Intro and Ethics


In this lecture, we will be
talking about forensic science in general, what
forensic scientists do, and the role of
ethics in the field. So forensics means “of or
pertaining to the law.” So in forensic science, we
apply scientific principles and techniques to
analyze evidence. And historically there are
a lot of major players, but these are the biggies. So Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
wrote Sherlock Holmes and was way ahead of his time. In one of his novels
he discusses– or Sherlock
discusses– how there might be some
property in blood that could be used to link
either the victim or the suspect to each
other and the crime scene. And he wrote about
this long before we knew anything about
blood typing or any of the properties of blood. Alphonse Bertillon developed
what’s called anthropometry or Bertillonage. So that was a series
of body measurements, and this was back in
the Victorian Era. So, essentially, kind of
like from Pretty Woman– I’m dating myself– the
measurement from your elbow to your wrist is the
same as your foot, and the measurements
were thought to be specific to an individual. But as it turns
out, they are not. Edmond Locard, this
gentleman here, developed Locard’s
exchange principle, which states that when any two
objects– regardless if they’re living, non-living,
big, or small– come in contact
with one another, there is always a
transfer of material. And then the first major
crime lab that was created was the FBI Crime Lab. So the field has been rather
rocky, especially of late. A lot of people question
whether a lot of the techniques are really scientific and
whether forensic science is a real science. So a few years ago the
National Academy of Sciences released a report
stating that most of the techniques
that were being used are not particularly scientific. They are not
reproducible, and they have a huge margin of error. And they said all of this
with the exception of DNA and a lot of the
chemical analyses that we use primarily
for drug evidence. So what do forensic
scientists do? Well, obviously,
they work in the lab. You can be a toxicologist. You can be just a
general chemist. You can work with drugs. You can work with just DNA. You can work in serology. It really depends on
the size of the lab and the scope of your work. So, obviously, they
can work in crime labs. They can work at crime scenes. They can work in a morgue,
ME’s office, police stations, hospitals,
universities– again, it depends on the jurisdiction and
the resources that they have. So they work in the
lab, but they also have to go from the lab to
the courtroom and testify. So they deliver what is
called an expert opinion. Other witnesses just
state the facts, but forensic science,
as expert witnesses, get to deliver their
opinion on whether or not the evidence is
conclusive, inconclusive or we can eliminate someone. So the technical definition is
that they have more knowledge in a field than
the average person, and they always have to
include a degree of certainty. So, typically, you don’t
want to go to court– well, you will go to
court– but you would say that it’s inconclusive. I’m not sure. Or I can say that I’m 95%
certain that we can eliminate this person or 95% certain that
we can include this person. So, again, after the
NAS report came out, there were lots of
types of evidence where people were
just sort of making up the degree of certainty. They weren’t using statistical
methods or anything. Because of their experience
and their knowledge base, they were positive
that they could link these pieces of evidence. The other thing
they have to do is explain somewhat or
sometimes extremely difficult and intricate
scientific techniques to non-science people. And then there’s
always the question of whether or not their
testimony is admissible, and that depends on,
obviously, their credentials, their methods,
and whether or not their overall conclusion was
based on the actual methods. So– sorry this is
teeny– are they working for the defense
or the prosecution? If you work for a state
crime lab or a public like a government
crime lab, you’re going to quote unquote “be
working for the prosecution,” otherwise you could be called in
as a consultant by the defense. So what really irritates people
is when a forensic scientist’s results are inconclusive. That means it could
have been the suspect, but it might not have been. I’m not sure. Most importantly, they have to
remain unbiased and ethical, and you try to avoid
using the word “match.” You can say, “is
consistent with,” “there’s a degree
of certainty there.” And here is an interesting–
this is Annie Dookhan from Massachusetts. She worked for the state
crime lab, and enjoy. Also working new
developments tonight in a major drug
lab scandal that’s sprung thousands of criminal
cases into question. This afternoon, a former
Massachusetts State chemist accused of tapering
with drug evidence faced a judge in
southern New England. Annie Dookhan of Franklin
answered to criminal charges out of Bristol County today,
the fifth county in which she’s been arraigned so far. Eyewitness News
reporter Nicole Estaphan joins us live from Fall
River with the Southeastern Massachusetts Mobile Newsroom. That’s right, Susan, the
court backlog continues, as does Annie Dookhan’s
parade of sorts, through Massachusetts
counties, now charging her with obstruction of justice. Today she was in Fall
River Superior Court. Annie Dookhan on
indictment number– Annie Dookhan pleaded
not guilty Wednesday to an obstruction
of justice charge in Fall River Superior Court. Not guilty. This was the first
time the woman at the center of a
statewide drug lab scandal was in Bristol County court. Annie, any comment
from you today? She left without comment. This would be the fifth charge
she faced in just one day. She pleaded not guilty
to four other counts in Brockton Superior court
earlier on Wednesday. In fact, she has been making
the courtroom rounds as of late. Investigators say she may
have put close to 30,000 cases statewide in jeopardy,
more than 3,000 right here in Bristol County Dookhan is accused of
fabricating test results when she worked as a chemist
at the state’s drug lab. We’ve learned she
even testified to some of those results
in criminal cases while she was already
suspended from the lab. Hundreds of convicted
defendants have now been released from jail while
their cases are reviewed. The state lab was
closed in August. Well, Dookhan, who was
out on $10,000 bail, will be back here in Fall
River’s court on March 21 for a pretrial hearing. Coming up at 6
o’clock, we’ve learned that the obstruction of justice
charge she’s facing here is in connection
with a case that sent a man to
prison for 15 years, and we were there
when he was set free. That story coming up at 6:00. For now, we’re live in Fall
River with the Southeastern Massachusetts Mobile Newsroom,
Nicole Estaphan, Eyewitness News. So Annie was sentenced to
three to five years in jail. It was a reduced sentence
because she pled guilty. And, essentially,
what she was doing is analyzing maybe a
couple packets, evidence packets of drugs, and
then taking those numbers and applying them
to multiple packets so that she was getting through
a lot more evidence then all of her other coworkers. So, essentially, she
was making numbers up. They also said that she was
manipulating concentrations within a packet to make
them either more or less. And it’s my understanding
that it was somewhat arbitrary the way she was doing this. But that’s a really
significant example of a scientist who is unethical. So the different
specialties that you can go into as a
forensic scientist are computer pathology, so
that’s a pure medical examiner; anthropology;
engineering; odontology, which is bite mark examination;
psychiatry; and entomology. So in terms of
evidence– and we’ll talk more about this
in a couple of weeks. But the different
types of evidence are scientific
versus nonscientific. Are there chemical, biological,
or microscopic techniques that I can use to
analyze the evidence? The other stuff
that the NAS sort of lumped into nonscientific
are like voice recognition, document examination,
fingerprints, ballistics– hair and fiber is a big one. Direct versus circumstantial–
so direct evidence is either victim
statement– which I will put a couple of articles
on Blackboard and Moodle showing you how even
victims can be wrong, eyewitness statements,
and confessions. Everything else
is circumstantial. And then the types
of evidence can have what are called
class characteristics or individual characteristics. So let’s say you have a footwear
impression at the crime scene. So the class characteristic
would be the size and tell me the make and
model of the shoe, the nicks and gouges that have
occurred in that footwear impression over time. So as you wear your
shoe, it’s going to look different
than a brand new shoe. So I can link that particular
footwear impression to your shoe based on
individual characteristics. And then whether or not
evidence or testimony is admissible in court is based
on one of three standards, depending on the state
in which you live. So the Frye standard states that
the technique, the method, the what you’re doing in the lab
has been widely recognized, everybody knows about
it in the field. So O.J. Simpson–
there was a ton of DNA that linked Nicole Brown and Ron
Goldman to O.J. and DNA linking O.J. to them pretty
conclusively, but it was not
admissible at the time because California was using
the Frye standard and DNA technology was so new at the
time that it was inadmissible. And then Daubert versus
Dow occurred in 1993 when Mrs. Daubert tried to
sue Dow Chemical Company. She was pregnant. She was pregnant and had
taken some cough medicine or cold medicine,
and her son was born with severe birth defects. So they tried to sue Dow. The Dauberts had
an expert witness come in who poured alcohol
on a Petri dish full of cells and, of course, they all died. And the jury thought,
wow, that was in the cough medicine she took. That must have been what caused
the birth defects, where, in fact, you know,
alcohol kills cells. So after Daubert versus Dow,
it was a bit of a circus. So that rule essentially
states that the judge is the gatekeeper. So the judge gets to decide
if the evidence is admissible, if the techniques
are admissible, if the forensic scientists
themselves are admissible based on their credentials
and their methods. And then Kumho Tire
was sort of in addition to that because the Daubert
versus Dow sort of used the language “scientific,”
whereas Kumho Tire said you don’t have to
necessarily be a scientist, but you have to be an
expert in your own field.