Science Thursday: Questions Surround Death Investigations


A ProPublica, PBS, and NPR investigative collaboration highlights urgent issues in death investigations across the US, Canada continues to deal with the fallout of errors and misconduct in autopsies and scientists across the world continue to lend their expertise to forensic fields.  Here’s a roundup of forensic news:

CNN is re-airing ‘

Rogue Justice

’, an investigative piece about the forensic issues at the NC State Bureau of Investigation.

After a

year-long investigation

, ProPublica, PBS “Frontline” and NPR aired

a documentary

that cites the NAS report and details how shoddy death investigations put innocent people in jail and allow true perpetrators to remain free.

Ontario’s attorney general conceded that

another parent may have been wrongfully convicted

in the death of her own child as a result of testimony by Canada’s disgraced Dr. Charles Smith.

Officials in Canada are


the previous work of an Alberta forensic pathologist who left his position after a botched autopsy. Dane County, WI, welcomes

its first medical examiner

, who hails from New York City, as it replaces its coroner system. 

Scottish scientists from Abertay University worked with the Scottish Police to develop

a technique to lift fingerprints off fabric

. While the research demonstrates that this technique is possible, scientists warn that it is not a silver bullet.

Forensic botany

can be used to evaluate an alibi

or assist in determining time since death.

A West Virginia forensic chemistry professor

received a grant

from the National Institute of Justice to study factors that affect interpretation of data by fire debris analysts and the associated error rate.

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