The Reality of Crime Scene Investigation. Part I: Common Myths

In a recent blog entry about forensic phenotyping, I wrote “Much of the information in these [crime scene investigation] TV shows is not exactly accurate. (I have long thought that I should write a blog entry contrasting forensic DNA laboratories as they exist on screen and in reality.)” It seems that someone has beat me to the punch. In his recent paper (1), Evan Durnal eloquently sums it up: “With this new style of ‘infotainment’, comes an increasingly blurred line between the hard facts of reality and the soft, quick solutions of entertainment.”

Durnal points out the single largest gripe that many criminal justice officials have about crime scene investigation (CSI) television shows: the common myths that are created and perpetuated by these types of TV shows. Durnal lists four main categories of myths: capabilities, roles and responsibilities, evidence and schedule. All of these myths are well known (and probably frustrating) to anyone who works in a forensic laboratory. Durnal also summarizes the effects of CSI shows on the judicial system, including jurors, prosecutors, defense attorneys, law enforcement officials and the criminals themselves. In part I of this two-part blog entry, I will present Durnal’s four categories of myths about crime scene investigation.
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Forensic Phenotyping: What DNA Can (and Cannot) Tell Us About a Criminal’s Appearance.

DNA in a test tubeAll Points Bulletin: Wanted for Murder: A Redheaded, Blue-Eyed, Left-Handed Smoker Who Likes to Ski, Has an Elevated Risk of Cancer, Is Allergic to Cashews, and Has a Birthmark the Shape of Wisconsin

OK, the thought of issuing such a specific physical description of a suspect seems ridiculous to us now, but can we expect to see such specific descriptions of alleged criminals in the future?

A new field of forensic DNA analysis, forensic phenotyping, is emerging, and it is raising some good questions. How much information can or should forensic analysts glean from someone’s DNA, and how much of that should be made public?
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Lucy and Elvis in Las Vegas! A Summary of the 20th International Symposium on Human Identification

Symposium attendees pose with an Elvis impersonatorWhat a week it’s been, filled with great presentations, good company and, of course, Elvis impersonators. I attended the 20th International Symposium on Human Identification in Las Vegas this past week to gather feedback about the publication Profiles in DNA and collect ideas for future content. There were so many great talks and posters presented; where do I start?
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