ethylene glycol) on the survival and the life
           cycle of two species of necrophagous blowflies (Diptera: Calliphoridae)
    • Authors: Abrar Essarras; Marco Pazzi; Ian R. Dadour; Paola A. Magni
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 21 December 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Abrar Essarras, Marco Pazzi, Ian R. Dadour, Paola A. Magni
      Entomotoxicology involves the analysis of the presence and the effects of toxicological substances in necrophagous insects. Results obtained by entomotoxicological studies may assist in the investigation of both the causes and the time of death of humans and animals. Ethylene glycol (EG) is easy to purchase, sweet and extremely toxic. It may be consumed accidentally or purposefully, in an attempt to cause death for suicidal or homicidal intent. Several cases report fatalities of humans and animals. The present study is the first to examine the effects of EG on the survival, developmental rate and morphology of two blowfly species, (Diptera: Calliphoridae) typically found on corpses and carcasses: Lucilia sericata (Meigen) and L. cuprina (Wiedemann). Both species were reared on substrates (beef liver) spiked with three different concentrations of EG that could cause death in either a human or cat: 1/2LD50 (T1), LD50 (T2), 2LD50 (T3), in addition to a control treatment (C) with no EG. Results of this research show that: a) both species are unable to survive if reared on a food substrate spiked with the highest concentration of EG (T3), while lower and medium concentrations (T1, T2) affect, but not prevent, the survival and the completion of the life cycle of such species; b) adults of L. sericata eclose only in C and T1, while adults of L. cuprina in both C, T1, T2; however, c) the developmental time of both species reared in T1 and T2 is statistically slower than the control; d) the body length of the immatures of both of the species reared in T1 and T2 is statistically smaller than the control.

      PubDate: 2017-12-26T18:49:05Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.008
       
  • The detection of metallic residues in skin stab wounds by means of
           SEM-EDS: A pilot study
    • Authors: Elisa Palazzo; Alberto Amadasi; Michele Boracchi; Guendalina Gentile; Francesca Maciocco; Matteo Marchesi; Riccardo Zoja
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 21 December 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Elisa Palazzo, Alberto Amadasi, Michele Boracchi, Guendalina Gentile, Francesca Maciocco, Matteo Marchesi, Riccardo Zoja
      The morphological analysis of stab wounds may often not be accurate enough to link it with the type of wounding weapon, but a further evaluation may be performed with the search for metallic residues left during the contact between the instrument and the skin. In this study, Scanning Electron Microscopy-Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS) was applied to the study of cadaveric stab wounds performed with kitchen knives composed of iron, chromium and nickel, in order to verify the presence of metallic residues on the wound's edge. Two groups of 10 corpses were selected: group A, including victims of stab wounds and a control group B (died of natural causes). Samplings were performed on the lesions and in intact areas of group A, whereas in group B sampling were performed in non-exposed intact skin. Samples were then analysed with optical microscopy and SEM-EDS. In group A, optical microscopic analysis showed the presence of vital haemorrhagic infiltration, while SEM-EDS showed evidence of microscopic metal traces, isolated or clustered, consisting of iron, chromium and nickel. Moreover, in two cases organic residues of calcium and phosphate were detected, as a probable sign of bone lesion. Control samples (group A in intact areas and group B), were negative for the search of exogenous material to optical microscopy and SEM-EDS. The results show the utility and possible application of the SEM-EDS in theidentification of metallic residues from sharp weapons on the skin.

      PubDate: 2017-12-26T18:49:05Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.007
       
  • Changes in illicit cocaine hydrochloride processing identified and
           revealed through multivariate analysis of cocaine signature data
    • Authors: Jennifer R. Mallette; John F. Casale; Valerie L. Colley; David R. Morello; James Jordan
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 20 December 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Jennifer R. Mallette, John F. Casale, Valerie L. Colley, David R. Morello, James Jordan
      For nearly 30years, the methods utilized in illicit cocaine hydrochloride production have remained relatively consistent. Cocaine hydrochloride is typically produced one kilogram at a time. As a result, each individual kilogram is unique and distinct from other kilograms in any particular seizure based on the total alkaloid profile, occluded solvent profile, and isotopic signature. Additionally, multi-kilogram cocaine seizures are often comprised of cocaine from several different coca growing regions. There has been a documented shift in this type of processing based on the recent analysis of a large cocaine seizure in the Eastern Pacific. Signature analyses of samples from 21kg randomly selected from a 517kg seizure were virtually identical. Triplicate analyses of each sample via gas chromatography with flame ionization detection, static headspace gas chromatography mass spectrometry, and isotope ratio mass spectrometry were completed. An initial outlier evaluation of the data and an in-depth univariate analysis indicated there was no statistically significant difference among the 21 samples at the 95% confidence interval. Principal components analysis did reveal consistent minor deviations between the samples and known authentic data from the Nariño coca growing region of Colombia. These deviations were only observed on the latter principal components and could be explained by differences in solvent selection during cocaine hydrochloride processing. Chemical analyses in addition to a thorough statistical evaluation suggest a shift in the traditional small-batch method of cocaine processing to a multi-kilogram, high throughput approach.

      PubDate: 2017-12-26T18:49:05Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.003
       
  • Editorial
    • Authors: Lisa L. Smith
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 12 December 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Lisa L. Smith


      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.002
       
  • The suitability of visual taphonomic methods for digital photographs: An
           experimental approach with pig carcasses in a tropical climate
    • Authors: Agathe Ribéreau-Gayon; Carolyn Rando; Ruth M. Morgan; David O. Carter
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 6 December 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Agathe Ribéreau-Gayon, Carolyn Rando, Ruth M. Morgan, David O. Carter
      In the context of increased scrutiny of the methods in forensic sciences, it is essential to ensure that the approaches used in forensic taphonomy to measure decomposition and estimate the postmortem interval are underpinned by robust evidence-based data. Digital photographs are an important source of documentation in forensic taphonomic investigations but the suitability of the current approaches for photographs, rather than real-time remains, is poorly studied which can undermine accurate forensic conclusions. The present study aimed to investigate the suitability of 2D colour digital photographs for evaluating decomposition of exposed human analogues (Sus scrofa domesticus) in a tropical savanna environment (Hawaii), using two published scoring methods; Megyesi et al., 2005 and Keough et al., 2017. It was found that there were significant differences between the real-time and photograph decomposition scores when the Megyesi et al. method was used. However, the Keough et al. method applied to photographs reflected real-time decomposition more closely and thus appears more suitable to evaluate pig decomposition from 2D photographs. The findings indicate that the type of scoring method used has a significant impact on the ability to accurately evaluate the decomposition of exposed pig carcasses from photographs. It was further identified that photographic taphonomic analysis can reach high inter-observer reproducibility. These novel findings are of significant importance for the forensic sciences as they highlight the potential for high quality photograph coverage to provide useful complementary information for the forensic taphonomic investigation. New recommendations to develop robust transparent approaches adapted to photographs in forensic taphonomy are suggested based on these findings.
      Graphical abstract image

      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.12.001
       
  • Response to “A study of the perception of verbal expressions of the
           strength of evidence”
    • Authors: Charles E.H. Berger; Reinoud D. Stoel
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 29 November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Charles E.H. Berger, Reinoud D. Stoel


      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.11.007
       
  • A comparison of penetration and damage caused by different types of
           arrowheads on loose and tight fit clothing
    • Authors: Nichole MacPhee; Anne Savage; Nikolas Noton; Eilidh Beattie; Louise Milne; Joanna Fraser
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 26 November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Nichole MacPhee, Anne Savage, Nikolas Noton, Eilidh Beattie, Louise Milne, Joanna Fraser
      Bows and arrows are used more for recreation, sport and hunting in the Western world and tend not to be as popular a weapon as firearms or knives. Yet there are still injuries and fatalities caused by these low-velocity weapons due to their availability to the public and that a licence is not required to own them. This study aimed to highlight the penetration capabilities of aluminium arrows into soft tissue and bones in the presence of clothing. Further from that, how the type and fit of clothing as well as arrowhead type contribute to penetration capacity. In this study ballistic gelatine blocks (non-clothed and loose fit or tight fit clothed) were shot using a 24lb weight draw recurve bow and aluminium arrows accompanied by four different arrowheads (bullet, judo, blunt and broadhead). The penetration capability of aluminium arrows was examined, and the depth of penetration was found to be dependent on the type of arrowhead used as well as by the type and fit or lack thereof of the clothing covering the block. Loose fit clothing reduced penetration with half of the samples, reducing penetration capacity by percentages between 0% and 98.33%, at a range of 10m. While the remaining half of the samples covered with tight clothing led to reductions in penetration of between 14.06% and 94.12%. The damage to the clothing and the gelatine (puncturing, cutting and tearing) was affected by the shape of the arrowhead, with the least damaged caused by the blunt arrowheads and the most by the broadhead arrows. Clothing fibres were also at times found within the projectile tract within the gelatine showing potential for subsequent infection of an individual with an arrow wound. Ribs, femur bones and spinal columns encased in some of the gelatine blocks all showed varying levels of damage, with the most and obvious damage being exhibited by the ribs and spinal column. The information gleaned from the damage to clothing, gelatine blocks and bones could potentially be useful for forensic investigators, for example, when a body has been discovered with no weapons or gunshot residue present.

      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.11.005
       
  • A study of the intermolecular interactions of lipid components from
           analogue fingerprint residues
    • Authors: Andrew Johnston; Keith Rogers
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 24 November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Andrew Johnston, Keith Rogers
      A compositionally simplified analogue of a latent fingermark was created by combining single representatives of each major component of a natural fingermark. Further modified analogues were also produced each having one component removed. The aim of this study was to investigate the intermolecular interactions that occurred within these analogue samples using Fourier Transform Infrared (FT-IR) Microspectroscopy. FT-IR microspectroscopy showed that the absence of squalene and cholesterol significantly restricted the interactions between the other organic constituents within the analogue samples. Investigating the intermolecular interactions of organic compounds within a simplified analogue solution could indicate corresponding interactions that occur within natural fingermarks. These potential interactions could go on to be the target of further investigation of latent fingermark chemistry, and ultimately contribute to a better understanding of the aging processes and degradation mechanisms that take place post-deposition.

      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.11.004
       
  • Profiling the scent of weathered training aids for blood-detection dogs
    • Authors: Baree Chilcote; LaTara Rust; Katie D. Nizio; Shari L. Forbes
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 23 November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Baree Chilcote, LaTara Rust, Katie D. Nizio, Shari L. Forbes
      At outdoor crime scenes, cadaver-detection and blood-detection dogs may be tasked with locating blood that is days, weeks or months old. Although it is known that the odour profile of blood will change during this time, it is currently unknown how the profile changes when exposed to the environment. Such variables must be studied in order to understand when the odour profile is no longer detectable by the scent-detection dogs and other crime scene tools should be implemented. In this study, blood was deposited onto concrete and varnished wood surfaces and weathered in an outdoor environment over a three-month period. Headspace samples were collected using solid phase microextraction (SPME) and analysed using comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography – time-of-flight mass spectrometry (GC×GC–TOFMS). The chemical odour profiles were compared with the behavioural responses of cadaver-detection and blood-detection dogs during training. Data interpretation using principal component analysis (PCA) and hierarchical cluster analysis (HCA) established that the blood odour could no longer be detected using SPME–GC×GC–TOFMS after two months of weathering on both surfaces. Conversely, the blood-detection dogs had difficulty locating the blood samples after one month of weathering on concrete and after one week of weathering on varnished wood. The scent-detection dogs evaluated herein had not been previously exposed to environmentally weathered blood samples during training. Given that this study was conducted to test the dogs' baseline abilities, it is expected that with repeated exposure, the dogs' capabilities would likely improve. The knowledge gained from this study can assist in providing law enforcement with more accurate training aids for blood-detection dogs and can improve their efficiency when deployed to outdoor crime scenes.
      Graphical abstract image

      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.11.006
       
  • Corrigendum to “Preventing miscarriages of justice: A review of forensic
           firearm identification” [Sci. Justice 56 (2) (2016) 129–142]
    • Authors: Rachel S. Bolton-King
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 20 November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Rachel S. Bolton-King


      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.10.002
       
  • IFC: Editorial Board
    • Abstract: Publication date: November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 6


      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
       
  • BM1: Events Guide
    • Abstract: Publication date: November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 6


      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
       
  • BM2: Council Information
    • Abstract: Publication date: November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 6


      PubDate: 2017-12-12T08:17:33Z
       
  • Validation studies in forensic odontology – Part 1: Accuracy of
           radiographic matching
    • Authors: Mark Page; Russell Lain; Richard Kemp; Jane Taylor
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 7 November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Mark Page, Russell Lain, Richard Kemp, Jane Taylor
      As part of a series of studies aimed at validating techniques in forensic odontology, this study aimed to validate the accuracy of ante-mortem (AM)/postmortem (PM) radiographic matching by dentists and forensic odontologists. This study used a web-based interface with 50 pairs of AM and PM radiographs from real casework, at varying degrees of difficulty. Participants were shown both radiographs as a pair and initially asked to decide if they represented the same individual using a yes/no binary choice forced-decision. Participants were asked to assess their level of confidence in their decision, and to make a conclusion using one of the ABFO (American Board of Forensic Odontology), INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organisation) and DVISys™ (DVI System International, Plass Data Software) identification scale degrees. The mean false-positive rate using the binary choice scale was 12%. Overall accuracy was 89% using this model, however, 13% of participants scored below 80%. Only 25% of participants accurately answered yes or no >90% of the time, with no individual making the correct yes/no decision for all 50 pairs of radiographs. Non-odontologists (lay participants) scored poorly, with a mean accuracy of only 60%. Use of the graded ABFO, DVISYS and INTERPOL scales resulted in general improvements in performance, with the false-positive and false-negative rates falling to approximately 2% overall. Inter-examiner agreement in assigning scale degrees was good (ICC=0.64), however there was little correlation between confidence and both accuracy or agreement among practitioners. These results suggest that use of a non-binary scale is supported over a match/non-match call as it reduces the frequency of false positives and negatives. The use of the terms “possible” and “insufficient information” in the same scale appears to create confusion, reducing inter-examiner agreement. The lack of agreement between higher-performing and lower-performing groups suggests that there is an inconsistency in the cognitive processes used to determine similarity between radiographs.

      PubDate: 2017-11-10T06:57:25Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.11.001
       
  • The introduction of forensic advisors in Belgium and their role in the
           criminal justice system
    • Authors: Sonja Bitzer; Laetitia Heudt; Aurélie Barret; Lore George; Karolien Van Dijk; Fabrice Gason; Bertrand Renard
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 7 November 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Sonja Bitzer, Laetitia Heudt, Aurélie Barret, Lore George, Karolien Van Dijk, Fabrice Gason, Bertrand Renard
      Forensic advisors (FA) at the National Institute for Criminalistics and Criminology (NICC), generalists in forensic science, act as an advising body to the magistrate to improve communication between the various parties involved in the investigation: magistrate, police and crime scene investigators, and forensic experts. Their role is manifold, but their main objectives are to optimise trace processing by selecting the most pertinent traces in the context of the case and by advising magistrates on the feasibility of forensic analyses in particular circumstances in regards to the latest technical advances. Despite the absence of a legal framework governing their role and involvement in judicial cases, the demand for their services has increased over the years. Initially, forensic advisors were called for complex homicide cases. Due to the proximity with the Public Prosecutor's Office, the types of offences for which their expertise was sought have become more diverse (mainly including robbery, burglary and sexual assault cases), leading to a diversity in the types of cases handled by the forensic advisors (complex, simple and review). In many of the cases they are requested for, in addition to consulting on the best analytical strategy, forensic advisors also assume the role of case coordinator regarding the seized objects and their respective analyses. Indeed, in the majority of cases treated by the FAs, two or more types of expertise have been requested and performed, either at the internal laboratories of NICC or at external laboratories. This paper explains the role of the forensic advisors in Belgium, the path that let to their current status and problems encountered.

      PubDate: 2017-11-10T06:57:25Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.11.002
       
  • Massively parallel sequencing and the emergence of forensic genomics:
           Defining the policy and legal issues for law enforcement
    • Authors: Nathan Scudder; Dennis McNevin; Sally F. Kelty; Simon J. Walsh; James Robertson
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 12 October 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Nathan Scudder, Dennis McNevin, Sally Kelty, Simon J. Walsh, James Robertson
      Use of DNA in forensic science will be significantly influenced by new technology in coming years. Massively parallel sequencing and forensic genomics will hasten the broadening of forensic DNA analysis beyond short tandem repeats for identity towards a wider array of genetic markers, in applications as diverse as predictive phenotyping, ancestry assignment, and full mitochondrial genome analysis. With these new applications come a range of legal and policy implications, as forensic science touches on areas as diverse as ‘big data’, privacy and protected health information. Although these applications have the potential to make a more immediate and decisive forensic intelligence contribution to criminal investigations, they raise policy issues that will require detailed consideration if this potential is to be realised. The purpose of this paper is to identify the scope of the issues that will confront forensic and user communities.

      PubDate: 2017-10-13T17:45:46Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.10.001
       
  • Acid alteration of several ignitable liquids of potential use in arsons
    • Authors: Carlos Martín-Alberca; Héctor Carrascosa; Itxaso San Román; Luis Bartolomé; Carmen García-Ruiz
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 25 September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Carlos Martín-Alberca, Héctor Carrascosa, Itxaso San Román, Luis Bartolomé, Carmen García-Ruiz
      Ignitable liquids such as fuels, alcohols and thinners can be used in criminal activities, for instance arsons. Forensic experts require to know their chemical compositions, as well as to understand how different modification effects could impact them, in order to detect, classify and identify them properly in fire debris. The acid alteration/acidification of ignitable liquids is a modification effect that sharply alters the chemical composition, for example, of gasoline and diesel fuel, interfering in the forensic analysis and result interpretation. However, to date there is little information about the consequences of this effect over other accelerants of interests. In this research paper, the alteration by sulfuric acid of several commercial thinners and other accelerants of potential use in arsons is studied in-depth. For that purpose, spectral (by ATR-FTIR) and chromatographic (by GC–MS) data were obtained from neat and acidified samples. Then, the spectral and chromatographic modifications of each studied ignitable liquid were discussed, proposing several chemical mechanisms that explain the new by-products produced and the gradual disappearance of the initial compounds. Hydrolysis, Fischer esterification and alkylation reactions are involved in the modification of esters, alcohols, ketones and aromatic compounds of the studied ignitable liquids. This information could be crucial for correctly identifying these accelerants. Additionally, an exploratory analysis revealed that some of the most altered ignitable liquid samples might be very similar with each other, which could have impact on casework.

      PubDate: 2017-09-27T16:14:15Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.09.004
       
  • Novel messenger RNAs for body fluid identification
    • Authors: Patricia P. Albani; Rachel Fleming
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 25 September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Patricia P. Albani, Rachel Fleming
      In forensic investigations, the identification of the cellular or body fluid source of biological evidence can provide crucial probative information for the court. Messenger RNA (mRNA) profiling has become a valuable tool for body fluid and cell type identification due to its high sensitivity and compatibility with DNA analysis. However, using a single marker to determine the somatic origin of a sample can lead to misinterpretation as a result of cross-reactions. While false positives may be avoided through the simultaneous detection of multiple markers per body fluid, this approach is currently limited by the small number of known differentially expressed mRNAs. Here we characterise six novel mRNAs, partly identified from RNA-Seq, which can supplement existing markers for the detection of circulatory blood, semen (with and without spermatozoa) and menstrual fluid: HBD and SLC4A1 for blood, TNP1 for spermatozoa, KLK2 for seminal fluid, and MMP3 and STC1 for menstrual fluid. Their respective expression profiles were evaluated by singleplex endpoint reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). HBD, SLC4A1 and KLK2 were specific to their respective target body fluids. TNP1, MMP3 and STC1 each cross-reacted with two non-target samples, however, these signals were below 350 RFU, not reproducible and likely resulted from large body fluid inputs. Furthermore, all candidates were more sensitive for the detection of their target body fluids than corresponding well-known mRNAs, in particular those for menstrual fluid. The increased sensitivities were statistically significant, except for KLK2. Altogether, the new mRNAs introduced here are promising new targets for improved body fluid profiling.

      PubDate: 2017-09-27T16:14:15Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.09.002
       
  • Soil forensics: How far can soil clay analysis distinguish between soil
           vestiges'
    • Authors: R.S. Corrêa; V.F. Melo; G.G.F. Abreu; M.H. Sousa; J.A. Chaker; J.A. Gomes
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 25 September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): R.S. Corrêa, V.F. Melo, G.G.F. Abreu, M.H. Sousa, J.A. Chaker, J.A. Gomes
      Soil traces are useful as forensic evidences because they frequently adhere to individuals and objects associated with crimes and can place or discard a suspect at/from a crime scene. Soil is a mixture of organic and inorganic components and among them soil clay contains signatures that make it reliable as forensic evidences. In this study, we hypothesized that soils can be forensically distinguished through the analysis of their clay fraction alone, and that samples of the same soil type can be consistently distinguished according to the distance they were collected from each other. To test these hypotheses 16 Oxisol samples were collected at distances of between 2m and 1.000m, and 16 Inceptisol samples were collected at distances of between 2m and 300m from each other. Clay fractions were extracted from soil samples and analyzed for hyperspectral color reflectance (HSI), X-ray diffraction crystallographic (XRD), and for contents of iron oxides, kaolinite and gibbsite. The dataset was submitted to multivariate analysis and results were from 65% to 100% effective to distinguish between samples from the two soil types. Both soil types could be consistently distinguished for forensic purposes according to the distance that samples were collected from each other: 1000m for Oxisol and 10m for Inceptisol. Clay color and XRD analysis were the most effective techniques to distinguish clay samples, and Inceptisol samples were more easily distinguished than Oxisol samples. Soil forensics seems a promising field for soil scientists as soil clay can be useful as forensic evidence by using routine analytical techniques from soil science.

      PubDate: 2017-09-27T16:14:15Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.09.003
       
  • The meaning of justified subjectivism and its role in the reconciliation
           of recent disagreements over forensic probabilism
    • Authors: A. Biedermann; S. Bozza; F. Taroni; C. Aitken
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 22 September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): A. Biedermann, S. Bozza, F. Taroni, C. Aitken
      In this paper we reply to recent comments in this Special Issue according to which subjective probability is not considered to be a concept fit for use in forensic evaluation and expert reporting. We identify the source of these criticisms to lie in a misunderstanding of subjective probability as unconstrained subjective probability; a lack of constraint that neither corresponds to the way in which we referred to subjective probability in our previous contributions, nor to the way in which probability assignment is understood by current evaluative guidelines (e.g., of ENFSI). Specifically, we explain that we understand subjective probability as a justified assertion, i.e. a conditional assessment based on task-relevant data and information, that may be thought of as a constrained subjective probability. This leads us to emphasise again the general conclusion that there is no gap between justified (or, reasonable) subjective probability and other concepts of probability in terms of its ability to provide assessments that are soundly based on whatever relevant information available. We also note that the challenges an expert faces in reporting probabilities apply equally to all interpretations of probability, not only to subjective probability.

      PubDate: 2017-09-27T16:14:15Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.08.005
       
  • What should a forensic practitioner's likelihood ratio be' II
    • Authors: Geoffrey Stewart Morrison
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 20 September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Geoffrey Stewart Morrison
      In the debate as to whether forensic practitioners should assess and report the precision of the strength of evidence statements that they report to the courts, I remain unconvinced by proponents of the position that only a subjectivist concept of probability is legitimate. I consider this position counterproductive for the goal of having forensic practitioners implement, and courts not only accept but demand, logically correct and scientifically valid evaluation of forensic evidence. In considering what would be the best approach for evaluating strength of evidence, I suggest that the desiderata be (1) to maximise empirically demonstrable performance; (2) to maximise objectivity in the sense of maximising transparency and replicability, and minimising the potential for cognitive bias; and (3) to constrain and make overt the forensic practitioner's subjective-judgement based decisions so that the appropriateness of those decisions can be debated before the judge in an admissibility hearing and/or before the trier of fact at trial. All approaches require the forensic practitioner to use subjective judgement, but constraining subjective judgement to decisions relating to selection of hypotheses, properties to measure, training and test data to use, and statistical modelling procedures to use – decisions which are remote from the output stage of the analysis – will substantially reduce the potential for cognitive bias. Adopting procedures based on relevant data, quantitative measurements, and statistical models, and directly reporting the output of the statistical models will also maximise transparency and replicability. A procedure which calculates a Bayes factor on the basis of relevant sample data and reference priors is no less objective than a frequentist calculation of a likelihood ratio on the same data. In general, a Bayes factor calculated using uninformative or reference priors will be closer to a value of 1 than a frequentist best estimate likelihood ratio. The bound closest to 1 based on a frequentist best estimate likelihood ratio and an assessment of its precision will also, by definition, be closer to a value of 1 than the frequentist best estimate likelihood ratio. From a practical perspective, both procedures shrink the strength of evidence value towards the neutral value of 1. A single-value Bayes factor or likelihood ratio may be easier for the courts to handle than a distribution. I therefore propose as a potential practical solution, the use of procedures which account for imprecision by shrinking the calculated Bayes factor or likelihood ratio towards 1, the choice of the particular procedure being based on empirical demonstration of performance.

      PubDate: 2017-09-27T16:14:15Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.08.004
       
  • IFC: Editorial Board
    • Abstract: Publication date: September 2017
      Source:Science & Justice, Volume 57, Issue 5


      PubDate: 2017-09-14T15:11:50Z
       
  • Design, optimisation and preliminary validation of a human specific
           loop-mediated amplification assay for the rapid detection of human DNA at
           forensic crime scenes
    • Authors: H.J. Hird; M.K. Brown
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 3 August 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): H.J. Hird, M.K. Brown
      The identification of samples at a crime scene which require forensic DNA typing has been the focus of recent research interest. We propose a simple, but sensitive analysis system which can be deployed at a crime scene to identify crime scene stains as human or non-human. The proposed system uses the isothermal amplification of DNA in a rapid assay format, which returns results in as little as 30min from sampling. The assay system runs on the Genie II device, a proven in-field detection system which could be deployed at a crime scene. The results presented here demonstrate that the system was sufficiently specific and sensitive and was able to detect the presence of human blood, semen and saliva on mock forensic samples.

      PubDate: 2017-09-02T15:03:16Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.08.001
       
  • Forensic science and the right to access to justice: Testing the efficacy
           of self-examination intimate DNA swabs to enhance victim-centred responses
           to sexual violence in low-resource environments
    • Authors: Lisa Smith; Jon H. Wetton; Gurdeep K.M. Lall; Heather D. Flowe; Mark A. Jobling
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 22 July 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Lisa Smith, Jon H. Wetton, Gurdeep K.M. Lall, Heather D. Flowe, Mark A. Jobling
      In developed countries, DNA profiling routinely forms part of the forensic strategy in the investigation of sexual violence. Medical examinations provide opportunities for recovering DNA evidence from intimate swabs, which can be particularly probative in cases where the identity of the perpetrator is unknown and proof of intercourse between two people is required. In low-resource environments, such as developing countries, remote geographic locations, conflict (and post-conflict) affected regions and displaced communities where access to medical examinations is lacking, DNA evidence is not available to support prosecutions and perpetrators are rarely identified and held accountable for crimes of sexual violence. This paper reports the results of a proof-of-concept study testing the efficacy of a novel self-examination intimate swab designed for recovering DNA following unprotected sexual intercourse. The results of this study corroborate previous research which has demonstrated that male DNA profiles can be successfully recovered by post-coital, self-examination methods, and discusses how this novel approach could enable the integration of DNA evidence into victim-centred approaches to investigating and prosecuting sexual violence in low-resource environments. The results and discussion challenge the prevailing assumption that intimate DNA swabs must be collected by trained medical professionals in order to be of evidential value.

      PubDate: 2017-07-23T13:46:25Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.07.004
       
  • Strengthening forensic DNA decision making through a better understanding
           of the influence of cognitive bias
    • Authors: Amy M. Jeanguenat; Bruce Budowle; Itiel E. Dror
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 22 July 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Amy M. Jeanguenat, Bruce Budowle, Itiel E. Dror
      Cognitive bias may influence process flows and decision making steps in forensic DNA analyses and interpretation. Currently, seven sources of bias have been identified that may affect forensic decision making with roots in human nature; environment, culture, and experience; and case specific information. Most of the literature and research on cognitive bias in forensic science has focused on patterned evidence; however, forensic DNA testing is not immune to bias, especially when subjective interpretation is involved. DNA testing can be strengthened by recognizing the existence of bias, evaluating where it influences decision making, and, when applicable, implementing practices to reduce or control its effects. Elements that may improve forensic decision making regarding bias include cognitively informed education and training, quality assurance procedures, review processes, analysis and interpretation, and context management of irrelevant information. Although bias exists, reliable results often can be (and have been) produced. However, at times bias can (and has) impacted the interpretation of DNA results negatively. Therefore, being aware of the dangers of bias and implementing measures to control its potential impact should be considered. Measures and procedures that handicap the workings of the crime laboratory or add little value to improving the operation are not advocated, but simple yet effective measures are suggested. This article is meant to raise awareness of cognitive bias contamination in forensic DNA testing, and to give laboratories possible pathways to make sound decisions to address its influences.

      PubDate: 2017-07-23T13:46:25Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.07.005
       
  • Practical evaluation of an RNA-based saliva identification method
    • Authors: Ken Watanabe; Tomoko Akutsu; Ayari Takamura; Koichi Sakurada
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 11 July 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Ken Watanabe, Tomoko Akutsu, Ayari Takamura, Koichi Sakurada
      Identifying saliva in samples found at crime scenes is important to clarify the tissue origin of DNA obtained for identification of individuals. Recently, a novel messenger RNA-based approach using two saliva-specific markers, Statherin (STATH) and Histatin 3 (HTN3), has been reported. This method can identify saliva more specifically than conventional amylase-based methods. Here, we performed several evaluations related to applying this method to real-world forensic work. First, we evaluated the effects of exposure to blue light (450nm) or to the reagent on Phadebas paper, which are direct methods used to locate saliva stains, on the stability of the RNA markers. The results demonstrate that exposure to the two direct tests did not affect the stability of the RNA markers. Second, we performed a comparative analysis of RNA-based and amylase-based conventional methods to examine the sensitivity and stability of the markers under various storage conditions. Although there was no difference in the sensitivity of the two methods for detecting 1-day-old saliva stains, a time-course study demonstrated that the RNA saliva markers were less stable than amylase, especially in wet conditions. During this time-course experiment, the stability of human DNA was also investigated. Although DNA was also unstable in wet conditions, it was more stable than the RNA markers in dry conditions. Taking the above results into consideration, we suggest that the RNA method could be introduced to current saliva identification procedures and should be used as a supplementary method to strongly support identification of saliva by the amylase-based method.

      PubDate: 2017-07-12T13:11:15Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.07.001
       
  • Recognition of computerized facial approximations by familiar assessors
    • Authors: Adam H. Richard; Keith L. Monson
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 20 June 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Adam H. Richard, Keith L. Monson
      Studies testing the effectiveness of facial approximations typically involve groups of participants who are unfamiliar with the approximated individual(s). This limitation requires the use of photograph arrays including a picture of the subject for comparison to the facial approximation. While this practice is often necessary due to the difficulty in obtaining a group of assessors who are familiar with the approximated subject, it may not accurately simulate the thought process of the target audience (friends and family members) in comparing a mental image of the approximated subject to the facial approximation. As part of a larger process to evaluate the effectiveness and best implementation of the ReFace facial approximation software program, the rare opportunity arose to conduct a recognition study using assessors who were personally acquainted with the subjects of the approximations. ReFace facial approximations were generated based on preexisting medical scans, and co-workers of the scan donors were tested on whether they could accurately pick out the approximation of their colleague from arrays of facial approximations. Results from the study demonstrated an overall poor recognition performance (i.e., where a single choice within a pool is not enforced) for individuals who were familiar with the approximated subjects. Out of 220 recognition tests only 10.5% resulted in the assessor selecting the correct approximation (or correctly choosing not to make a selection when the array consisted only of foils), an outcome that was not significantly different from the 9% random chance rate. When allowed to select multiple approximations the assessors felt resembled the target individual, the overall sensitivity for ReFace approximations was 16.0% and the overall specificity was 81.8%. These results differ markedly from the results of a previous study using assessors who were unfamiliar with the approximated subjects. Some possible explanations for this disparity in performance were examined, and it was ultimately concluded that ReFace facial approximations may have limited effectiveness if used in the traditional way. However, some promising alternative uses are explored that may expand the utility of facial approximations for aiding in the identification of unknown human remains.
      Graphical abstract image

      PubDate: 2017-06-22T12:55:43Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.06.004
       
  • Conceptualising forensic science and forensic reconstruction; part I: A
           conceptual model
    • Authors: R.M. Morgan
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 10 June 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): R.M. Morgan
      There has been a call for forensic science to actively return to the approach of scientific endeavour. The importance of incorporating an awareness of the requirements of the law in its broadest sense, and embedding research into both practice and policy within forensic science, is arguably critical to achieving such an endeavour. This paper presents a conceptual model (FoRTE) that outlines the holistic nature of trace evidence in the ‘endeavour’ of forensic reconstruction. This model offers insights into the different components intrinsic to transparent, reproducible and robust reconstructions in forensic science. The importance of situating evidence within the whole forensic science process (from crime scene to court), of developing evidence bases to underpin each stage, of frameworks that offer insights to the interaction of different lines of evidence, and the role of expertise in decision making are presented and their interactions identified. It is argued that such a conceptual model has value in identifying the future steps for harnessing the value of trace evidence in forensic reconstruction. It also highlights that there is a need to develop a nuanced approach to reconstructions that incorporates both empirical evidence bases and expertise. A conceptual understanding has the potential to ensure that the endeavour of forensic reconstruction has its roots in ‘problem-solving’ science, and can offer transparency and clarity in the conclusions and inferences drawn from trace evidence, thereby enabling the value of trace evidence to be realised in investigations and the courts.

      PubDate: 2017-06-12T04:04:12Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.06.002
       
  • Conceptualising forensic science and forensic reconstruction; part II: The
           critical interaction between research, policy/law and practice
    • Authors: R.M. Morgan
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 10 June 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): R.M. Morgan
      This paper builds on the FoRTE conceptual model presented in part I to address the forms of knowledge that are integral to the four components of the model. Articulating the different forms of knowledge within effective forensic reconstructions is valuable. It enables a nuanced approach to the development and use of evidence bases to underpin decision-making at every stage of a forensic reconstruction by enabling transparency in the reporting of inferences. It also enables appropriate methods to be developed to ensure quality and validity. It is recognised that the domains of practice, research, and policy/law intersect to form the nexus where forensic science is situated. Each domain has a distinctive infrastructure that influences the production and application of different forms of knowledge in forensic science. The channels that can enable the interaction between these domains, enhance the impact of research in theory and practice, increase access to research findings, and support quality are presented. The particular strengths within the different domains to deliver problem solving forensic reconstructions are thereby identified and articulated. It is argued that a conceptual understanding of forensic reconstruction that draws on the full range of both explicit and tacit forms of knowledge, and incorporates the strengths of the different domains pertinent to forensic science, offers a pathway to harness the full value of trace evidence for context sensitive, problem-solving forensic applications.

      PubDate: 2017-06-12T04:04:12Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.06.003
       
  • Improving uncertainty in Widmark equation calculations: Alcohol volume,
           strength and density
    • Authors: Peter D. Maskell; R. Alex Speers; Dawn L. Maskell
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 16 May 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Peter D. Maskell, R. Alex Speers, Dawn L. Maskell
      The Widmark equation is probably the most commonly used calculation for medicolegal purposes. Recently the National Research Council (USA) and the Forensic Science Regulator (UK) have called for the uncertainty of all results to be given with all forensic measurements and calculations. To improve the uncertainty of measurement of results from Widmark calculations we have concentrated on the uncertainties of measurement involved in the calculation of alcohol, that of the volume of alcohol, the concentration of alcohol and the density of alcohol as previous studies have investigated some of the other factors involved. Using experimental studies, the scientific literature and legal statutes, we have determined revised and improved uncertainties of the concentration of ethanol for Widmark calculations for both the USA and UK. Based on the calculations that we have performed we recommend the use of Monte Carlo Simulation for the determination of uncertainty of measurement for Widmark Calculations.

      PubDate: 2017-05-18T02:48:56Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.05.006
       
  • An investigation into the effect of surveillance drones on textile
           evidence at crime scenes
    • Authors: Alistair Bucknell; Tom Bassindale
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 15 May 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Alistair Bucknell, Tom Bassindale
      With increasing numbers of Police forces using drones for crime scene surveillance, the effect of the drones on trace evidence present needs evaluation. In this investigation the effect of flying a quadcopter drone at different heights over a controlled scene and taking off at different distances from the scene were measured. Yarn was placed on a range of floor surfaces and the number lost or moved from their original position was recorded. It was possible to estimate “safe” distances above and take off distance from the bath mat (2m and 1m respectively), and carpet tile (3m and 1m) which were the roughest surfaces. The maximum distances tested of 5m above and 2m from was not far enough to prevent significant disturbance with the other floor surfaces. This report illustrates the importance of considering the impact of new technologies into a forensic workflow on established forensic evidence prior to implementation.

      PubDate: 2017-05-18T02:48:56Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.05.004
       
  • The transfer of diatoms from freshwater to footwear materials: An
           experimental study assessing transfer, persistence, and extraction methods
           for forensic reconstruction
    • Authors: E.A. Levin; R.M. Morgan; V.J. Jones
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 15 May 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): E.A. Levin, R.M. Morgan, V.J. Jones
      In recent years there has been growing interest in environmental forms of trace evidence, and ecological trace evidence collected from footwear has proved valuable within casework. Simultaneously, there has been growing awareness of the need for empirical experimentation to underpin forensic inferences. Diatoms are unicellular algae, and each cell (or ‘frustule’) consists of two valves which are made of silica, a robust material that favours their preservation both in sediments and within forensic scenarios. A series of experiments were carried out to investigate the transfer and persistence of diatoms upon common footwear materials, a recipient surface that has historically been overlooked by studies of persistence. The effectiveness of two novel extraction techniques (jet rinsing, and heating and agitation with distilled water) was compared to the established extraction technique of hydrogen peroxide digestion, for a suite of five common footwear materials: canvas, leather, and ‘suede’ (representing upper materials), and rubber and polyurethane (representing sole materials). It was observed that the novel extraction technique of heating and agitation with distilled water did not extract fewer diatom valves, or cause increased fragmentation of valves, when compared to peroxide digestion, suggesting that the method may be viable where potentially hazardous chemical reactions may be encountered with the peroxide digestion method. Valves could be extracted from all five footwear materials after 3min of immersion, and more valves were extracted from the rougher, woven upper materials than the smoother sole materials. Canvas yielded the most valves (a mean of 2511/cm2) and polyurethane the fewest (a mean of 15/cm2). The persistence of diatoms on the three upper materials was addressed with a preliminary pilot investigation, with ten intervals sampled between 0 and 168h. Valves were seen to persist in detectable quantities after 168h on all three upper materials. However, some samples produced slides with no valves, and the earliest time after which no diatom valves were found was 4h after the transfer. Analysis of the particle size distributions over time, by image analysis, suggests that the retention of diatoms may be size-selective; after 168h, no particles larger than 200μm2 could be found on the samples of canvas, and >95% of the particles on the samples of suede were less than or equal to 200μm2. A pilot investigation into the effects of immersion interval was carried out upon samples of canvas. Greater numbers of valves were extracted from the samples with longer immersion intervals, but even after 30s, >500 valves could be recovered per cm2, suggesting that footwear may be sampled for diatoms even if the contact with a water body may have been brief. These findings indicate that, if the variability within and between experimental runs can be addressed, there is significant potential for diatoms to be incorporated into the trace analysis of footwear and assist forensic reconstructions.

      PubDate: 2017-05-18T02:48:56Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.05.005
       
  • The use of handwriting examinations beyond the traditional court purpose
    • Authors: Anna Agius; Kylie Jones; Rochelle Epple; Marie Morelato; Sébastien Moret; Scott Chadwick; Claude Roux
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 13 May 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Anna Agius, Kylie Jones, Rochelle Epple, Marie Morelato, Sébastien Moret, Scott Chadwick, Claude Roux
      Traditionally, forensic science has predominantly focused its resources and objectives on addressing court related questions. However, this view restricts the contribution of forensic science to one function and results in lost opportunities as investigative and intelligence roles are often overlooked. A change of perspective and expansion of the contributions of forensic science is required to take advantage of the benefits of abductive and inductive thought processes throughout the investigative and intelligence functions. One forensic discipline that has the potential to broaden its traditional focus is handwriting examination. Typically used in investigations that are focused on both criminal and civil cases, the examination procedure and outcome are time consuming and subjective, requiring a detailed study of the features of the handwriting in question. Traditionally, the major handwriting features exploited are characteristics that are often considered individual (or at least highly polymorphic) and habitual. However, handwriting can be considered as an information vector in an intelligence framework. One such example is the recognition of key elements related to the author's native language. This paper discusses the traditional method generally used around the world and proposes a theoretical approach to expand the application of handwriting examination towards gaining additional information for intelligence purposes. This concept will be designed and tested in a future research project.

      PubDate: 2017-05-18T02:48:56Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.05.001
       
  • The persistence of human DNA in soil following surface decomposition
    • Authors: Alexandra Emmons; Jennifer M. DeBruyn; Amy Z. Mundorff; Kelly L. Cobaugh; Graciela S. Cabana
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 13 May 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Alexandra Emmons, Jennifer M. DeBruyn, Amy Z. Mundorff, Kelly L. Cobaugh, Graciela S. Cabana
      Though recent decades have seen a marked increase in research concerning the impact of human decomposition on the grave soil environment, the fate of human DNA in grave soil has been relatively understudied. With the purpose of supplementing the growing body of literature in forensic soil taphonomy, this study assessed the relative persistence of human DNA in soil over the course of decomposition. Endpoint PCR was used to assess the presence or absence of human nuclear and mitochondrial DNA, while qPCR was used to evaluate the quantity of human DNA recovered from the soil beneath four cadavers at the University of Tennessee's Anthropology Research Facility (ARF). Human nuclear DNA from the soil was largely unrecoverable, while human mitochondrial DNA was detectable in the soil throughout all decomposition stages. Mitochondrial DNA copy abundances were not significantly different between decomposition stages and were not significantly correlated to soil edaphic parameters tested. There was, however, a significant positive correlation between mitochondrial DNA copy abundances and the human associated bacteria, Bacteroides, as estimated by 16S rRNA gene abundances. These results show that human mitochondrial DNA can persist in grave soil and be consistently detected throughout decomposition.

      PubDate: 2017-05-18T02:48:56Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.05.002
       
  • Genetic DNA profile in urine and hair follicles from patients who have
           undergone allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation
    • Authors: Ana Santurtún; José A. Riancho; Maite Santurtún; Carlos Richard; M. Mercedes Colorado; Mayte García Unzueta; María T. Zarrabeitia
      Abstract: Publication date: Available online 13 May 2017
      Source:Science & Justice
      Author(s): Ana Santurtún, José A. Riancho, Maite Santurtún, Carlos Richard, M. Mercedes Colorado, Mayte García Unzueta, María T. Zarrabeitia
      Biological samples from patients who have undergone allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) constitute a challenge for individual identification. In this study we analyzed the genetic profiles (by the amplification of 15 autosomic STRs) of HSCT patients found in different types of samples (blood, hair and urine) that may be the source of DNA in civil or criminal forensic cases. Our results show that while in hair follicles the donor component was not detected in any patient, thus being a reliable source of biological material for forensic identification, mixed chimerism was detected in urine samples from all patient, and no correlation was found between the time elapsed from the transplant and the percentage of chimerism. These results certainly have practical implications if the urine is being considered as a source of DNA for identification purposes in HSTC patients. Moreover, taking into consideration that chimerism was found not only in patients with leukocyturia (given the hematopoietic origin of leukocytes, this was expected), but also in those without observable leukocytes in the sediment, we conclude that an alternative source or sources of donor DNA must be implicated.

      PubDate: 2017-05-18T02:48:56Z
      DOI: 10.1016/j.scijus.2017.05.003
       
 
 
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