Science Thursday – October 25, 2012


More news from the lab scandals in Minnesota and Massachusetts, brain scanning is under investigation for its potential use in the criminal justice system, and new research explores the ability to use isotopes as an investigative tool. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:


In the ongoing investigation into the failure of a St. Paul crime lab, a second drug case

returned a conflicting conclusion after retesting in a state crime lab

. A Dakota County prosecutor is determining how each lab reached opposite conclusions.


Across the US, scientists are determining how isotopes – slightly different versions of the same element – can be used to aid in

identifying victims or to determine the origin of toxicology samples

. Scientists explain the limitations of this technology, while acknowledging its potential as a tool for law enforcement.


A Norfolk Assistant District Attorney


after reports

detailed an unauthorized correspondence with the chemist at the center of the Massachusetts crime lab scandal

. In established lab protocol, communication from prosecutors is restricted to lab supervisors, not working chemists.


Though a California grand jury recommended the consolidation of the Alameda County and Oakland crime labs, Alameda County law enforcement officials

think otherwise

. Without proper funding and political support, the Alameda County crime lab would be unable to develop a functioning consolidated crime lab.


As neuroscientists investigate the potential of brain scanning for use in the criminal justice system, researchers around the country realize

the need to improve reliability and success rates

before techniques like MRI imaging for lie detection are implemented by law enforcement.

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