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Crime Science

Crime Science: Methods of Forensic Detection

Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 312
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  • Book Info
    Crime Science
    Book Description:

    The O.J. Simpson trial. The Lindbergh kidnapping. The death of Marilyn Monroe. The assassination of the Romanovs. The Atlanta child murders. All controversial cases. All investigated with the latest techniques in forensic science. Nationally respected investigators Joe Nickell and John Fischer explain the science behind the criminal investigations that have captured the nation's attention. Crime Science is the only comprehensive guide to forensics. Without being overly technical or treating scientific techniques superficially, the authors introduce readers to the work of firearms experts, document examiners, fingerprint technicians, medical examiners, and forensic anthropologists. Each topic is treated in a separate chapter, in a clear and understandable style. Nickell and Fisher describe fingerprint classification and autopsies, explain how fibers link victims to their killers, and examine the science underlying DNA profiling and toxicological analysis. From weapons analysis to handwriting samples to shoe and tire impressions, Crime Science outlines the indispensable tools and techniques that investigators use to make sense of a crime scene. Each chapter closes with a study of a well-known case, revealing how the principles of forensic science work in practice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4661-4
    Subjects: Law, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-22)

    The rational basis upon which the work of today’s investigator is predicated is called the scientific method. This method isempirical(from the Latinempiricus, “experienced”), meaning that knowledge is gained from direct observation. Underlying the empirical attitude is a belief that there is a real knowable world that operates according to fixed rules and that effects do not occur without causes.¹ In contrast to, say, religious dogma, science is open-ended: It is amenable to being amplified or to having its errors corrected in the light of new evidence. For our purposes, the scientific method is one that involvesanalysis...

    (pp. 23-53)

    In crimes of violence and in burglary, the scene of the crime may be the most important aspect of the investigation. When Charles E. O’Hara states in hisFundamentals of Criminal Investigationthat “there is not only the effect of the criminal on the scene to be considered, but also the manner in which the scene may have imparted traces to the criminal,”¹ he is restating Locard’s Exchange Principle. Skilled, painstaking work is required to make this principle effective in solving crimes. Crime-scene investigation consists of certainpreliminaries, followed bydocumentation, then thecollection and preservationof the evidence. Only...

    (pp. 54-84)

    The termtrace evidenceis a generic one, referring to minute physical evidence that may be transferred from a criminal to a victim or crime scene, or vice versa (Locard’s Exchange Principle, discussed in chapter 1). Consider, for example, the body of a nude female dumped in a remote area: Fibers on the body may be traced to the seat covering or trunk carpet of a particular type of automobile; combings of head and pubic hair (with samples of the victim’s hair taken as controls) may reveal hairs that are valuable in identifying a rapist; fingernail scrapings may not only...

    (pp. 85-111)

    Murders by firearms became common in the seventeenth century after various wars placed such weapons in the hands of the peasant class. Reluctant to return to their life of poverty, many former soldiers became highwaymen—an occupation they invented. Many victims died before anyone conceived of trying to match a gunshot to the person who fired it. Possibly the first recorded instance of this occurred in 1794 in county Lancashire, England. In conducting a postmortem examination of the victim’s body, the surgeon discovered in the wound a wad of paper. In those days firearms were of the single-shot, flintlock variety,...

    (pp. 112-147)

    Great interest was shown them in ancient times, then for centuries they were neglected, but fingerprints have played important roles in modern crime detection. For example, after a Mannlicher-Carcano rifle was recovered following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Dallas Police crime lab found underneath the stock a latent palmprint that belonged to Lee Harvey Oswald.¹ In 1968, latent fingerprints on a rifle led to the arrest of James Earl Ray for the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.² And that same year fingerprints established the identity of the young alien whom police had in custody following...

    (pp. 148-166)

    Just as the markings left by firearms on bullets and shell casings are distinctive and the impressions of the bare hands and soles of the feet are unique, so may other mechanical markings and other impressions beindividualizedfor forensic purposes. The familiar principles apply. Remember that no two things are precisely identical and that forensic comparisons involve matching features of the questioned or unidentified specimen with known standards. In this chapter we look atfabric prints, shoe and tire impressions, and tool marks.

    Fabric prints are sometimes encountered by the fingerprint expert in the form of glove impressions. With...

    (pp. 167-191)

    Forged checks, “poison pen” letters, ransom notes, disputed legal documents, altered ledgers, counterfeit identification papers—these and similar fakes are the targets of the forensic questioned-document examiner.

    Most of the examiner’s methods fall under the heading ofhandwritingandtypewriting comparisonorforgery detectionand employ variousanalytical techniques. This chapter’s case study involves the “Mormon Forgery Murders.”

    The ancient Jews apparently took the first step toward the development of the science of handwriting comparison by recognizing the individuality that is inherent in handwriting. This recognition was codified in the Jewish Mishnah in the first and second centuries.¹ Unfortunately, the...

  11. 8 SEROLOGY
    (pp. 192-218)

    Blood is the bodily substance most commonly found at the scene of a crime or on a person, clothing, or a weapon potentially associated with a crime. It is a highly complex substance containing many cells, proteins, enzymes, and inorganic materials. This discussion is divided into three sections: theprinciplesof forensic serology, theconventional analysesof blood and other body fluids, andDNA testing. The case study is the O.J. Simpson case.

    The science that studies the properties and effects of serums—for example, the analysis of blood traces—is known asserology.¹ As a practical matter, the serologist...

    (pp. 219-245)

    When the public, along with Dr. Watson, were introduced to Mr. Sherlock Holmes in 1887, they found him a student in a hospital laboratory, busily developing a chemical test for bloodstains. When it was proposed that he and Watson share lodgings (Holmes had his eye on “a suite in Baker Street”), the great sleuth confessed: “I generally have chemicals about, and occasionally do experiments. Would that annoy you?” As it turned out, Holmes would sometimes spend his day “at the chemical laboratory” (when he was not “in the dissecting rooms” or out taking long walks “into the lowest portions of...

  13. 10 PATHOLOGY
    (pp. 246-268)

    As mentioned in the introduction, the earliest forensic scientists were physicians who were called upon to give an opinion as to the cause of death in individuals. Increasingly in the United States, medical examiner programs are replacing the old system of elected coroners, who are not required to have training. The first state medical examiner system was established in 1939 in Maryland.¹ It is the task of the medical examiner, or the forensic pathologist (who has an M.D. degree), to assist in theidentification of decedent, to determine thetime of death, to conduct theautopsy, and to determine the...

    (pp. 269-291)

    The pathologist’s domain is that of dead bodies; the forensic anthropologist applies his expertise to skeletal remains. “In between, we share,” quipped one anthropologist, commenting on the interrelationship of the respective disciplines and the frequent cooperation between experts in those fields.¹

    The noted forensic anthropologist, the late William R. Maples of Gainesville, Florida, was a former president of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology who had examined the skeletal remains of such famous historic personages as President Zachary Taylor and Francisco Pizarro. In his book,Dead Men Do Tell Tales, Dr. Maples states:

    I do not seek out the illustrious...

    (pp. 292-293)

    In the preceding chapters, we have attempted to portray the various forensic sciences as they typically are carried out today at crime scenes and in laboratories, and we have endeavored to provide perspective by discussing the pioneers and techniques of the past. We have seen how the past century has placed crime detection on a scientific foundation.

    There is an old saying that the more things change, the more they stay the same, and this is certainly true of the forensic sciences. Although the practitioners of a century ago would scarcely recognize the present-day laboratory with its computerized AFIS system,...

  16. INDEX
    (pp. 294-302)