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Science Thursday - December 13, 2012

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Posted: December 13, 2012   12:15 PM

St. Paul weighs the cost of upgrading its closed crime lab, Texas’ backlog of blood alcohol tests increases, and new research from Massachusetts might improve trace sample collection at crime scenes. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:
In Minnesota, the St. Paul City Council is deciding if purchasing new equipment, reorganizing lab space, and supporting staff training is worth the $1 million price tag to reopen one if its crime labs. The proposed upgrades would address issues with evidence storage and contamination which caused the lab to close in July.
While the number of blood samples submitted for alcohol content analysis has risen 500% in six years, the Texas Department of Public Safety has kept lab space and staff size constant. As a result, an increasing backlog of samples causes a delay in prosecution and forces defendants to wait months, sometimes while incarcerated, for their cases to be heard.
Researchers in Massachusetts have developed spray-on, strippable coatings that could soon be used to capture trace samples, such as gun residue, from crime scenes while avoiding contamination. Currently, cotton gauze is the preferred capture material, though loss of sample and contamination are frequent.
Months after issues within the Monroe County crime lab led to the firing of its director, members of the New York State Commission on Forensic Science accepted the lab’s report on administration review. The crime lab has also created two subcommittees to address prioritization of forensic evidence at the lab and to determine whether it is necessary to upgrade the DNA testing capabilities.
The American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law is pushing to expand its scientific approach and strengthen its evidence base for the discipline of forensic psychiatry. While the National Academy of Science report on forensic science briefly mentions forensic psychiatry, the discipline would equally benefit from applying the standards of science during clinical evaluation.

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