Science Thursday: Crime Labs Aim to Address Past Problems


It has been another busy week in the world of forensic science: a special committee of the North Carolina legislature recommends the mission of the state crime lab be changed and the Houston crime lab continued on a bumpy road back to compliance. Here are updates from around the world this week:

A special committee reviewing problems at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation

released a report

on recommended crime lab reforms following last year’s scandals. The state attorney general

agreed to follow the report’s advice

, including the appointment of an ombudsman and the establishment of a forensic science advisory board to review lab operations.

The Houston Police Department Crime Lab reports its operations are

moving in a positive direction

.(1) However, 4,000 sexual assault kits

remain untested

, some dating back to 1986.

A Michigan medical examiner denies that his workload of nearly 400 autopsies a year (exceeding the national standard of 250-325) contributed to

missing a gunshot wound

in the autopsy of a prominent person.

The Erie County Medical Examiner’s Office is

in danger

of losing its American Board of Forensic Toxicology and State Commission on Forensic Science accreditation unless lawmakers restore jobs cut from this year’s budget. A new National Academy of Sciences report

found a failure

by the Department of Homeland Security to properly evaluate the risks of high-tech radiation detectors used for finding “dirty bombs.” 

Laboratory tests showed

the potential for a new test for bullet trajectories

. The March issue of Radiology will feature news of a new test — multidetector computed tomography (MDCT) – which was used for the first time to identify bullet trajectories in some ballistic wounds.

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