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Science Thursday - December 20, 2012

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Posted: December 20, 2012   2:00 PM

The chemist involved in the Massachusetts lab scandal is indicted, several cases in Michigan are dropped due to a crime lab backlog, and Brazilian researchers develop a new gunshot residue detection system. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:
A Massachusetts grand jury indicted Annie Dookhan, a chemist from Hinton State crime lab, on more than 20 counts including obstruction of justice and perjury. State Attorney General Martha Coakley alleges that Dookhan “tampered with drug evidence and fabricated test results on multiple occasions.”
Lawmakers in Western North Carolina met the director of the state crime lab to discuss the long delays in processing evidence samples. State Senator Tom Apodaca describes the issue as his number one priority moving forward and hopes to pass legislation to reduce backlog.
Although the Austin Police Department forensic lab currently has a backlog of cases, the lab will begin charging a fee to process evidence from a nearby county. Because the additional evidence will be analyzed during overtime hours, it should not affect the backlog in its own cases.
In Michigan, several cases in Kent County have either been dismissed or temporarily dropped due to a nearly yearlong lag time for testing blood alcohol content levels. The Michigan State Police Crime Lab, which is responsible for testing, received funding for 19 additional positions, though hiring and training analysts could take two years before it can significantly reduce backlog.
Brazilian researchers have shown that ammunition with added luminescent lanthanide tags can enable investigators to detect gunshot residue at crime scenes. Future work will help determine if it is possible to identify distinct ammunition sources and trace the ammunition’s origin.

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