London fire may have destroyed DNA needed to ID victims

The devastating fire that struck a high-rise tower in London may have been so powerful that it destroyed much of the DNA evidence needed to identify its victims.
As firefighters keep searching the charred ruins of the Grenfell Tower public housing complex with sniffer dogs and drones, Metropolitan Police commander Stuart Cundy said there was “a risk that, sadly, we may not be able to identify everybody.”

Asia’s Rising Scientists: Maria Corazon de Ungria

From helping wrongfully accused prisoners to building the DNA biobank of the Philippines, Dr. Maria Corazon de Ungria is committed to conducting science with a purpose.

Rapid DNA Technology Makes Verifying Relationships Easier, Faster

Newswise — Rapid DNA technology developed by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has recently been used to identify simulated “victims” in several mass casualty exercises across the nation. The technology greatly expedites the testing of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), the only biometric that can accurately verify family relationships. With results available in 90 minutes or less, S&T’s Rapid DNA technology can be used on the scene of mass fatality events, in refugee camps around the world, or at immigration offices.

Mystery Solved: Boy killed in Georgetown finally identified after 96 years

GEORGETOWN – After 96 years, a boy killed by a train in Georgetown is finally going home.
Todd Matthews, director of case management and communication for NamUs, a national centralized repository and resource for missing persons and unidentified decedent records, identified the boy as Frank A. Haynes of Bronston. Matthews identified the boy Thursday near his grave in Georgetown Cemetery.
Haynes died April 1, 1921, when he was struck in the head by a train in Georgetown. At the time, officials tried to identify him and buried him before he was positively identified. He was buried in Georgetown Cemetery with the tombstone that simply reads, “Some Mother’s Boy.” He was about 19.

Ancient DNA Could Unravel the Mystery of Prehistoric European Migration

Let’s face it: Even with the modern conveniences of U-Hauls and cardboard boxes, moving is a pain. For Neolithic humans living in Europe 5,000 years ago, the obstacles—roaming predators, lack of transportation, unforgiving—must have seemed insurmountable. “Deep in the past, a few humans could have moved hundreds of kilometers, certainly, but most people at that time would not have,” says Chris Tyler-Smith, a human genetics researcher at England’s Sanger Institute.

Texas becomes first in nation to implement comprehensive rape kit reform

NEW YORK – The Joyful Heart Foundation announced on Wednesday that Texas has become the first state in the nation to implement comprehensive rape kit reform. With the passage of H.B. 281, which requires the Department of Public Safety to establish a comprehensive statewide tracking system to monitor rape kits from collection to analysis, Texas has now enacted all six pillars of reform recommended by Joyful Heart and leaders in this field.

No one knows how many untested rape kits there are in California.

This bill aims to fix that.
Tens of thousands of rape kits are sitting on shelves in police and sheriff’s department evidence rooms nationwide. And no one has tested them to see what crimes they could help solve.
A bill by Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would help determine how many of those unanalyzed exam kits exist in California, part of a national backlog that federal officials have grappled with for nearly two decades.

Woman’s sex assault kit not tested until 5 years after rape

PORTLAND, ORE. Court records state Portland police didn’t pursue or submit evidence for a sexual assault case until five years after the assault was reported, despite police having the name of a suspect and a sexual assault kit.

Maharashtra will be first Indian state to use barcodes to register forensic samples

Barcodes, they are not just for making your supermarket checkout easy. If the state’s plan falls into place, soon, Maharashtra will become the first in the country to have its forensic evidence sent to labs with barcodes as well. This added measure is in a bid to ensure that maximum confidentiality of the samples received is maintained and to prevent any pilferage or leak of samples from the state-run laboratories.

After 27 Years, Judge Overturns Rape Conviction

A Dane County judge on Friday overturned the rape conviction of a man who has served 27 years in prison largely on the strength of a single hair after the FBI admitted its analyst’s conclusion tying Richard Beranek to that hair was flawed.DNA testing has confirmed that neither the hair nor semen found in the perpetrator’s underwear left at the scene of the sexual assault matched Beranek, according to Beranek’s motion for a new trial.

The shifting science of DNA in the courtroom

(CNN)This summer marks 30 years since one of the biggest advances in criminal investigations, DNA profiling, identified a killer.
Every cell within every living creature contains DNA material. That material carries instructions that dictate everything from how tall you’ll be to what diseases you may develop, and it’s unique to you. Forensic scientists can find it in biological material left on a crime scene or body, like hair, saliva or even skin tissue.

Murder Case Highlights Importance Of Conviction Review

On Thursday, Hartford Judge Julia D. Dewey vacated the conviction of Alfred Swinton for the murder of Carla Terry in 1991 and ordered a new trial. Swinton was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to 60 years in prison.
What makes the judge’s decision unusual is that it was supported by State’s Attorney Gail Hardy. The decision is the result, in part, of the increased sophistication of DNA testing in recent years. But it also reflects the willingness of prosecutors in Connecticut to undertake what amounts to a conviction integrity review when presented with substantial evidence of a possible wrongful conviction.

Evidence in Gardner Museum thefts that might bear DNA is missing

The trail had been cold for years when the FBI announced in 2010 that it had sent crime scene evidence from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum to its lab for retesting, hoping advances in DNA analysis would identify the thieves who stole $500 million worth of masterpieces.
But behind the scenes, federal investigators searching for a break in the world’s largest art theft were stymied by another mystery. The duct tape and handcuffs that the thieves had used to restrain the museum’s two security guards — evidence that might, even 27 years after the crime, retain traces of DNA — had disappeared.

Jeff Sessions’ Rejection of Science Leaves Local Prosecutors in the Dark

There’s a stack of file folders on District Attorney John Hummel’s desk that won’t stop staring at him. The folders contain the cases of defendants whose convictions were called into question when a state crime lab technician in Bend, Oregon, part of Hummel’s district, was caught tampering with evidence in 2015. The breach may have impacted more than 1,100 cases. Hummel’s office has been steadily reviewing them ever since—of the 500 cases that have been reviewed so far, 30 convictions have been vacated and those cases dismissed.

NIST and the FBI invite you to the second International Symposium on Forensic Science Error Management

NIST and the FBI invite you to the second International Symposium on Forensic Science Error Management, where speakers, panels, posters, and workshops will address ways to detect, measure, and mitigate forensic science errors. This symposium promises an eye-opening, candid appraisal of root causes and possible solutions while providing a forum for open dialog about this sensitive topic.
Register Here!