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Science Thursday - February 7, 2013

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Posted: February 7, 2013   1:40 PM

The New York City medical examiner’s office uncovers more errors, North Carolina introduces legislation to tackle its backlog of samples, and researchers in the UK have developed new technology for police to tag criminal suspects with DNA. Here’s this week’s round up of forensic news:
In the ongoing review of cases at the New York City medical examiner’s office, it was discovered that in more than 50 cases DNA profiles were not loaded into the state database. This error, along with cases containing overlooked biological evidence, led to the firing of the office’s deputy director of quality assurance and the suspension of the office’s department of forensic biology.
In Texas, the growing backlog of samples at the Austin Police Department crime lab is partially the result of the city’s refusal to add more scientists to the staff. However, no national agency regulates backlogs or has standards for how quickly cases should be processed.
Recently proposed legislation in North Carolina aims to reduce a three-year backlog of blood and DNA evidence by creating a new crime lab. The legislation appropriates $17.8 million for the construction and staffing of the lab.
A Massachusetts’ man has filed a civil lawsuit against the Hinton State chemist who allegedly falsified conclusive tests on drug samples. The lawsuit claims Annie Dookhan “conducted no scientific testing on the substances [and] falsely recorded that the substances tested positive for cocaine.”
Researchers in the U.K. have developed a new technology where DNA can be used to tag suspects, for example in a riot when suspects are dispersed. The controversial technology involves shooting paintball-type bullets filled with a unique DNA signature at individuals so they can later be round up and identified by ultraviolent light.
The American Bar Association drafted a resolution that encourages judges and lawyers to consider a variety of factors when deciding how expert testimony should be presented in court. These resolutions, which could improve testimony from forensic experts and analysts, mirror recommendations from the 2009 National Academy of Sciences report that focuses on forensic research.

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