Science Thursday: DC Considers an Independent Crime Lab


Washington DC considers an independent crime lab, scrutiny of the medical examiner system continues, and new studies highlight conflicts in forensic science.  Here’s a roundup of forensic news:

DC’s Mayor Vince Gray

supports a bill to create a crime laboratory independent of police and prosecutors that reports to the Mayor’s office

Although Canada recently developed national standards for training forensic pathologists,

it could take more than a decade to gain total compliance


A homicide case highlights the influence of medical experts on criminal trials and

questions the line between medical science and expressing opinion

. After its collaboration with NPR and Frontline on medical examiners aired last week,

ProPublica provides reporters a list of points to consider when investigating a local forensic pathologist


An Indian crime lab tried to add closed circuit surveillance television cameras to address concerns regarding unauthorized visits of family members of suspects

, but two of the three cameras were disengaged after laboratory staff complained.

An audit of the Indiana State Department of Toxicology

showed errors in 200 of the 2000 positive marijuana tests that were reviewed

.  About 50 of the erroneous tests demonstrated “a conscious manipulation of results.”

University of California Davis researchers concluded that cognitive factors affect the interaction between a dog and a handler, impacting the dog’s performance.  In the study, certified dogs used for detecting drugs or explosives made incorrect identifications,

especially when the handler believed that there was scent present


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