Science Thursday: Arson, Anthropology and Entomology


A Texas newspaper wonders how many of the state’s arson convictions might be based on faulty science and forensic anthropologists, engineers and entomologists made news this week. Here’s a roundup of the week’s forensics news:

The San Antonio Express-News points out that 708 people are in Texas prisons for arson and questioned how many of these people were convicted

on the same type of faulty arson evidence

that convicted Cameron Todd Willingham.

A Mississippi crime lab will be implementing

a new antibody profiling technology

to identify people involved in crimes. While the science has been around for years, the application of the technique to the forensic setting is still in its infancy.

Forensic entomologists have studied insect species attracted to dead animals to approximate time of death. 

New applications of forensic entomology

include urban entomology, used in civil actions relating to insects and human-built structures, and stored product entomology, used in civil actions related to insect infestations of products such as food.

Forensic engineers determined

that a design flaw and construction modifications caused the collapse of a wall at an upstate New York sewage plant which caused a release of nearly 600,000 gallons of wastewater to spill into a creek feeding  the Susquehanna River. An Australian forensic anthropologist

describes his discipline

and the standard-setting work that the Forensic Anthropology Research Group at the Centre for Forensic Science is undertaking.

An average of three people in North America die in attacks by black bears or grizzlies each year. Researchers collect hair and scat samples for DNA analysis for grizzly research and

to identify bears

that have been involved in an attack.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy appointed a 17-member panel of experts and legislative leaders

to develop a plan to address the problems of the state crime lab in Meriden

. The lab recently failed two federal audits leaving it unable to upload DNA profiles to the national DNA databank and lost its national accreditation.

After winning $79 million, Powerball winner Randy Smith

purchased a $150,000 state-of-the-art mobile forensic unit for the West Virginia State Police


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