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F rensic
Vol. 4 | No. 1
Forensic Disaster Response:
The Crash of Comair 5191
Defining Digital Forensics
Identifying Degraded DNA
Qualifying the Expert Witness
National Forensic Academy
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F rensic
Vol. 4 | No. 1
Forensic Disaster Response:
The Crash of Comair 5191
Commentary: Defining Digital Forensics
Identifying Degraded DNA
Qualifying the Expert Witness:
A Practical Voir Dire
Calling the Shots: New Technique Links Digital
Images to Exact Camera
The National Forensic Academy
Who Says You Can’t Do That?
Knowledge: The Key to Crime Scene Investigation
The Safety Guys: Office Ergonomics 101 – Part 1
Most Wanted: Answers to Facility Issues
Justifying a New Facility – Part 2: Building
Support and Obtaining Financial Resources
Digital Insider: Quality Assurance Practices for
Computer Forensics – Part 1
Forensic Magazine (ISSN 1553-6262) is published bi-monthly by Vicon Publishing, Inc., 4 Limbo Lane,
Amherst, NH 03031. USPS 023-655 Periodicals Postage Paid at Amherst, NH 03031 and at additional mailing office. A requester publication, Forensic Magazine® is distributed to qualified subscribers. Non-qualified
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accept responsibility for the correctness of information supplied, advertisements or opinions expressed. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Forensic Magazine,® 4 Limbo Lane, Amherst, NH 03031.
©2007 Forensic Magazine® by Vicon Publishing, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
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978-750-4470) to photocopy articles for a base fee of $1 per copy of the article plus $.35 per page.
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4 Forensic Magazine I
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A Look at Forensic Odontology
ome define forensic odontology as the intersection of the
law and the science of dentistry. Others simply state that it happens when dentists assist law enforcement in solving crimes.
And although a couple of thousand dentists throughout the world
call themselves forensic odontologists or forensic dentists by
virtue of study, training, and experience – in truth, nearly every
dentist has the basic knowledge required to perform a dental
identification – the staple of forensic dental practice. Many
dentists have assisted in making dental IDs by providing the
“dental records” that are so often referenced in the news – “the
authorities are waiting for dental records to positively identify
the remains.”
Forensic dental practice also includes the evaluation of bite
injuries in both victims and perpetrators of crimes and in animal attack cases as well as evaluation of oral and cranial trauma related to child, spouse, and elder abuse. Some forensic
dentists also consult in dental malpractice and dental injury cases.
In fact, willingness to and a bit of flair for testifying in court,
can separate those who continue to accept forensic cases from
those who do a few cases and drop out. Finally, forensic dentists provide needed and oftentimes invaluable service in mass
disaster situations – the focus of this issue’s feature article.
Dental identification has a long and storied history. Like the
other forensic identification sciences, it is the comparison of an
unknown object – the nameless remains – to a known object –
the dental record which may include anything from a picture of
the teeth to dental models to a the written dental notes of the
family dentist or specialist to radiographs – both dental and
medical. Some of the earliest recorded cases are of a dentist,
Paul Revere for example, recognizing his own dental handicraft
in the mouth of a fallen Revolutionary War hero; or, in the case
of the Bizarre de la Charite fire in the 1890s when an American
dentist and a Cuban dentist practicing in Paris teamed up to
help other dentists and themselves recognize their own restorative work in scores of women and children who perished.
8 Forensic Magazine I
Since then advances in dental health and treatment have heralded similar advances in forensic dental identification. The
improved dental health of the American public coupled with
improved access and vastly improved dental products results in
a greater proliferation of “known” evidence with which to compare the unknown remains. Advances in information technology enable faster, more accurate transmission of dental evidence
and computer-aided comparison speeds up and refines the
search for the perfect “match” – from CAPMI and Toothpics®
to WinID. One part still remains the most difficult – obtaining that first clue that leads to a tentative ID leading to the dental record, whatever it consists of.
Dentists should be proud of the role they have played in
numerous airline disasters, war crimes excavations, the World
Trade Center, the 2005 Tsunami, and Hurricane Katrina. Credit must also be given to the organizations that have enabled dentists to contribute to lessening human suffering – international
groups such as International Association of Forensic Sciences,
the British Association of Forensic Odontologists; and, in North
America the American Association of Forensic Odontologists,
the American Board of Forensic Odontology, the American
Academy of Forensic Sciences, and the DMORT teams of the
National Disaster Medical Services.
Robert E. Barsley, DDS, JD is Professor and Director at
the LSU School of Dentistry temporarily located in Baton Rouge,
LA. He received his DDS from the LSU School of Dentistry in
1977 and his JD from Loyola University in 1986. With over 30
years in forensic dentistry, Dr. Barlsey is a member of the ASFO,
the AAFS where he is currently on the Executive Committee of
the Board of Directors, and is a Diplomat of the ABFO. He worked
as a member of a DMORT team during the Katrina recovery effort in Louisiana from September 2005 through February 2006
and continues that work today through the New Orleans Forensic Center (Office of the Coroner). Dr. Barsley can be reached at
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Forensic Disaster Response:
The Crash of Comair 5191
Douglas Page
Challenges, issues, and solutions of identification in mass disasters differ with the type and scope of the catastrophe.
At approximately 6:10 A.M. on Sunday, August 27, 2006,
Comair Flight 5191 taxied into takeoff position at Blue Grass
Airport in Lexington, Kentucky. Neither tower controllers
nor the crew on the flight deck noticed the aircraft had
turned on to unlit secondary Runway 26 — only half as long
as intended 7000 ft. primary Runway 22.
Too soon after the Bombardier CRJ-100ER began its
takeoff roll the 50 seat commuter aircraft ran out of concrete. With the crew fighting to get the doomed plane airborne, the plane’s landing gear clipped an 8 ft. perimeter
fence at 158 mph with its tail dragging the ground. The
plane failed to clear a nearby grove of trees; the tail separating from the fuselage. The aircraft then slammed into a
hillside no more than 1000 ft. from the end of the runway
and exploded.
Less than 90 minutes later, University of
Louisville dentistry professor Mark Bernstein, DDS, and a diplomat of the American
Board of Forensic Odontology, home asleep
in nearby Borden, IN, is informed by Tracey
Corey, MD, the Chief Medical Examiner
(CME) of the Commonwealth of Kentucky,
to assemble his odontology team. A plane
is down at Bluegrass Airport, 50 onboard,
one survivor.
“Although I lecture on mass disaster
preparedness as a component of a University of Louisville Bioterrorism grant,
and recently participated in a mock disaster exercise at the Greater Cincinnati
Airport, the immediate reaction to such
news is momentary confusion and inaction,” Bernstein said.
10 Forensic Magazine I
The shock is transient. Bernstein immediately passes
the word to faculty colleague Ryan Noble, DDS. Within
minutes the remaining members of Bernstein’s odontology
team – Drs. James Woodward, William Lee, and Corky
Deaton – are also notified, as is Virginia Woodward, the
team’s dental hygienist. All are to report to the medical examiner’s facility in Frankfort, 18 miles from the crash site.
Bernstein and Noble first swing by the University
School of Dentistry to gather supplies and equipment that
have been stored for just such events. There is one snag.
The mobile x-ray unit is not exactly portable — it weighs
500 pounds and must be dismantled, then somehow
maneuvered into Bernstein’s SUV. Campus police help
hoist the unit. Other gear in the emergency cache includes
antemortem and postmortem dental charting forms, ➤
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a computer, a Dexis digital x-ray probe and software package, miscellaneous containers, and a digital camera.
The odontologists depart for the state forensic laboratory in
Frankfort, arriving by noon, before the bodies.
“A perimeter of security surrounds the building but we are
anticipated, and promptly admitted,” Bernstein said.
Meanwhile, Corey and Fayette County coroner Gary Ginn
have activated the remainder of the mass disaster team, including 22 coroners, seven pathologists, and Emily Craig, Ph.D., the
state anthropologist.
Members of the Kentucky Mass Disaster Team (KMDT), a group
of county coroners from the Kentucky Coroners Association
formed in the early 1990s to respond to state mass fatality incidents, are already at the crash scene, removing bodies from the
wreckage. First members of KMDT are on the scene within 3045 minutes.
“Coroners do the body recovery,” said Lee, who happens to
be the coroner of Hardin County (and the only coroner-dentist
in Kentucky).
Corey said Kentucky is lucky that it already had in place a
mass fatality response team of experienced death investigators.
“When I arrived at the scene many of them were already on
hand,” she said.
Over the years, the medical examiner’s office and KMDT had
trained and formulated disaster plans and procedures. Plans
must be flexible.
“Every mass fatality incident is going to be unique, and
although you can have policies and procedures you are always
going to have to modify those procedures to fit the situation that
arises,” Corey said.
Unlike Hurricane Katrina, where victims were widely scattered, here crash victims are confined, facilitating recovery. By
4 P.M., remains begin arriving at the Frankfort morgue, where
they are logged, placed on gurneys, and rolled into refrigerated
trucks positioned earlier in a secure area.
“Sometimes, you might have to work in a tent or temporary
facility, but here we were fortunate to be so close to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Frankfort,” Lee said.
Once the morgue operations are ready, bodies are brought in
groups, tagged, photographed, and personal effects catalogued.
Mistaken identity of the dead at mass fatality incidents is
always a risk. In April, 2006, a terrible mistake was made after
two Indiana college students who resembled each other were
involved in a car crash near Fort Wayne, Indiana. One died, one
survived comatose. The family of the deceased was told their
daughter had died in the crash, only to learn five weeks later that
the victims had been misidentified at the scene.
Lexington circumstances are different, but Corey takes no
chances; she requires that a coroner accompany each victim
to each station during identification, eliminating any potential
for mislabeling or loss. Days later, as the bodies are released
to families, Corey double checks each body bag, just to be sure.
“All victims display varying degrees of fire effect,” Bernstein
said. “Many have blunt force trauma.”
Clothing is removed first and autopsies performed by the
pathologists, who not only look for identification clues but attempt
to determine cause of death. While all deaths are related to the
crash, specific cause for each individual – whether from injuries
from the impact or smoke inhalation – must be ascertained for
the death certificate.
“A person might have had a heart attack and be dead before
the crash,” Lee said.
After autopsy, the remains go to dental processing, where
Bernstein exposes the dentition, noting fracture patterns, dental damage, airway soot, color of tissues.
“These factors may help reconstruct the cause of death,” he
said. The hygienist, who serves a scribe, records the findings.
Odontology teams photograph the dentition and chart the dental findings on standard postmortem forms.
Victims are then returned to the trucks.
The forensic teams work until 9:30 P.M. Sunday night and
return at 7 Monday morning. By Monday evening all 49 decedents have been examined.
“Remarkably, almost no teeth or jaw fragments are lost or comingled,” Bernstein said. One segment of an upper jaw not present with its remains is found at the scene two days later.
Elsewhere, Comair arranges for the victims’ families to gather at
a Lexington motel. FEMA’s Disaster Mortuary Operational ➤
12 Forensic Magazine I
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Response Team (DMORT) family assistance crew, along with the
Fayette County coroner’s office, are busy collecting medical and
dental records of those on Flight 5191’s manifest.
Family assistance is critical.
“Someone must sit down with 49 emotionally charged families and ask them detailed questions to help identification – color
and length of hair, color and length of fingernails, and so forth,”
Lee said. “You need people who are trained for this.”
All crash victims are adults, most are locals, and most have
considerable dental work – factors that contribute to rapid acquisition of antemortem dental records. The local medical community responds compassionately, Bernstein said.
“Indeed, 47 antemortem records were received by Tuesday,”
he said. By Tuesday evening antemortem records and postmortem
records are matched and tentative identifications are being made.
Bernstein organizes the antemortem records into two groups,
male and female. The most characteristic feature of each victim
is selected, then postmortem records from that gender group are
visually scanned to find matching characteristics.
“If only one postmortem record showed a similar characteristic, it was considered a tentative identification,” Bernstein said.
If more than one victim shared the characteristic, a second characteristic is selected for comparison.
Bernstein said that for each tentative identification made,
confirmation is established by comparing all charted dental features, noting any dental similarities while accounting for any discrepancies.
Most identifications are straightforward.
“Some are difficult, either because of little dental work or the
antemortem records are old and temporal changes have ➤
Identification Clues, Like the Phoenix, Rise from the Ashes
Forensic science can sometimes fail to
identify disaster victims.
Explosions and intense fires leave
precious little to work with. Traditional dental x-ray comparison may be
unsuccessful if structural relationships
of the jaw are lost. When airplanes crash
soon after takeoff with a full load of fuel,
ensuing fires are long and hot. Teeth
warp, making traditional forensic identification impossible.
In a new development, University at
Buffalo (UB) forensic dental researchers
have found that evidence still exists
among the ashes when all else – flesh,
bones, teeth, DNA – is lost. Researchers
there have demonstrated that inorganic
resins that make up the central matrix
of dental fillings not only withstand temperatures of 1,800° F, they can be recovered and identified.
“When fire burns hot enough and
long enough, all other clues are
destroyed,” said Mary Bush, DDS, assistant professor of Restorative Dentistry,
UB’s School of Dental Medicine. Identification at this point can only be made
from nonbiological evidence found with
the victim. Dental prosthesis, such as
crowns and partial dentures, are examples of nonbiologicals that survive inferno conditions, she said.
Bush found that not only are resin
fillings retrievable, but they can be
identified by brand or brand group.
Brand groups are important because
14 Forensic Magazine I
some manufacturers use the same inorganic elemental formulations.
“Inorganic elements stay virtually
unchanged even after cremation conditions,” Bush said.
These materials can then be checked
against dental charts to provide identifying information when other means of identification are exhausted. Or, it can provide
ancillary certainty if other clues remain.
Odontologists have noticed this work.
“Forensic dentists have all seen the
effects of high heat on filling materials,
but this research documents these
effects for use by odontologists,” said
forensic odontologist Ann Norrlander,
DDS, a University of Minnesota assistant professor of Diagnostic and Biological Sciences.
In most cases where destruction of
dental evidence is minimal to moderate,
odontologists will continue to rely on
dental radiographs alone for comparisons, but with severe dentition destruction, information collected through the
Bush method may make the difference
between a possible or positive identification and one where determination is
impossible, Norrlander said.
Arnold S. Hermanson, a Prairie Village, Kansas, dentist, and member of the
American Society of Forensic Odontology, said Bush has created a taxonomic chart of the composite kingdom.
“This database will allow investigators to speciate every resin ever placed
in a tooth,” Hermanson said. “With
portable equipment, on-site brand identification can be made.”
So far, Bush’s technique works well
in the lab, but further work remains
before it appears in the field. In a new
paper (Journal of Forensic Science, Jan
2007) Bush reports the possibility of
using a portable x-ray fluorescence
detector to perform field analysis.
“This hair-dryer sized machine will
show a spectrum in about six seconds,”
Bush said. The spectrum is based on
elemental composition, which are compared to known compounds.
Identification of restorative material
is rendered useless, however, if dentists
don’t accurately record type and brand
of material used.
“Quality dental record-keeping has
been a historic problem facing forensic odontology,” said UB researcher
Raymond Miller, a UB clinical assistant
professor of Oral Diagnostic Sciences.
Miller said dental education needs
to emphasize the importance of maintaining accurate dental records, including not just procedure but materials and
“Restorative dentists need to understand the forensic value of this information,” he said. “The circumstance may
be rare, but the results may bring justice or closure to a complex case.”
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occurred,” he said. In these instances, digital postmortem radiographs are used to compare with antemortem films.
“Radiographs provide specific dental silhouette patterns and
show subtle anatomic features that can be objectively compared
with precision to ensure identification,” Bernstein said.
In the end, dental comparisons establish 47 identifications.
Of the two individuals on whom no dental records are obtained,
one is identified by fingerprints and the other by a radiographic comparison of an antemortem x-ray of a previously damaged
finger bone.
All 49 victims are positively identified by Wednesday evening.
The loss of Flight 5191 is the first mass fatality incident in Kentucky since a 1988 bus crash.
“Comparison of each accident illustrates why it is axiomatic that no single protocol for managing mass fatalities is appropriate in all situations,” Bernstein said.
In both incidents, victims were burned but remained relatively intact, and dental records were quickly recovered. However, because the bus victims were children, there was very
little dental work.
“Children lose teeth and new ones erupt so rapidly, their
antemortem radiographs of only a few
months earlier appeared much changed
from current dentitions,” Bernstein said.
This mandated making dental radiographs
on each victim and copying antemortem
radiographs on each patient so that subtle
anatomic features of teeth and bone could
be compared, a difficult and time consuming task.
Flight 5191 response was managed differently.
The decision to delay making dental xrays and not to copy all of the antemortem
x-rays was made because clinical attributes quickly documented by digital photography rendered so much dental
information that these comparisons alone
allowed unconditional identification in
most cases. In cases where there was any
uncertainty, radiographic comparisons were
“This modification saved time while not
compromising accuracy, thus optimizing
the identification effort,” Bernstein said.
Dental results were presented to Corey,
who cross-checked them against suspected identification based on personal effects,
medical records, and anthropologic data.
“The rapidity and effectiveness of the
response allowed us to release the remains
to families as quickly as possible without
compromising accuracy,” Bernstein said.
Corey said her strongest advice to
other CMEs or disaster planners who may
have to direct a response is to find the
right people.
“The most important thing in planning
is to have contacts with forensic people with
experience and expertise who you will need
to call on,” she said.
Douglas Page writes about forensic
science and medicine from Pine Mountain, California. He can be reached at
16 Forensic Magazine I
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Page 18
Defining Digital
Ken Zatyko
No matter what anybody tells you,
words and ideas can change the world.
~from Dead Poet's Society
Wouldn’t it be great if we could just look up the term “digital forensics” in the dictionary? Unfortunately, as you and
others have found, it is not that easy. Even better, wouldn’t it be great if we could sort out who is really performing digital forensics versus those performing media analysis, software code analysis, and/or network analysis? In the past, most
have used other terms such as computer forensics; intrusion forensics; video forensics; audio forensics; and digital and
multimedia forensics. It is past time
for someone to succinctly coin this
term. Let us consider the following:
Ken Zatyko was previously the Director of the Defense Computer
“The application of computer science
and investigative procedures for a legal
Forensics Laboratory where he led the largest, accredited, internapurpose involving the analysis of digitionally recognized, leading edge computer forensics laboratory with
tal evidence after proper search authority, chain of custody, validation with
an annual budget of over $17 million. He supervised over ninety
mathematics, use of validated tools,
personnel who completed over 900 cases, analyzed over 120 terrepeatability, reporting, and possible
expert presentation.”
abytes, and provided expert testimony in over seventy military and
Given this definition, this scientiffederal trials. Previously Ken served as the United States Air Force’s
ic process contains the following eight
focal point and war planner for counterintelligence support to force
- Search authority
protection, criminal, computer crime, and fraud investigations for
- Chain of custody
- Imaging/hashing function
- Validated tools
18 Forensic Magazine I
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10:52 AM
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- Analysis
- Repeatability (Quality Assurance)
- Reporting
- Possible expert presentation
Consequently, digital forensics encompasses more than
intrusion related security incidents. Some break the process
down into acquiring, analyzing, and reporting. Dedicated academic researchers have attempted to define Digital Forensics Science in the past. For example, the Digital Forensic
Research Workshop met in 2001 to define this term, and provided a “compilation from group suggestions.” It was later published by Brian Carrier in his paper Defining Digital Forensic
Examination and Analysis Tools. They defined Digital “Forensic” Science in a 54 word sentence as “the use of scientifically derived and proven methods toward the preservation,
collection, validation, identification, analysis, interpretation,
documentation, and presentation of digital evidence derived
from digital sources for the purpose of facilitating or furthering the reconstruction of events found to be criminal, or helping to anticipate unauthorized actions shown to be disruptive
to planned operations.” I and other practitioners believe we
can provide a shorter definition in this fast growing and evolving discipline.
The basis for my definition of this new terminology is the
Scientific Working Group for Digital Evidence. They define
digital evidence as “information of probative value that is stored
or transmitted in binary form.” However, they and others have
not provided a definition for this science. Given this situation and the myriad of self-proclaimed digital forensics experts,
I am providing a definition for “digital forensics” best termed
“digital forensics science” which I have used in a course I
taught for Johns Hopkins University.
“Digital Forensics Science: The application of computer science and investigative procedures for a legal purpose involving the analysis of digital evidence (information of probative
value that is stored or transmitted in binary form) after proper search authority, chain of custody, validation with mathematics (hash function), use of validated tools, repeatability,
reporting, and possible expert presentation.”
Or more simply:
“The application of computer science and investigative procedures for a legal purpose involving the analysis of digital
evidence after proper search authority, chain of custody, validation with mathematics, use of validated tools, repeatability, reporting, and possible expert presentation.”
Many have recognized definitional challenges in this field
such as noted author Eoghan Casey in his book Digital Evidence and Computer Crime 2nd Edition. He points out that
there is imprecise terminology such as Digital Forensic Science, Forensic Computing, Forensic Computer Analysis, and
Digital Evidence examination. Even overseas, Australian
author McKemmish in his article What is Forensic Computing? defines it as “the process of identifying, preserving, analyzing, and presenting digital evidence in a manner that is
legally acceptable.”
20 Forensic Magazine I
Breaking this into two terms, “digital” and “forensics,” I
have researched their meaning. According to Wikipedia, last
viewed September 2006, “digital” is defined as:
“A digital system is one that uses discrete numbers, especially binary numbers, or non-numeric symbols such as letters
or icons, for input, processing, transmission, storage, or display, rather than a continuous spectrum of values (an analog
The distinction of “digital” versus “analog” can refer to
method of input, data storage and transfer, the internal working of an instrument, and the kind of display. The word comes
from the same source as the word digit and digitus: the Latin
word for finger (counting on the fingers) as these are used for
discrete counting.
The word digital is most commonly used in computing and
electronics, especially where real-world information is converted to binary numeric form as in digital audio and digital
photography. Such data-carrying signals carry either one of
two electronic or optical pulses, logic 1 (pulse present) or 0
(pulse absent). The term is often meant by the prefix “e-”,
as in e-mail and ebook, even though not all electronics systems are digital.”
“Forensic science” (often shortened to forensics) is the application of a broad spectrum of sciences to answer questions of
interest to the legal system. This may be in relation to a crime
or to a civil action. The use of the term “forensics” in place
of “forensic science” could be considered incorrect; the term
“forensic” is effectively a synonym for “legal” or “related to
courts” (from Latin, it means “before the forum”). However,
it is now so closely associated with the scientific field that many
dictionaries include the meaning given here.
This new definition presented of “digital forensics science”
incorporates the correct use of the term forensics and uses
the term and definition of digital evidence approved by the
National Institute of Justice sponsored SWG-DE. “Digital
Evidence” is defined as “Information of probative value that
is stored or transmitted in binary form.” “Forensics” is effectively a synonym for “legal” or “related to courts.”
I have considered other definitions of computer forensics. (last viewed September 2006) defines computer
forensics as follows:
Computer forensics, also called cyberforensics, is the application of computer investigation and analysis techniques to
gather evidence suitable for presentation in a court of law. The
goal of computer forensics is to perform a structured investigation while maintaining a documented chain of evidence to
find out exactly what happened on a computer and who was
responsible for it.”
Others have taken a stab at defining this as well such as
in the text Computer and Intrusion Forensics. Mohay, et al provided the following:
“Computer Forensics Definitions: ‘The study of how people use computers to inflict mischief, hurt, and even destruction’ or ‘Which relates to the investigation of situations where
there is computer-basis (digital) or electronic evidence of a
crime or suspicious behaviors, but the crime or behav- ➤
10:52 AM
Page 21
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iors may be of any type, quite possibly not otherwise involving computers.’”
They go on to state that “intrusions forensics” can be perceived as a specialization of computer forensics or a subset
of computer forensics: “the recovery of information from a computer system or computer network suspected of having been
compromised or accessed in an unauthorized fashion, information which included host-based data and will typically also
include communications traffic and payload data with analysis also of information very possibly from other sources, for
example call records, personal digital assistant (PDAs) flash
memory contents, and business organizational structure, in
order to allow investigators to reason about validity of hypothesis’ attempting to explain the circumstances and cause of activity under investigation, and possibly provide evidence to
support litigation either criminal or civil.”
The preeminent private organization concerning this issue
is the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board (ASCLD/LAB). Here is some information from their 2005 Manual you may want to consider.
They have adopted the SWG-DE definition of digital evidence,
but neither organization goes on to specifically define Digital
Forensics Science. Instead, ASCLD/LAB uses the terminology “Digital and Multimedia Evidence.”
My proposal is that Digital Forensics Science professionals
start to use this new definition. Regarding other related terminology, I would refer you to the NIJ Special Report: Forensics
22 Forensic Magazine I
Examination of Digital Evidence and its glossary along with
SWG-DE's glossary found at http:
As Robin Williams once stated in a great movie “No matter
what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”
Let’s make it happen by using the correct term, Digital Forensics Science, which involves all eight functions.
• Mohay, Anderson, Collie, De Vel, and McKemmish, Computer
and Intrusion Forensics, Artech House, 2003, (ISBN:
• Casey, Eoghan, Digital Evidence and Computer Crime: Forensic
Science, Computers, and the Internet, 2d Ed, Academic Press,
2004 (0-12-163104-4)
• McKemmish, Rodney, “What is Forensic Computing?” Australian
Institute of Criminology trends and issues in crime and criminal
justice, June 1999 (last viewed at on September
27, 20006).
• The Digital Forensic Research Workshop <>
• Wikipedia <http:>
• WhatIsIt <http:>
• SWG-DE <http:>
• National Institute for Justice
Ken Zatyko is currently an Associate with Booz Allen Hamilton, and adjunct professor with Johns Hopkins University.
Booz Allen Hamilton has been at the forefront of management
consulting for businesses and governments for more than 90
years. Ken may be reached at or
10:52 AM
Page 23
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Page 24
Degraded DNA
Leonard Klevan and Lisa Lane Schade
MiniSTR technology expected to solve more crimes
through identification of highly-degraded DNA samples
In the past 20 years, DNA typing has enhanced the ability of the forensic scientist to characterize biological evidence and has greatly influenced
the way the law enforcement community conducts criminal investigations.
In particular, short tandem repeat (STR) analysis has made it possible
to determine the source of DNA samples collected at a crime scene from
a wide variety of materials. However, as powerful as current STR testing can be, it does have limits dictated by the quality and quantity of
the biological evidence. For instance, in cases where a DNA sample is
either highly-degraded, compromised by sample impurities, or present in
trace amounts, STR analysis cannot be used to identify the contributor or
to exclude those who may be falsely associated with the evidence.
Analyses that involve degraded or compromised DNA samples often
result in dropout of the larger molecular weight loci resulting in partial or
no results. To obtain the highest probative value possible from any sample analysis, and to maintain high discrimination power, it is important
that the larger weight genetic markers successfully amplify. The loss of
these larger STR loci reduces the power of identification, which can result
in cases continuing to be unsolved.
Theory and empirical studies reveal that successful analysis of highly degraded DNA specimens, like those found at mass disaster and crime
scenes, improves with smaller-sized PCR products. Therefore, an innovative approach was explored that exploits the ability to design primers
that reside closer to the target STR (Figure 1). This miniSTR process
reduces the size of amplicons, which increases the detection of DNA by
focusing on smaller size fragments providing the best opportunity to obtain
results from degraded DNA.
One of the first examples in which miniSTR technology was applied
to forensic sample processing occurred over a decade ago by the Forensic Science Service. They used miniSTR analysis and time-of-flight mass
spectrometry to detect and characterize STR loci in small fragments of
DNA resulting from exposure to extreme heat. Their experience demonstrated that analysis using miniSTRs dramatically increases the sensitivity of DNA detection. Hellman1 and others brought miniSTRs into ➤
24 Forensic Magazine I
1:44 PM
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Figure 1. Comparison of conventional primer and miniSTR primer design.
the mainstream by converting the technology so that it would be
compatible with current STR typing systems. MiniSTR primers
were labeled with fluorescent dyes and the amplified products
detected by capillary electrophoresis and laser excitation. Thereby, a practical miniSTR technology was created. Because of the
ability to type very degraded samples, miniSTR technology can
be expected to provide forensic scientists with another tool that
captures genetic data from DNA samples of marginal and
extremely low quality and quantity. Thus, a multitude of previously unsolvable human identity cases now will be able to be
Other influences, such as legislative changes, demonstrate the
need for improved DNA technology. Currently, forty-four states
require DNA collection from all felons, seven require DNA col-
lection from felony arrests, and a few states have passed missing
persons legislation that requires sample collection from unidentified remains for future DNA testing. Additionally, states including Washington State, are passing legislation that mandates that
DNA testing is performed on all weapons used in a felony crime.
These legislative initiatives are indicative of a trend that utilizes
DNA more as an investigative tool and relies on the belief that
DNA technologies will continue to improve sample detection.
MiniSTR technology offers the power to make identifications from what were once considered “poor” quality samples
or those that required substantial manipulation. Perhaps even
low copy number testing will become more robust. It is expected that laboratories will expand their analytical capacity to
include miniSTR testing to routinely process low-level DNA
samples. This will permit laboratories to upload more genetic information into local, state, and national databases, ultimately enabling law enforcement to solve more crimes.
As director of one of only three labs in the United States dedicated to missing persons investigations, Dr. Arthur Eisenberg, Professor, Department of Pathology and Human Identification, and
Director, University of North Texas System Center for Human Identification (UNTSCHI), believes that one of the greatest values provided by miniSTR technology will be that scientists can now obtain
complete DNA profiles from greater numbers of unidentified
human remains. He notes that it is estimated that over 100,000
missing persons cases are active at any one time, and about 40,000
unidentified skeletal remains are maintained by medical examiners, coroners, and law enforcement that need to be identified.
However, identifying human remains in missing persons cases
presents a significant challenge to forensic scientists, who often
must extract DNA from skeletal remains. Over time (that can be
up to 30 or 40 years) and due to exposure to environmental
insults, such as temperature extremes, humidity, or microbial
activity, DNA is often severely damaged yielding less copies and
shorter fragments available for STR analysis. Also, impurities
such as humic acid found in soil, can contaminate the sample,
inhibiting PCR amplification (Figure 2). These conditions make
it difficult to obtain conclusive results and thus impact investigative efforts.
Dr. Eisenberg indicates that miniSTR technology performs
more robustly with compromised samples, even those with known
PCR inhibitors, than currently available STR technology in his
laboratory. He further explains that forensic scientists will now
be able to use miniSTR technology to analyze degraded DNA samples from human remains and make a true identification.
26 Forensic Magazine I
1:44 PM
Page 27
1:44 PM
Page 28
Figure 2. 60 year old bone sample amplified with miniSTR technology. The electropheragram on
the right represents the positive
identification of WW II remains,
one of the first successes with the
MiniFiler™ kit. Previous attempts
to analyze the 60-year-old cold
case using the Identifiler® kit,
shown on the left, yielded an
incomplete profile.
MiniSTR technology will not only enable laboratories to process
low-level and inhibited casework samples, but it will also make
it possible for law enforcement to re-examine unsolved murder and sexual assault cases that have not been addressed for
According to Dr. Eisenberg, anthropological analysis of
human remains indicates that a large percentage of missing
persons are victims of murder or other violent crimes. However, it is often not possible for law enforcement to begin a murder investigation until a victim of the crime has been identified.
Older cases, in which identification was not possible previously and where DNA samples are available, might now be reopened and tested using miniSTR technology.
Collaborating with Applied Biosystems, Dr. Eisenberg has
worked directly on the development and testing of the
AmpFlSTR® MiniFiler™ PCR Amplification Kit, the first commercially available 9-plex miniSTR kit. In an examination of
130 unidentified human skeletal remains ranging between
10 and 30 years old, Dr. Eisenberg found that, in over half of
the samples, STR analysis only successfully amplified and
detected 10 or less of the 13 core CODIS STR loci (Figure 3).
Dr. Eisenberg then used the kit to evaluate STR loci recovered from these degraded DNA samples, and, in every case, he
obtained more genetic information from the miniSTR kit than
from other STR analysis systems. In addition, when amplifying DNA from bone samples, Dr. Eisenberg found the sensitiv-
Figure 3. Number of loci successfully amplified from unidentified human remains samples with the Profiler Plus® ID and
COfiler® multiplex kits.
28 Forensic Magazine I
ity of the kit to be at least twice that of any other STR analysis system.
The University of North Texas System Center for Human
Identification studies demonstrate the substantial advantages
obtained by using the kit as an adjunct PCR amplification kit
with currently available STR analysis kits (in this case: COfiler®, Profiler Plus®, and Identifiler®) to enhance the abilities
of the forensic scientist to obtain a complete human identification profile.
Commercially available miniSTR kits will usher in a new era
in forensic DNA science. Detecting DNA from trace samples,
degraded samples, and/or samples that contain PCR inhibitors
now can be analyzed where once such samples were thought
to be of no forensic value. By providing forensic scientists a
tool that obtains more genetic information from old or damaged DNA evidence, more cases will be solved. Using miniSTR technology, law enforcement can re-examine old cases
that were previously closed. More profiles will be uploaded to
DNA databases, more cases will be solved, and for many families, miniSTR technology will provide closure from loss of a
loved one. MiniSTR technology is the latest progression in
forensic DNA technology and will undoubtedly become mainstream in assisting in human identification.
1. Hellmann A, Rohleder U, Schmitter H, Wittig M. STR typing of
human telogen hairs – a new approach. Int J Leg Med 2001;
Leonard Klevan, Ph.D. is the Division President of the
Applied Markets Division at Applied Biosystems which produces
and markets reagent kits for forensic DNA, paternity testing, and
other forms of human identification. Dr. Klevan has a BA in
Chemistry from the State University of New York and a Ph.D.
in Physical Chemistry from Yale University.
Lisa Lane Schade is responsible for working with forensic
DNA laboratories around the world to help define and execute
the strategic direction for the Human Identification business at
Applied Biosystems. She has a BS in Microbiology with a minor
in Chemistry and a Masters degree from the University of Oklahoma, where she served as the Assistant Director of the Advanced Center for Genome Technology.
1:44 PM
Page 29
3:18 PM
Page 30
Qualifying the
Expert Witness:
A Practical Voir Dire
Gil I. Sapir, JD, MSc.*
Lawyers rarely do more than minimally review the qualifications of the expert and verify the facts on which the
expert conclusions are based. The voir dire examination is typically based upon perfunctory questioning about institutional affiliation and publications. The reason for this limited inquiry is simple: most lawyers and judges lack the
adequate scientific background to argue or decide the admissibility of expert testimony.
This article will briefly discuss the basic practical principles of qualifying a witness for expert testimony. An
understandable, realistic theory and utilitarian method
for expert witness voir dire is provided. The sample voir
dire questions are constructed to obtain that objective2,3
— get the witness qualified.
The expert witness’ existence is created and perpetuated by the legal system. But for the Rules of Evidence,
consulting and testimonial evidence would not exist. A
simplified restatement of Federal Rules 701–706 (Figure 1) is that a qualified expert may give his opinion to
help the court understand evidence, or to establish a fact
in issue. States that have not adopted the Federal Rules
of Evidence generally have similar rules or statutes governing expert witness qualifications and testimony.
The expert witness performs two primary functions: 1)
the scientific function — collecting, testing, and evaluating evidence and forming an opinion as to that evidence;
and 2) the forensic function — communicating ➤
30 Forensic Magazine I
9:39 AM
Page 31
3:19 PM
Page 32
that opinion and its basis to the judge and jury. A general rule
of evidence is that witnesses may only testify to what they
have personally observed or encountered through their five
An expert may be used in basically two different capacities —
consultation or for testimony. Consulting and testimonial witnesses are the basis for expert witnesses. They are derived from
five general categories of expertise.
1. Lay people: common sense and life long experience.
2. Technician/examiner: limited and concentrated training,
applies known techniques, works in a system and taught with
the system [e.g., investigator and supervisors (observers and
viewers)]. The technician is generally taught to use complex
instruments (gas chromatographer, infrared spectrophometer, mass spectrophotometer) or even “simple” breath alcohol testing equipment as “bench operators,” who have only
a superficial understanding of what the instrument really
does, and how the readout is generated. “Bench operators,”
who qualify as expert witnesses, are not competent to explain
the instrumentation used unless it is established that they
received the training and education necessary to impart a
thorough understanding of the underlying theories.4
3. Practitioner: material and information analysis and interpretation.
4. Specialist: devoted to one kind of study or work with individual characteristics.
5. Scientist: conducts original empirical research, then experiments to verify the validity of the theory; designs and creates instrumentation and applied techniques; is published
in own field with peers; and advances his field of knowledge.
A consulting expert is a person who has been retained or
specifically employed in anticipation of litigation or preparation of trial, but who will not be called at trial. The identity, theories, mental impressions, litigation plans, and opinions of a
consultant are work product and protected by the attorney-client
A testimonial expert is retained for purposes of testifying
at trial. The confidentiality privilege is waived and all materials, notes, reports, and opinions must be produced through applicable discovery proceedings. If an expert relies on work product
or hearsay as a basis for their opinion, that material must be disclosed and produced through discovery.
Whether a witness is qualified as an expert can only be determined by comparing the area in which the witness has expert-
Lay Opinion: If the witness is not an expert, opinion is admissible only when it is 1) rationally based on
perceptions, and 2) helpful to the trier of fact.
Testimony by Experts: Expert opinions may be admissible if 1) the testimony assists the trier of fact, and 2)
the witness is qualified as an expert.
Bases of Opinion Testimony by Experts: Expert opinion may be based on facts or data 1) actually seen or
heard by the expert or 2) communicated to him at or before the hearing. Admissibility of the facts or data
is not essential if typically relied on in this field.
Opinion on Ultimate Issue: An expert may express an opinion which 1) addresses an ultimate issue of fact,
but opinions or inferences regarding the mental state of the accused are reserved for the trier of fact, and
2) when that mental state is an element of the crime charged or a defense to that crime.
Disclosure of Facts or Data Underlying Expert Opinion: An expert need not provide facts supporting the
reason for his opinion unless 1) the court so requires, or 2) asked on cross examination.
Court Appointed Experts: The court 1) may issue an order to show cause as to why an expert should not
be appointed, 2) may request nominations of an expert by parties, 3) may appoint an expert whether or
not the parties agree to that expert, if the expert consents. The witness shall be informed of his duties 1) in
writing, 2) a copy of which is filed with the court. The witness shall communicate his findings to the parties,
and 1) may be deposed, 2) may be called to testify, 3) may be cross examined, and 3) shall be paid as the
court directs. The jury’s knowledge of the court appointment is left to the discretion of the court. This rule
does not limit parties from calling other experts.
Figure 1.
32 Forensic Magazine I
3:19 PM
Page 33
ise with the subject matter of the witness’ testimony. The standard of review and criteria for expert witness testimony has
been codified by three cases, commonly known as the “Daubert
Trilogy.” These cases consist of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc.,6 General Electric v. Joiner,7 and Kumho Tire
Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael.8
The Daubert standard of for evaluating scientific evidence
is based on reliability and the Daubert test is relevance for
“good science.” The reliability prong of scientific evidence is:
1) whether the scientific theory can be (and has been) tested;
2) whether the scientific theory has been subjected to peer review and publication; 3) the
known or potential rate of error of the scientific technique; and 4) whether the theory has
received “general acceptance” in the scientific community.9 In evaluating the second
prong (relevance), trial courts must consider
whether the particular reasoning or methodology offered can be properly applied to the
facts in issue, as determined by “fit.” There
must be a valid scientific connection and basis
to the pertinent inquiry.10
General Electric v. Joiner7 upheld the trial
court’s “gatekeeping” function, annunciated
in Daubert, to determine the admissibility of
expert witness testimony absent an abuse of
judicial discretion.
Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael8 held
Daubert applies to all expert evidence and testimony regardless if it is “scientific” in nature.
One of the underlying assumptions is that
juries tend to believe almost anything the professed expert says, therefore, judges “should
protect impressionable jurors from experts who
lack objective credibility.”11 Accordingly, a
judicial “gatekeeping” function under Daubert
is to limit abuses of FRE 702.
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The witness must be competent in the subject
matter. They may be qualified through knowledge, skill, practical experience, training, education, or a combination of these factors.
Minimally, the expert witness must know
underlying methodology and procedures
employed and relied upon as a basis for the
opinion. The background knowledge includes
state of art technology, literature review, and
experience culminating in an opinion based
upon a reasonable degree of scientific certainty. However, there is no absolute rule as to the
degree of knowledge required to qualify a witness as an expert in a given field. Once competency is satisfied, a witness’ knowledge of
the subject matter affects the weight and credibility of their
Reliance on the person’s resume or curriculum vitae for
an appropriate voir dire is problematic. Resumes and curriculum vitaes too frequently consist of superficial self-serving historical embellishments and highlights of professional
achievements, accolades, and accomplishments. They are
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Page 34
cations. Some experts blatantly misstate and exaggerate their
qualifications, to the point of perjury — this is true of state and
federal government, as well as defense witnesses. The vast majority of witnesses testify truthfully. However, the “mountebanks”
are too numerous to suggest that it is a remote occurrence.
The moving party must establish the expert’s competency and
knowledge in the profession and field (not experience, education, or specialized training) subject to judicial approval, through
an examination of the expert’s credentials. The review process
is conducted through a voir dire examination. Voir dire is from
the French language meaning “to speak the truth.” The term is
used in two contexts relating to trials: first, the prospective jury
is voir dired by the attorneys to determine their qualifications,
and second, after the proponent of an expert witness asks questions of the witness to bring out the person’s qualifications, the
opposing attorney is allowed to voir dire the witness to bring out
matters that might prevent his qualification as an expert. A witness is not deemed an expert until so qualified as such by the
The importance of a proffered expert’s testimony cannot be
understated, which is a reason proper implementation of the voir
dire process is paramount. Voir dire creates the standard for an
expert witness’ testimony and credibility. It is the first and foremost part of any examination process. It is the judge and jury’s
first impression of the witness. Neither the movant nor witness
must take voir dire for granted or the proffered witness will not
be properly qualified. Whether a witness is qualified as an expert
can only be determined by comparing the area in which the witness has expertise with the subject matter of the witness’ testimony.
Neither party should stipulate to the witness’ credentials. An
offer of stipulation to the expert’s credentials is because the expert
is marginally qualified — not to save time. The voir dire can
be made to sound impressive, but without substance to support
qualifications and credentials. A proper qualifying voir dire
should be able to survive a meticulous cross-examination of
the proffered expert witness.
If there should be a stipulation regarding the expert’s credentials, the judge should be requested to recite the stipulation using
the witness’ biographical statement. The movant should still have
the curriculum vitae or resume placed into evidence to avoid any
confusion or misunderstanding about the expert’s credentials and
Nothing is exempt from scrutinization or comment regarding the expert witness. Expert witness discovery relating to scientific evidence and associated testimony is controlled in part
by the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 (a)(2)(A),(B),(C),
Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc.,6 state statutes, and
local court rules. The Supreme Court’s decision in Daubert sought
to reconcile the differences and confusion in the Federal Rules
of Evidence (FRE 702, 703) pertaining to the foundation of an
expert’s proffered opinion for scientific validity based upon the
“Frye Test.”12
According to Federal Rule 26(2-b), before an expert witness
can offer testimony, that person must provide a written summary opinion discussing the testimonial subject matter, substance
34 Forensic Magazine I
3:19 PM
Page 35
of facts and opinion, basis for opinion, reports, a list of all publications authored by the witness in the preceding ten years,
a record of all previous testimony including depositions for the
last four years, disclosure statement, report signed by the expert,
and disclosing attorney. The disclosure statement generally
includes the following information regarding the expert: qualifications; scope of engagement; information relied upon in formulating opinion; summary of opinion; qualifications and
publications; compensation; and signature of both expert and
disclosing attorney. Even though many states have adopted the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including Rule 26, parties
should consult their own jurisdiction regarding rules of discovery and corresponding requirements.
Once disclosure of the expert witness is made, under FRCP
26(e)(1), a continuing duty exists to provide additional and corrective information. The movant must provide complete current information on the expert witness. If there is noncompliance, opposing counsel will undoubtedly ask what the
witness is trying to hide.
Salaries, fees, and compensation affect the weight and credibility of an expert witness’ testimony – not qualifications or
admissibility of the subject matter.
In Daubert II the court wrote, “That an expert testifies for
money does not necessarily cast doubt on the reliability of
his testimony, as few experts appear in court merely as an
eleemosynary gesture. But in determining whether proposed
expert testimony amounts to good science, we may not ignore
the fact that a scientist’s normal work place is the laboratory or
field, not the courtroom or the lawyer’s office.”13,14 Therefore,
compensation is a relevant area of cross examination after the
person is permitted to testify.
Although prior judicial recognition of an expert’s qualifications is normally a significant factor in the court’s evaluation
of finding the witness qualified as an expert, it is not the determining factor. Assumptions of this nature based upon presumptions are not reliable. Furthermore, deposition testimony is not
the equivalent to judicial recognition of qualifications or previous court testimony. A deposition is a statement made orally by a person under oath before an examiner, commissioner,
or officer of the court, but not in open court, and reduced to
writing by the examiner or under his direction. Depositions are
used as a discovery device and not generally subject to the
same trial evidentiary standards.
The imprimatur of a governmental agency, laboratory, office,
or title does not automatically make either the results or witness’ testimony inherently trustworthy, credible, and reliable.
A shocking and explosive example of inadequacies, misrepresentations, flawed science, doctored laboratory reports, posed
evidence, woeful investigative work, and false testimony was
the epitomized by U.S. Department of Justice, Office of ➤ I Forensic Magazine 35
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Page 36
the Inspector General, The FBI Laboratory: An Investigation
into Laboratory Practices and Alleged Misconduct in ExplosivesRelated and Other Cases, April, 1997. The principle findings
and recommendations of the Justice Department’s report
addressed “significant instances of testimonial errors, substandard analytical work, and deficient practices” including policies by the Federal Bureau of Investigation Laboratory.15
“The (517 page Inspector General’s) report provided plentiful evidence of pro prosecution bias, false testimony and inadequate forensic work ... No defense lawyer in the country is
going to take what the FBI lab says at face value anymore.
For years they were trusted on the basis of glossy advertising.”16
Similar revelations were exposed in 2003 concerning the Houston Police Department Crime Laboratory17 and are probably
applicable to other crime laboratories throughout the country. A witness is not an expert merely because the term is part
of their title or job description for example, Special Agent (FBI),
Drug Recognition Expert or Scientist. The name “special” or
“expert” or “inspector” itself gives an instantaneous indicia
and aura of authority and respect which implies a specific
expertise beyond normal employment (law enforcement/ police)
qualifications to the trier of fact.
Police officers who are trained to “identify drug impaired
drivers” determined an authoritative, descriptive title was necessary. According to The DRE (Newsletter), police officers
36 Forensic Magazine I
engaged in this law enforcement activity may call themselves
drug recognition specialists, technicians, and evaluators.18 The
International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) decided
to use the term “technician.” However, on March 25, 1992, the
Technical Advisory panel to the IACP Highway Safety Advisory Committee voted to change and use the self-proclaimed
term “Drug Recognition Expert.”19 The term “expert” is currently used in the latest training materials.20 If DREs call themselves experts; it is problematic. Also, fraudulent claims of
professional status and association with an organization that
owns a federal registered trademark subjects the infringer to
injunctive relief and damages.21
A debilitating invitation to blatant accusations and findings
of motive, interest, and bias exists if the proffered witness is
required to testify based upon their job description and employment duties. This is a common problem with government
employees.22 Claims of intellectual dishonesty and inherent
prejudice may be insurmountable. An expert witness cannot
have an interest in the outcome of the trial. An expert may be
qualified, but not competent to render a credible opinion.
“In trial, harm to litigants results from improper qualification of an incompetent expert or failure to qualify a competent expert ... The incompetent expert is a vehicle for unreliable
proof, while the later denies the opportunity to present credible evidence.”23 “In bolstering the credibility of an expert ➤
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Page 37
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Page 38
Place of employment.
Present title.
Position currently held.
Describe briefly the subject matter of your specialty.
Specializations within that field.
What academic degrees are held and from where and
when obtained.
9. Specialized degrees and training.
10. Licensing in field, and in which state(s).
11. Length of time licensed.
12. Length of time practicing in this field.
13. Board certified as a specialist in this field.
14. Length of time certified as a specialist.
15. Positions held since completion of formal education, and
length of time in each position.
16. Duties and function of current position.
17. Length of time at current position.
18. Specific employment, duties, and experiences (optional).
19. Whether conducted personal examination or testing of
(subject matter/ person/instrumentality).
20. Number of these tests or examinations conducted by you
and when and where were they conducted.
21. Teaching or lecturing by you in your field.
22. When and where your lecture or teach.
23. Publications by you in this field and titles.
24. Membership in professional
societies/associations/organizations, and special positions in them.
25. Requirements for membership and advancement within
each of these organizations.
26. Honors, acknowledgments, and awards received by you
in your field.
27. Number of times testimony has been given in court as
an expert witness in this field.
28. Availability for consulting to any party, state agencies,
law enforcement agencies, defense attorneys.
29. Put curriculum vitae or resume into evidence.
30. Your Honor, pursuant to (applicable rule on expert witness), I am tendering (name) as a qualified expert witness in the field of _______________.
Figure 2.
38 Forensic Magazine I
witness, attorneys will select, as circumstances allow, witnesses with significant trial experience. Absent such a
source, attorneys select from the community rather than
classified advertisements. Trial tactics rather than reliability become the impetus for the selection of experts. Such
tactics may influence selection of the less reliable witness.”24
Once competency is satisfied, a witness’ knowledge
of the subject matter affects the weight and credibility of
their testimony. Simply ask, is the proffered witness qualified? Is the witness competent? If the judicial determination is yes, only then may the witness provide opinion
In addition to credentials and competency, the subject
matter of an expert witness’ testimony must be legally and
factually relevant. There must also be a nexus between the
scientific theory being proffered and the evidence at trial.
Failure to meet these threshold criteria will preclude or
bar the expert’s proffered testimony. Next, there must be
a finding the proposed testimony will affect the validity of
the evidence.
An effective, elementary, practical outline questionnaire
for qualifying a person as an expert witness is provided in
Figure 2.
Parties should not rely upon or use the person’s resume or
curriculum vitae as the voir dire questionnaire for reasons
presented in this article. This article’s simple, thorough
voir dire questions can be very effective. The suggested
subject order and format of core questions must be tailored
to each case. However, discretion should be exercised to
keep the voir dire simple. The voir dire is not perfected
until the last question is asked. The examination can be
developed in a clear and concise manner, using simple,
short, single fact questions. The movant and witness must
keep their objective in mind. Qualify the person as an
expert witness.
This article is intended to provide general information;
it does not provide legal advice applicable to any specific matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.
Interested parties should review the laws with their legal
counsel to determine how they will be affected by the laws.
* Article adapted in part from, Gil I. Sapir, Legal Aspects of
Forensic Science, ch. 1, in Forensic Science Handbook, vol.I,
2nd ed, R. Saferstein, ed., Prentice- Hall Publ., c.2002.
1. Peter J. Neufeld and Neville Coleman, When Science
Takes The Witness Stand, Scientific American, vol.262,
p.46, 49 (May, 1990).
2. Gil I. Sapir, Legal Aspects of Forensic Science, ch. 1, in
Forensic Science Handbook, vol.I, 2nd ed, R. Saferstein,
ed., Prentice- Hall Publ., c.2002
3:19 PM
Page 39
3. Gil Sapir, Proper Voir Dire: Qualifying the
Expert Witness, DWI Journal: Science & Law,
vol.13, no.12, Dec. 1998, p.5.
4. Andre A. Moenssens, Novel Scientific Evidence in Criminal Cases: Some Words of
Caution, Journ. of Criminal Law and Criminology. vol. 1, p.1, 5-6 (Spring 1993).
5. People v. Adam, 51 Ill.2d 46, 280 N.E.2d
205, cert. denied 409 U.S. 948 (1972).
6. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals Inc.,
509 U.S. 579, 113 S.Ct. 2786 (1993).
7. General Electric v. Joiner, 522 U.S. 136, 118
S.Ct. 512 (1997).
8. Kumho Tire Co., Ltd. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S.
137, 119 S.Ct. 1167, 1174 (1999).
9. Daubert, 113 S.Ct. at 2796-2797.
10. Daubert, 113 S.Ct. at 2795-2796.
11. Joseph F. Madonia, Kumho Tire Steers
New Course on Expert-Witness Testimony,
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, July 2, 1999, p.5.
12. Frye v. U.S., 293 F.1013 (D.C. Cir. 1923).
13. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc,
43 F.3d 1311, 1317, (9th Cir. 1995).
14. Paul C. Giannelli, “Junk Science”: The
Criminal Cases, Journ. of Criminal Law and
Criminology. vol. 1, p.105, 117 (Spring
15. Justice Department Investigation of FBI
Laboratory: Executive Summary, 61 Crim.
L. (BNA) 2017 (April 16, 1997).
16. John F. Kelly and Phillip K. Wearne, Tainting Evidence: Inside the Scandals at the
FBI Lab, p.3-4, The Free Press, NY, NY,
17. Adam Liptak, Worst Crime Lab in the
Country: Or is Houston Typical?, New York
Times, (on the Web) March 11, 2003.
18. Vanell, What’s in a Name?, The DRE
(Newsletter), p.2, (Sept/Oct 1990).
19. The DRE (Newsletter), p.10, (March/April
1992) .
20. Roderick T. Kennedy, Someone’s On Drugs
Here ... Drugs, Driving Experts and Evidence, NACDL/ABA Seminar, Defending
DUI Cases: Insights from the Masters,
p.285 (June 13, 1997).
21. ABPN v. Johnson-Powell, 123 F.3d 1 (1997).
22. Legal Aspects of Forensic Science, ch. 1,
p.5 in “Forensic Science Handbook,” vol.I,
2nd ed, R. Saferstein, ed., Prentice-Hall
Publ., c.2002.
23. Christopher F. Murphy, Experts, Liars, and
Guns for Hire: A Different Perspective on
the Qualification of Technical Expert Witnesses, 69 Indiana L.J. 637, 649 (1993).
24. Christopher F. Murphy, Experts, Liars, and
Guns for Hire: A Different Perspective on
the Qualification of Technical Expert Witnesses, 69 Indiana L.J. 637, 650-651
Gil I. Sapir, Forensic Science Consultant and Attorney; B.Sc., Microbiology and
Biology, Colorado State University (1976);
J.D., IIT/Chicago-Kent College of Law (1980);
M.Sc., Criminalistics, University of IllinoisChicago (1987). He has lectured, testified,
and written extensively on scientific evidence.
Mr. Sapir maintains his office in Chicago,
2:08 PM
Page 40
Calling the Shots:
New Technique Links Digital
Images to Exact Camera
Douglas Page
Just as ballistic experts can trace bullet casings back to the gun that fired the shell, university researchers have
devised a way to trace specific digital photographs back to the exact digital camera that took the photo.
Every original digital picture is overlaid by a weak noiselike pattern of pixel-to-pixel nonuniformity, according to Jessica Fridrich, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering at Binghamton University, State University of
New York.
Although these patterns are invisible to the human eye, the unique reference pattern or “fingerprint” of any camera
can be electronically extracted by analyzing a number of images taken by a single camera.
“This technique can provide a proof that a given digital image came from a specific digital still or video camera,”
Fridrich said. Thus, whenever a digital image is associated with a crime – such as child pornography or movie piracy –
investigators can now provide crucial evidence linking those images to specific cameras.
Fridrich said that means that as long as examiners have
either the camera that took the image or multiple images
they know were taken by the same camera, an algorithm
she developed can extract and define the camera’s unique
pattern of pixel-to-pixel nonuniformity.
“The defense in these kind of cases has often been that
the images were not taken by this person’s camera or that
the images are not of real children,” Fridrich said. Sometimes child pornographers will even cut and paste an image
of an adult’s head on the image of a child to try to avoid
prosecution, she said.
“But if it can be shown that the original images were
taken by the person’s cell phone or camera, it becomes a
much stronger case than if you just have a bunch of digital images that we all know are notoriously easy to manipulate.”
Like actual fingerprints, the digital “noise” in original
An example of the ‘noise’ researchers believe to be
digital images is stochastic in nature – that is, it contains
unique to each digital camera, allowing digital images
random variables – which are inevitably created during the
to be linked to the precise camera that shot the photograph. (Binghamton University photo.)
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40 Forensic Magazine I
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“This characteristic virtually ensures that the noise imposed
on the digital images from any particular camera will be consistent from one image to the next, even while it is distinctly
different,” Fridrich said.
In preliminary tests, Fridrich’s lab analyzed nearly 3000
pictures taken by nine distinct digital cameras. She was able
to link every individual image to the exact camera that took
the picture with 100 percent accuracy.
Fridrich said law enforcement is aware of her work, but
before it can be used in the field, more testing is indicated.
“Right now we are focusing on analyzing the reliability and
mathematically describing the algorithm,” she said.
The main limitation of the technique is that it currently
requires either the camera or multiple images taken by the
same camera, and isn’t informative if only a single image is
available for analysis.
The technology, however, is still in the development stage
and is constantly being improved.
“We would like to make the method as reliable as possible and make it work for all types of sensors, including lowend cameras, such as cell-phone cameras,” Fridrich said.
“Already, we have expanded it to video. Scanners remain to be
Fridrich and two members of her team – Jan Lukas and
Miroslav Goljan – are co-inventors of the new technique, which
is also useful in detecting forged images.
Fridrich said the absence of expected digital fingerprint in
any portion of an image provides the most conclusive evidence
of image tampering.
Douglas Page writes about forensic science and medicine
from Pine Mountain, California. He can be reached at
2:08 PM
Page 43
1:49 PM
Page 44
The National
Forensic Academy
Phillip Jones
In an otherwise serene East Tennessee valley, people detonate automobiles, ignite houses, and bury corpses in
clandestine graves. These events happen regularly here – three times a year – as the National Forensic Academy
(NFA) hones the skills of crime scene investigators with simulated crimes.
Jarrett Hallcox, the NFA’s program manager, says that the O.J. Simpson trial triggered events that led to the creation of
his institution. In the fall of 2000, Phil Keith, who served as Chief of the Knoxville Police Department at the time, had been
concerned about the mishandling of evidence during the Simpson trial. He approached the University of Tennessee with
a proposal for a training program that would raise the level of professionalism and standardize crime scene investigation.
Since 2001, the academy has offered ten-week, intensive education sessions in January, May, and September. “There
are not a lot of places where an individual can go for soup
to nuts training,” Hallcox says. Admission can be highly
competitive; the NFA limits class size to 16 students. To
meet the basic requirement for entry into the program,
an applicant must be an investigator or crime scene technician currently employed by a law enforcement agency.
“Whether you are a veteran or new,” says Hallcox,
“there’s nowhere else that you can go to be immersed for
ten weeks.” Program participants do get submerged in a
multitude of investigative techniques, such as bloodstain
pattern analysis, firearm and toolmark identification, DNA
analysis, latent fingerprint processing, death investigation,
trace evidence study, arson investigation, and forensic ballistics (Figure 1).
Students spend about 40 percent of their time in classroom
and lab activities. Although the syllabus covers certain
essential topics, details vary from session to session.
“We have an organic class,” Hallcox says. “Each class
is different. Each class has new opportunities.”
These opportunities arise from the students’ varied
experiences and knowledge, as well as new ideas that
instructors infuse into their classes. “Our instructors ➤
Figure 1. Reconstructing a mock crime from blood spatter.
Courtesy of the National Forensic Academy.
44 Forensic Magazine I
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Page 45
1:50 PM
Page 46
Figure 2. Gathering evidence at a mock crime scene.
Courtesy of the National Forensic Academy.
are practitioners in the field,” says Hallcox, “so they run into
new ways to collect evidence and process evidence, and they
introduce these at the academy.” Students also have the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge forensic technology under
development at nearby Oakridge National Laboratories.
During the first three weeks, instructors teach crime scene
management methods, crime scene photography, and techniques
for collecting impression evidence. Field training exercises,
which make up the bulk of the academy’s program, begin during the third week. At this time, students use their crime scene
management skills to work a mock crime scene, searching for
and collecting planted evidence, and preserving the scene with
photos and sketches (Figure 2). The mock crime scenes get
more complicated from then on.
In the following weeks, students observe how houses and
cars burn and then learn methods of evidence collection and
preservation at the scene of a fire. A certified bomb technician
sets up mock crime scenes involving a vehicle explosion and
the effects of a pipe bomb (Figure 3). In another scenario, students document and analyze staged bloodstain evidence in a
mock bloody crime scene. And then, there’s the Body Farm.
“Without a doubt, the most interesting experience at the academy was during the week of Forensic Anthropology,” says NFA
graduate Mark H. Hanf, a detective with the Seattle Police Department/CSI Unit. “We were able to work at the University of Tennessee’s Anthropology Research Facility, also known as the Body
Farm,” he says. “There is no other place like it!” Hanf is correct.
The facility is the only one of its kind in the world.
Located behind the University of Tennessee Medical Center, the Outdoor Anthropological Research Facility covers little more than two acres. Over 25 years ago, world-renowned
forensic anthropologist Dr. William Bass started the facility to
study the processes and timing of postmortem decay. The
results aid investigators to establish the time-since-death of
human remains. Corpses, left under trees, submerged in water,
or buried underground, typically decompose through a 12month cycle. Afterwards, the skeletons are collected, measured for a forensic database, and stored in the Anthropology
1:50 PM
Page 47
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Figure 3. NFA students examine the effects of a bomb.
Courtesy of the National Forensic Academy.
Department’s depository, one of the world’s largest skeleton
Use of the facility has expanded beyond its original purpose.
Today, the Body Farm aids in the development and testing of
new forensic technologies, serves as a site to train cadaver dogs
and their handlers, and provides a singular opportunity for
National Forensic Academy students.
At the Body Farm, Hanf says, students “put the lessons we
learned into practice by conducting bone scatter and body
recovery exercises.” The bone scatter search illustrates how
animals and weather disperse the remains of a decomposing
body. Several months before a class arrives, faculty members
scatter bones, shell casings, pieces of clothing, and other evidence. Students typically need about eight hours to meticulously search the grounds, mark locations of evidence, photograph,
and bag their findings. In the body recovery exercise, students
must locate a clandestine grave with “evidence” helpfully left
by a previous class.
Before graduating, students investigate an elaborate mock
crime scene that incorporates a number of elements from the lessons. These have become known as “Hell Scenes” (Figure 4).
In July 2005, students worked on an elaborate Hell Scene
based on an ill-fated drug deal. Author and academy benefactor Patricia Cornwell arranged for a helicopter to drop an
aircraft fuselage 150 feet onto an open field. On the ground, the
staff detonated a briefcase bomb on the plane and conjured up
a suicide bomber. Academy faculty had collaborated with Josh
Wolcott, a graduate assistant in the University of Tennessee
School of Art sculpture program, to create the unique, life-like
dummies that populated the wrecked plane and that participated in the staged suicide bomb scenario. These dummies contain plaster bones and ordinance gelatin, normally used to
reproduce tissue consistency in ballistic tests.
One of the academy’s forensic training dummies starred in a
2006 Hell Scene. This time, the faculty used a helicopter to drop
a dummy from several hundred feet. Students examined the hapless dummy to learn the probable effects of such a fall on the
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Page 48
Figure 4. A student looks for fingerprints during a 2006 Hell
Scene exercise. Courtesy of the National Forensic Academy.
Figure 5. Students examine a dummy released from a helicopter during a 2006 Hell Scene exercise. Courtesy of the National
Forensic Academy.
searched for simulated bodies lying in shallow graves and hunted evidence, including fingerprints, shoe prints, tire tracks, bullet holes, weapons, and bloodstains (Figure 6).
After ten rigorous weeks capped with a Hell Scene, what does
a graduate take back to work?
“I feel that no matter how small or large a department that
an individual comes from, or how much experience that they
may have,” says Hanf, “each NFA graduate is guaranteed to
walk away with both the knowledge and various techniques that
will assist them in their work.” Hanf says that the academy not
only changed his own approach to crime scene analysis, but
also changed the way that his department conducts business.
“Prior to my graduation from the NFA,” he says, “the Seattle Police Department depended on the use of all of its detectives to be able to provide the expertise in the processing of
major crime scenes.” After Hanf returned from the academy,
his department decided to create a dedicated crime scene division. Hanf used his academy experience to help his department to develop the Crime Scene Investigations Unit. The
specialized division, he says, not only fosters expertise in crime
scene processing, but also allows “all of the other detectives to
have more time in conducting their normal follow-up responsibilities and to quickly track down potential leads in a case.”
To date, the Duluth Police Department has four academy
graduates. “[We] know that we will be able to work ➤
Figure 6. Students map a burial site during a 2006 Hell Scene
exercise. Courtesy of the National Forensic Academy.
48 Forensic Magazine I
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through most any situation,” says NFA
graduate Lieutenant Eric Rish. “I also
see us as a great resource,” he says,
“for our department as well as the
“It was truly ten weeks of skill
building and networking,” Rish says
about his academy experience. He
brings up an important point. Students
not only meet expert instructors, who
they consult later on, but also law
enforcement professionals from varied
organizations. The NFA’s students
include police officers, sheriff’s
deputies, FBI agents, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division agents, state
troopers, and Texas Rangers.
Another NFA success story flourishes across the country. The Georgia
Bureau of Investigation has sent 17
Special Agents to the academy. Two
more agents planned to attend the January 2007 class.
“The Georgia Bureau of Investigation,” says GBI Director Vernon M.
Keenan, “has incorporated the National Forensic Academy as basic training
for all our Crime Scene Specialists.”
Their academy graduates also attend
annual retraining sessions. “We believe
it is in our interest,” Keenan says, “to
provide those agents who perform crime
scene work on a daily basis with the
most current and innovative skills
Keenan says that NFA training supports an academy graduate’s expert credentials when testifying in court, and
benefits law enforcement personnel
who did not get to attend the NFA. The
academy program, he says, “has
allowed the GBI to utilize the Crime
Scene Specialists to train our basic
agent classes and provide additional on
the job training to the agents whenever they are exposed to a crime scene.”
NFA graduates also provide training in
crime scene skills to the state’s prosecuting attorneys in continuing education programs.
Lieutenant Warren Hamlin of the
Knoxville Police Department’s Criminal Investigations/Forensic Unit says
that his organization has greatly benefited by having ten NFA graduates.
Increased efficiency is one advantage
of the academy’s program. “We are able
to communicate and work together,
having the same knowledge and training,” says Hamlin. The NFA graduates
also have expanded the evidence collection and processing services available to the department’s officers and
“Everyone that has gone to the
training,” Hamlin says, “has been able
to bring something back to everyone
else in the unit.” Like Keenan, Hamlin sees academy graduates pass on
their NFA experiences. “Our graduates
not only teach and help each other with
new skills,” says Hamlin, “but others
in our department as well.” NFA graduates instruct new officers on crime
scene preservation and offer training
to experienced officers and investigators during annual in-service classes.
Hamlin’s Forensic Unit also provides
classes to the Knoxville Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy, as well
as numerous community and school
groups throughout the year. “We try to
pass on our knowledge of crime scene
investigation to as many as possible,”
he says.
Hailing from almost every state in
the country, NFA graduates take their
academy experiences back to their
organizations. In doing so, they help to
realize Hallcox’s vision of the NFA:
“We are standardizing practices of the
proper collection, preservation, and
submission of evidence collected at a
crime scene.”
Enhancing professionalism in crime
scene analysis generates its own ripple
effect. “Because of the enhanced skills
of our Crime Scene Specialists and
their attendance at the National Forensic Academy,” Keenan says, “we have
provided our customer base, the law
enforcement agencies of Georgia, and
therefore the citizens of Georgia, with
the best possible crime scene resource
Phillip Jones is a freelance writer
and member of the National Science Writers Association and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He can be
reached at
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Page 51
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Tel. +1 914 / 747 7700
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Examine a Carl Zeiss SMT SEM for yourself.
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FEBRUARY 19-24, 2007
TEST KITS _____________
The VSC4plus is a workstation
for examining suspected counterfeit documents, such as passports, visas, ID cards, birth certificates, and other feeder documents. Facilities are provided for checking the majority of security features, such as watermarks, holograms, retro-reflective
images, UV activated features, anti-Stokes features, ICAO
coded data, and scrambled indicia data. Foster & Freeman
These enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test kits are
designed for both the high and
low volume laboratories as they can be run manually or easily
automated on a wide range of immunoassay instruments.
These test kits are qualitative, one-step kits designed as screening devices for the detection of over 195 drugs and/or their
metabolites in forensic samples. Neogen
The BodEpen is a digital pen system
designed to record information or drawings at a crime scene or in the laboratory
and uploads the information into your
computer by inserting the pen into a cradle. The pen creates a hard copy and
simultaneously saves the information electronically. The data
stored includes the pen identity, paper identity, computer identity, and time and date of creation. Bode Technology
The DEXIS® Forensic 8 allows for the
capture of digital intra-oral X-rays using
the sensor, the scan of hard film and
photos, and the import of digital X-rays
and photo images. These images are
stored within the software that integrates with WinID Dental
Identification Program to aid in ante- and post-mortem records
comparison. DEXIS
This bench-top Fingerprint Development
Chamber is specifically designed to
create conditions for developing DFO
and Ninhydrin process fingerprints.
Fingerprints are detected at a faster
rate and with better clarity by precisely
controlling conditions of high temperature and high relative humidity. The
large viewing area with light offers easy observation of critical
evidence. Caron
DESKTOP CARBON COATER _________________
Cressington desktop carbon coater
108C auto/SE for GSR and analytical
scanning electron microscopy (SEM)
applications has a large 6” sample
chamber to accommodate either of the
optional rotary stages. The feedback
controlled carbon source provides consistent carbon evaporation. Applications are SEM/EDX work
for GSR or on non conducting samples like paper, textiles
fibers, glass, ceramics, and plastics. Ted Pella
The NanoDrop® ND-1000 Spectrophotometer determines the full UV-Vis
absorbance spectrum of 1µl samples,
preserving most of the sample for downstream analysis. The instrument uses a patented retention system that combines inherent surface tension and fiber optic technology for highly accurate measurements of nucleic acids, proteins, and a wide variety of other chromophores without the
need for cuvettes or capillaries. NanoDrop Technologies
LIGHT SOURCE ________________
The Flare is a high-performing, low-cost
portable forensic light source. This light
source assists in finding evidence including
fingerprints, fibers, and body fluids. The
Flare comes in a variety of optically
enhanced colors. The interchangeable lithium ion batteries last
up to four hours of continual use, have no memory effect, and
rapidly charge. Rofin USA
Forensic calculations involve probability formulas and allele frequency
of population database. This Starfruit
software assists in validating the calculation methods and in maintaining
records such as lists of formulas,
worksheets, references, and the sources of frequency data.
52 Forensic Magazine I
The PowerPlus™ lightweight medical and dental portable x-ray system used in all branches of the U.S.
Armed Forces provides complete
digital solutions. MinXray has now
added digital imaging systems,
both CR and DR, to the product line.
Data Unlimited
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Forensic Press test
is capable of locating saliva
deposits on any item or larger surface, i.e., a piece of clothing or a
bed sheet. The test can detect
stains regardless of the type of fabric or material. The test is highly selective because of the amylase activity in saliva. Magle Life Sciences
HANDS-FREE LIGHTING_____________________
The Performance Series provides
hands-free panoramic lighting.
Offering visibility up to 100 ft
away and giving 40 ft of peripheral visibility, the Performance is
ergonomic, lightweight, and userfriendly. Adjustable tilt allows you to direct light where needed and easy-to-reach tap switch powers the light on and off.
The 4AA battery pack provides up to 50 hours of visibility.
The DeltaSphere-3000IR 3D Laser
Scene Digitizer automatically captures millions of measurements and
dozens of photographs of crimes scenes in minutes. The system
includes SceneVision-3D Visualization and Analysis Software
for data capture, viewing, processing, measuring, analysis,
and presentation of simple measurement diagrams as well as
photorealistic, 3D computer graphics models of a crime scene.
For use in crime laboratories, this
SRM 2460 Standard Bullet verifies
that bullet signature acquisitions
and correlations are under control and traceable to the
National Laboratory Center of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco,
Firearms and Explosives (ATF). It also verifies that profile measurements of bullets are traceable to the NIST virtual standard
for bullet profile signatures. NIST
The Maxwell® 16 System offers forensic
laboratories fast and reliable sample processing along with high-quality automated
DNA purification. It automatically extracts
DNA cleanly and consistently from a variety of reference and casework samples and includes pre-filled
reagent cartridges, specialized disposable plastics, and easyto-understand instructions. Promega
MICROSCOPE ___________
The inVia Raman microscope can
analyze both small and large forensic samples without destroying vital
evidence. Small amounts of explosives, drugs, and gunshot
residues can be detected and identified, providing valuable
forensic evidence in the fight against violent crime and terrorism.
Other forensic applications include the identification of fibers,
inks, and paints. Renishaw
AUTOSAMPLER ______________
The TRACE GC Ultra™ has a wide range
of detector and injection port options. The
TriPlus autosampler offers headspace, liquid, and SPME injections. The DSQ™ II
single quadrupole GC/MS provides
extended dynamic range, with sensitivity for ultra-trace analyses. Comprehensive GC and GC/MS solutions are suited for
forensic applications. Thermo Fisher
54 Forensic Magazine I
The BSD LaserCutter is a computer-controlled and fully automated swab cutting instrument which automatically cuts
swabs to varying lengths without the
need for operator involvement. The
instrument provides an innovative and
cost effective approach to high volume
swab processing, while at the same
time, minimizing the risk of cross contamination. BSD Robotics
FETAL SKULL SET ___________________________
Reproduction of
twelve stages of
fetal development, this set
makes it possible to carefully
study developmental change in small increments of time. From 13 to 40 1/2
weeks of gestation, these fetal skulls demonstrate subtle, but
significant changes that are taking place as the human fetus is
developing. Bone Clones
INFRARED DETECTOR_______________________
The Vapor Phase IRD is designed
to make the capillary GC/FTIR
practical in the forensic chromatography lab. The instrument
requires a minimum of bench
space with optimized, dedicated
optics for highest sensitivity. The
GC/IRD integrated software provides efficient instrument control, data acquisition with library
searching. ASAP Analytical
SWABS ______________________
Cap-Shure™ protects the cotton tip and
sample by using a clear-plastic, aerated
cap. With the cap mounted on the swab,
it’s easy to snap open and shut for cell collection. Cap-Shure™ is available with
either a wood or plastic wand, has a cotton
or custom foam tip, and also includes a
label feature. Puritan Medical Products
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FORENSIC LABORATORY SERVICES ____________ LIMS_______________________________________
NMS Lab is ABFT Accredited and ASCLD-LAB Accredited in the
disciplines of Biology (DNA and Serology), Controlled
Substances, and Trace Evidence Examination. NMS Labs provides 2,500+ toxicology test menu of drugs, metals, poisons,
and other toxic compounds; routine and esoteric postmortem
testing; backlog reduction project management and gunshot
residue performed by ICP/MS. NMS Labs
Forensic Advantage – Case & Evidence (FACE) is a laboratory
information management system designed so that examiners
can leverage simple tools to solve difficult crimes. The software
offers the flexibility, reliability, and security necessary to ensure
smooth operation of a forensic laboratory. It automates communication with law enforcement agencies regarding the transfer
of evidence, case status, analysis, and findings. TCSC
ow it works
Problem: Extraction of DNA from Bone Samples
DNA extracted from bone fragments collected at an accident, crime scene, or disaster site can
be used to assist in the positive identification of the victims. However, there are a number of
issues that can create significant challenges to the successful extraction of DNA from bone. For
example, often only a small quantity of the sample may be available for analysis or the sample
Pressure BioSciences
Barocycler NEP 3229 Sample
may be compromised due to environmental conditions or contamination. In addition, current
Preparation System
methods for the extraction of DNA from bone are both time-consuming (typically 24-32 hours)
and require a number of complex steps, such as sample cleaning, pulverization, chemical treatment, decalcification, phenol-chloroform extraction, and/or the use of chaotropic agents and silica beads.
Solution: Pressure Cycling Technology (PCT) rapidly and efficiently extracts DNA from
bone samples without requiring pulverization, helps maintain sample integrity, and
assists in the development of a positive chain of custody.
DNA was successfully extracted from extensively cleaned pig
bone (used as a model system) with the PCT Sample Preparation
System (PCT SPS) from Pressure BioSciences, Inc. This system
includes a Barocycler instrument that cycles pressure between
ambient and approximately 35,000 PSI as well as single use,
specially designed processing containers (PULSETM Tubes). In
the PCT procedure, bone fragments are incubated in weak
acetic acid inside the PULSE Tube for approximately one hour
and subsequently subjected to multiple cycles of high and ambient pressures over ten minutes. This process has been shown to
release excellent quality and quantity of genomic DNA. The
method eliminates the need to pulverize the sample as well as
the need for harsh chemicals and a lengthy extraction time.
DNA extraction occurs inside the PULSE Tube during the pressure cycling process. The PULSE Tube can also be used for sample collection, storage, transportation, extraction, minimization
of contamination, and maintenance of a solid chain of custody.
DNA extracted from pig bone was amplified using primers
specific for pig ␤-actin DNA and then analyzed on a semiquantitative basis with an Agilent Model 2100 Bioanalyzer.
Results indicated that sufficient gDNA was released for successful downstream analysis after approximately one hour of incubation in the PULSE Tube followed by ten minutes of PCT processing (control experiments showed little or no gDNA released
following incubation, but without subsequent PCT treatment).
Incubation of the sample with weak acetic acid inside the
PULSE Tube prior to pressure cycling enhances the release of
DNA from bone; studies have also shown that incubation at an
elevated temperature (24°C or 37°C) can improve DNA extraction DNA even more.
Bone fragments extracted with the PCT SPS were left intact
even though a good quantity and quality DNA had been
released. To verify that the extraction of DNA using the PCT SPS
was complete, PCT-treated bone fragments were pulverized and
further extraction was attempted using a Qiagen DNeasy tissue
kit. No additional DNA was observed, suggesting that the
majority of the DNA had been extracted with the PCT SPS. In
addition, it was noted that DNA released from bone fragments
by PCT was similar in quantity and quality to that obtained with
the standard pulverization technique, which typically takes 2432 hours. PBI is continuing to evaluate the use of the PCT SPS
to release DNA from bone, in particular mitochondrial DNA
(mtDNA) from human bone, including fresh and preserved samples and specimens that have been compromised by age, contamination, fire, or environmental conditions.
For more information on extraction of
DNA from Bone Samples go to I Forensic Magazine 55
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W H O S AY S Y O U C A N ’ T D O T H AT ?
Knowledge: The Key to Crime
Scene Investigation
The field of crime scene investigation is constantly changing. With advances in technology and science, we have more
tools than ever to help us solve crimes. But in order to take
advantage of these tools, a crime scene officer needs to stay
up-to-date with the latest developments and understand the
capabilities of specialists in the field. Your goal is not to
acquire the same level of knowledge as the expert, but to
have enough knowledge of the field to recognize what the
expert can accomplish with the right evidence. With this
knowledge, you can tackle your crime scene in a systematic and thorough manner and provide the experts the evidence they need. In this issue, I’ll give you an overview of
some key areas you should focus on when processing a
To begin with, advances in fingerprint technology now
allow experts to lift prints from surfaces that couldn’t be
processed in the past. Gathering as much fingerprint evidence as possible is always important, so you should still
begin by processing surfaces such as vehicles and windows
right at the scene. But you should then look for other potential sources of prints. For example, experts can lift latent
prints from documents, papers, and adhesive tape. If these
items are present, carefully collect them and send them off
to be processed by your local or state lab.
DNA, of course, has become a crucial part of crime scene
investigation. So much can be done with DNA, but if you
don’t have knowledge of what the experts can do, you may
56 Forensic Magazine I
miss the opportunity to identify a suspect. Besides looking for hair, blood, and cigarette butt evidence, you should
also look for any material the suspect may have come into
contact with. Take the time to swab surfaces such as the
steering wheel of a vehicle or the grip of a gun. Also remember that if you are fingerprinting and develop smudges with
no ridge detail, the smudges can be swabbed for DNA testing. In the past, we couldn’t get DNA from these sources,
but now we can. In addition, you should also know that DNA
can be retrieved from things like knit caps, baseball caps,
and eye glasses. Collect all of these items for the DNA
experts and you’ll increase your chances of success.
A good example of a crime scene that requires specialized knowledge is one involving a decomposed body. While
a decomposing body presents many challenges, you can
gain vital information if you know what evidence to collect and the right expert to contact. You can actually purchase an entomology kit that allows you to process the body
right at the scene. By following the directions that come
with the kit, you can collect the maggots and other samples
from the body. Once you have the necessary samples, you
can send them to an entomologist. Through an analysis of
the samples, the entomologist can determine how long the
body has been at the scene.
Another important type of evidence is blood spatter. A
lot of information about homicides or other crimes can be
gained by studying the pattern of blood on a surface. ➤
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Your first step should be to document the evidence with photography and diagrams. Then, depending on the complexity of the
evidence, you may also need to bring a blood spatter expert to
the scene. Again, your goal is not to acquire the same level of
knowledge as the expert, but to have enough knowledge of the
field to recognize what the expert can accomplish with the right
Being knowledgeable about the study of bullet trajectory can
prove to be useful for your case. If at least two points of contact
exist, experts in this area with the proper equipment, can trace
the path of a bullet and thus determine the exact position of
the victim and the location of the shooter when the weapon was
58 Forensic Magazine I
fired. Once you know the location or area of the shooter, you may
discover further evidence such as shell casings. All of this documentation can aid in preparing a strong case for court.
Some of the most important experts you can work with when
you are dealing with a homicide are from the medical examiner’s office. Investigators can come to the scene to take their own
photographs and notes to supplement yours. Once they have the
body at the morgue, they can conduct a variety of tests and examinations that can provide crucial information.
Making use of the expertise of a forensic pathologist can also
be essential. While a hospital-based physician may be able to
determine the time and cause of death, a forensic pathologist has
the training and knowledge to tell you even
more about the crime itself. In a case in
Topeka, KS, for example, the victim was
found floating in a river, shot twice. However, the forensic pathologist was able to determine that the victim was shot twice with a
double barreled gun — probably a Derringer
— and that the victim had been beaten. The
knowledge gained from such an expert can
make or break your case. If you don’t have
a forensic pathologist available in your town
or city, you should get help from your state
Finally, you should also search for shoe
and tire track information at the crime scene.
If properly documented and collected, this
evidence can aid in the prosecution of the
case. The crime lab experts can compare the
evidence collected at the scene to the suspect’s items.
The common denominator in any crime
scene investigation is knowledge: you need
to know both your own limits and the capabilities of the experts. Remember, your job
is to build the strongest possible case. Once
evidence is lost, you can’t go back and recreate it. And if you haven’t collected enough
evidence or called in the right experts, you
could end up with a case that won’t hold up
in court. Don’t stay in the Dark Ages. Take
advantage of conferences sponsored by the
International Association of Identification
(IAI) and courses offered at many colleges
and universities. These conferences and
courses are an invaluable way to gain the
knowledge you need to do your job well.
Dick Warrington is in research and development and a crime scene consultant and
training instructor for the Lynn Peavey Company. For the past several years, Dick has
been teaching classes throughout the U.S.
and Canada, trying to dispel some of those
“you can’t do that” myths. Dick can be reached
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Office Ergonomics 101 – Part 1
You go home each day with a pain in your shoulder or neck,
perhaps you wake up at night with tingling in your wrist or
hand. You used to feel good all day long but now you hurt
after just a few minutes at the computer. What to do? You
have budget information to enter in spreadsheets, you have
a stack of reports to do, and it seems you get two emails to
respond to for every one you send. This means hours and
hours glued to your keyboard and mouse.
More and more, jobs require a substantial portion of the
day working with a computer. Very often pain and discomfort experienced at work or at home can be tied to easily
identified risk factors. Most of us have heard the term
ergonomics. Simply put, ergonomics is the study of how people physically interact with their work environment to perform their required tasks. A phrase often heard to describe
ergonomics is “fitting the task to the worker.” Poor ergonomic conditions and practices cause more losses in terms of
employee suffering, lost time, and productivity than most
other types of injury in the workplace.
Three fundamental ergonomic risk factors are:
position/posture, repetition/duration, and force. These can
all be influenced by the work area setup and the activity
being performed. The good news is these at-risk conditions
that can cause pain and potential injury, can often be easily controlled if one understands basic ergonomic concepts
and how to apply them. In this article and the next we will
take a look at these factors and provide some practical solutions to help get you through the day pain-free.
Position/Posture: The goal here is a neutral and balanced
position. “Neutral” is typically thought of as the midpoint of
range of motion for most joints (e.g. your wrist should be
straight in both the up/down and side-to-side axis, your upper
arm should hang comfortably from the shoulder, your back
and neck should be straight and not twisted or bent). Balanced in the ergonomic sense is when a posture or position is such that one does not have to fight (much) gravity to
maintain that posture or position.
Let’s look at some of the most common position-related
complaints we see. These are often the easiest to correct
and can have very dramatic improvement in discomfort in a
relatively short timeframe.
Neck Pain: Your head weighs about as much as a bowling ball. Holding a bowling ball straight upright takes some
effort. Now visualize you are balancing a bowling ball (your
head) on a cylinder (your neck). If you begin to tip the cylinder, it becomes harder and harder to support. When you sit
upright and are looking directly ahead your skeletal structure supports most of the weight. If you deviate from vertical, your muscles must come increasingly into play to support
your head. Now imagine tipping and lifting that bowling ball
hundreds of time a day – that is exactly what you are doing
when working from hardcopy placed on your desk. Similarly, if your monitor is placed on the CPU so you must tip
your head back to read (particularly problematic for those
of you wearing bifocals) your muscles must support ➤ I Forensic Magazine 59
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A keyboard/mouse platform should easily adjust for height
and angle and have the mousing surface in about the same
plane as the keyboard. Photo courtesy of Humanscale.
An example of a poorly set-up workstation that presents a
variety of postural risks. How many of these can you identify?
this off-balance posture. A much better approach is to place your
hardcopy on a document stand between the keyboard and monitor. The monitor should be directly in front of you with the top of
the screen just at or slightly below eye level. This way instead
of repetitive up/down and side-to-side head motion one can look
back and forth between paper and screen almost by using your
eyes alone allowing you to remain in a neutral, balanced position.
Holding the telephone receiver cradled between your ear and
shoulder while doing other tasks is also a classic cause of neck
pain if you do so on a regular basis. Hold the receiver in your
hand if possible. Use a speakerphone or a headset if you must
speak on the phone while working, such as reviewing written
materials or computer files while conversing.
Shoulder and Neck Pain: Hold your arm straight out in front
of you for a couple of minutes. Now try drawing your shoulders
up a couple inches towards your ears and hold them there for a
minute or two. In both cases, you should begin to feel discomfort and fatigue relatively quickly. Both these examples illustrate
stresses that can occur when one is working with a keyboard and/or
mouse on a surface that is too high or too far away from an
ergonomic standpoint. For many people this is a result of using
a keyboard and/or mouse on top of a standard height desk or having an older keyboard tray that doesn’t have room for the mouse
(this also can cause contact stress issues we will discuss later).
You must reach up, over the edge, and out in front to use the input
devices. This may not be an issue for really tall individuals but
60 Forensic Magazine I
Photo courtesy of Humanscale.
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we see it is problematic for many average and shorter people. Ideally when using a keyboard or mouse, your upper arms should
hang comfortably at your side. The approach we most often take
in a case such as this is to recommend installation of a combination keyboard/mouse tray.
A word of caution: a cheap tray will often not solve any problems; it may create new ones. We often see poorly designed trays
collecting dust in storerooms because they just didn’t help. Look
for a tray that has a tilt to lift or a large release button to move it
up and down. Stay away from units with twist knobs to move;
these can be troublesome especially for people that are already
having wrist and hand issues.
The mousing surface should be in about the same plane as the
keyboard, even better when it can rotate over the keyboard or
move towards you to reduce your reach and allow you to keep your
elbows in while working. The keyboard platform should be kept
level or sloped slightly away from you to so your wrists are straight
while typing.
We have begun to explore the ergonomic risk factors associated with the use of computers. The take-home message in this
issue is “neutral” and “balanced.” Your monitor should be directly in front of you with the upper edge at eye-level or slightly below.
Any hardcopy should be placed in front of you on a document
stand either between the keyboard and monitor or immediately
to the side of the monitor. The keyboard and mouse should be in
front of you and as close as practical to prevent over-reaching.
Your wrists should be straight in both axes. OSHA provides an
excellent review through their eTool1 on ergonomics. The State
of Washington also has some very good self-evaluation checklists
and guides.2 Look for Part 2 of this series, where we will discuss the repetition and force and solutions to get you through the
day pain-free.
Vince McLeod is a Certified Industrial Hygienist by the American Board of Industrial Hygiene and the senior IH with the University of Florida’s Environmental Health and Safety Division. He
has 15 years of experience in all facets of occupational health and
safety and specializes in hazard evaluation and exposure assessments.
Glenn Ketcham is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with 20
years experience in the health and safety field. He is currently the
Risk Manager for the University of Florida. He has worked as a
USDOL/OSHA compliance officer and has program management
experience in general OSHA compliance, laboratory and chemical safety, workplace ergonomics, loss prevention, disaster preparedness, and classical industrial hygiene.
We welcome your comments and questions.
You can email us at I Forensic Magazine 61
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Justifying a New Forensic Facility
Part 2
Building Support and Obtaining
Financial Resources
In this, the second part of the series on needs assessment,
I will address how to leverage your project stakeholders for
support and determine the best funding strategy for your
organization. The objective of this series is to prepare you
for the big question, “Why do you need a new facility?”
Who are the stakeholders? Stakeholders are those who have
an important voice and impact on your project. Stakeholders are also those your project may impact. It is crucial not
to overlook any group or person that has a significant part of
the forensic facility. By not including each stakeholder, the
facility runs the risk of being improperly designed (either in
physical characteristics or operational needs) or losing financial resources. Stakeholders typically associated with a forensic design/construction project:
1. Police, detectives, and those collecting evidence for forensic analysis services
It is vital to understand their needs and habits so they
can better serve the community.
2. Prosecutors, Attorney General’s Office, courts, or those
presenting the case during trial
This group has insight into future legal changes and
ramifications that could affect various issues in the facility. For example, the storage of evidence, forensic analy62 Forensic Magazine I
sis turnaround time, and even the observation of casework being processed. They may also be instrumental
in providing or identifying funding for your project.
3. Community and Victims
Their opinions matter. Being sensitive to their needs
and concerns is essential in gaining support for your
project. Every agency should have a system in place
to inform the community and help victims of crime. This
could range from how the agency plans to serve the community better in the future to general information about
a victim’s case.
In the fall of 2005, Crime Lab Design had the opportunity to work with Hope Olson, Director of the North Dakota State Police Crime Laboratory, and her staff. This effort
was to plan, design, and build the expansion of their existing crime lab. The crime lab was in desperate need of more
space, improved technology, and qualified staff. The need
was even more apparent by the dramatic increase in
methamphetamine-related cases within the state.
Before Crime Lab Design began working on the project, the lab was undergoing department and staff re-organization. Previously, they had been a part of the North Dakota
Health Department, but restructured into their own division
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under the Attorney General’s office. The new Attorney General, Wayne Stenehjem, was sworn in on January 9, 2001 and immediately made drug enforcement a priority. He developed a drug
enforcement initiative that coordinates law enforcement and health
and human service agencies; such as addiction counseling, youth
education, and legislative changes for offenders.
Stenehjem launched a comprehensive state-wide plan to
combat drug activity and address the rapidly growing problem
of methamphetamine manufacturing and trafficking. The plan
involves proposed changes in current state law. For example,
improving and expanding upon the drug paraphernalia definition to encompass products which may be used to manufacture
methamphetamine. He also proposed a change to coordinate
the various aspects of the program between numbers of entities to improve efficiency and consolidate all drug offenses into
one section of the statutory code. The plan calls for a centralized gathering of information by the Attorney General’s office.
Attorney General Stenehjem said, “Moving the Crime Lab from
the Health Department was exactly what needed to be done.
Now the lab is front and center, where it belongs.”
The State’s law enforcement community fully supported the
lab’s re-organization and expansion. Hope Olson stated, “It's
a very good move for us. We have received tremendous information technology support, administrative support, and new
personnel.” The move made the need for a new facility even
more visible. “We are at the physical limit of what the existing
building can hold,” Attorney General Stenehjem said. “We're
in a building that's not adequate.”
Forensic laboratories seem to be a low priority for many legislatures and local government officials because the lab is not
as visible as other services. Touring recently constructed facilities and your current facility is a key way to convince your
agency’s non-technical executives and elected officials that the
new lab should be a priority. Before the tour, gather a photographic diary of your facility and compare it to other recently
constructed facilities. After various stakeholders review this
diary, visit other facilities to see the benefits first hand. Remember to document the visit(s) thoroughly so you can evaluate the
facilities’ physical and operational characteristics. The tour
will enhance your case and support your main points: the lab
is too small, under staffed, and requires new technology.
Overcrowding is one of the main problems in today’s forensic facilities. Make sure to explain the consequences of overcrowding to all of the stakeholders while touring your old facility.
An overcrowded lab can have several negative outcomes including environmental, health, and safety issues for the staff.
Discuss how a needs assessment and construction process
works with your fellow forensic professionals who have ➤ I Forensic Magazine 63
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experienced them. Use this opportunity to gain insight into
how they were successful in achieving support and funding
for their projects. One option is to send your colleagues a
short survey to collect written responses to help support your
case. Questions could include the following:
1. How many DNA analysts do you have?
2. For CODIS, whom do you obtain DNA samples from? All
convicted felons?
3. What is the approximate square footage of the DNA unit?
4. How many analysts do you have in the whole laboratory?
5. What is the approximate square footage of the whole laboratory?
6. What is the construction cost and total project cost for your
new laboratory?
7. What population size does your laboratory serve?
8. Which forensic laboratory consultant did you utilize for your
new laboratory?
Reach out to the facilities staff of your local government
for their advice. They should be able to help you understand future capital projects slated for your existing facility, any thoughts of a master plan as it relates to other
agency projects, and the life expectancy of your facility’s
infrastructure. You might also consider contracting with an
ex-government official to be your lobbyist. His or her past
and present relationships could help move your project
along more quickly.
The following section will address funding issues. Unfortunately, there is not one answer or solution for everyone’s situation. Most projects are a combination of the following
funding strategies:
Partnerships are relationships between individuals or groups,
characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility to achieve
of a specified goal. For additional information on partnerships,
please see “The Benefits of Partnerships” in the 2005
August/September issue of Forensic Magazine. An example of a
successful partnership is the Los Angeles Regional Crime Lab
Joint Powers Authority with 209,080 GSF and a cost of $78.7
million (construction) and $103 million (total project). This new
facility will be shared jointly by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, Los Angeles Police Department, and California State University-Los Angeles. It will meet ASCLD/LAB
guidelines for accreditation and LEED certification. Both law
enforcement agencies needed a more advanced facility. Both had
some of the funds necessary for the project but not enough. The
state agreed to help if the agencies would work together to meet
their facility needs. The state university system also became
an active partner because of the need for education space; and
the fact the facility would be located on their property.
Legislation is the act or process of legislating; lawmaking. The
Multipurpose Building of the New Jersey State Police is a legislative success story. The building is 195,000 GSF (total) with
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64 Forensic Magazine I
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crime lab space of 123,150 GSF. The building cost $32.5 million (construction) and $42 million (total project). In an effort to
create funding for the much needed forensic laboratory, the state
attached an additional $2.00 fee to all moving violations issued
by the state troopers. In one year the program raised around
$1,000,000 for the crime lab. These funds were used to secure
equipment, personnel, and training for the lab.
Lease Financing means to provide or raise the funds/capital
for a project where the user rents the space for a given time and
dollar amount. An example of a successful project funded through
leasing is the Forensic Laboratory/Crime Scene Investigation/Evidence Vault of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
The building has a total of 361,750 GSF with a cost of $70 million (est. construction). At the time of the needs assessment, the
Police Department was occupying leased space located in an
industrial park. The agency was in desperate need for an expanded facility. The City and County of Las Vegas have bylaws that
will not allow them to own building space, so all space is leased.
In an effort to deliver an expanded facility, Crime Lab Design
explored the option of a developer-led effort to manage the contractor, architect, and financer. Going with that option, the
agency’s new facility took around six to nine months to fit-out
and move in.
Grants are a giving of funds for a specific purpose. The reality is that money does exist but getting it is the challenge.
Most grant dollars require countless amounts of paper work,
but eventually ending with more money for staff, equipment,
and training.
Some helpful internet sites include:
Funding opportunities
Getting started budget worksheet
OJP standard forms
Grant funding worksheet
D&B number online application
Fed equitable sharing agreement
Federal assistance application
In conclusion, remember to stay focused on your main objective – building a solid case for a new facility. Raising support
and building funds will be a long process. You should expect
to feel frustrated at some point but keep your eye on the goal.
It will all be worth it in the end.
Ken Mohr is a Principal and Sr. Forensic Laboratory Planner with Crime Lab Design, which provides full A/E services for
forensic and medical examiner facilities.
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FEBRUARY I MARCH 2007 I Forensic Magazine 65
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Page 66
Quality Assurance Practices for
Computer Forensics – Part 1
Previous columns discussed starting a Computer Forensics unit. This column begins a discussion of Quality
Assurance Practices that the unit must follow to generate
quality results.
Regardless of whether a Computer Forensics unit is
a stand alone entity within a law enforcement agency, a
section within a forensic laboratory, or is housed within
a private corporation or business, Quality Assurance Practices are essential to its overall success. Quality Assurance Practices are an overall means to assess the quality
of analytical processes and must be in place prior to beginning forensic analysis. They often include systematic and
planned activities by management to ensure that the analytical processes are sound and capable of providing quality results. A primary factor controlling quality in any
setting is the incorporation and utilization of good scientific practices.
The results of the analysis of digital data routinely lead
to either civil or criminal litigation. Prior to litigation, the
unit’s management and legal counsel have to be assured
that the results are accurate, reliable, verifiable, and
repeatable. The successful completion of forensic imaging/analysis training classes by examiners does not guarantee those assurances. Rather, training classes can often
give the examiners a false sense of security, which leads
to the belief that they are prepared to provide quality
results. This is a fallacy. There are many other complex,
66 Forensic Magazine I
interrelated issues that must be addressed if the results
are to be considered a quality product. All are critical
and have to be clearly articulated and well documented
before proceeding with any forensic analysis:
• What was the probable cause that initiated the
request for analysis?
• Where was the digital data stored on the computer
or computer network?
• How many individuals had access to the computer
and the digital data?
• How was the evidence collected?
• What training did the examiner receive prior to analyzing cases?
• Is there a documented training program?
• Did the examiner demonstrate competency prior to
performing the analysis requested?
• Has the examiner been proficiency-tested on a regular basis?
• How reliable were the tools (both software and hardware) used in the analysis?
• Are the procedures for analysis documented and have
they been verified/validated?
• Were scientific practices and principles followed during the analysis of the data?
One of the implications of working in a forensic environment is that every analytical report generated could result
in litigation. In Computer Forensics, the analytical ➤
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Page 67
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processes are technically complicated and can literally change
week to week. Digital data can be stored anywhere on a hard drive
and be difficult to find (for example; deleted, hidden, encrypted,
or partially overwritten files or directories). Thus, it is not an easy
task to explain to the court what was found, where it was found,
how it got there, and who may have put it there. Of considerable
importance is the expert testimony of the examiner. The court
has to be assured that the results obtained were both accurate
and reliable. Invariably, most lay jurors and justices do not have
the technical knowledge to accurately assess the testimony provided. Although an examiner’s testimony will often sound very
credible and believable, many questions can and should arise
from that testimony:
• What exactly is the evidence: The computer itself? Its hard
drive? Probative data found on the hard drive? Exported
digital data? 1
• Was the digital data ‘tainted’ or ‘compromised’ during its
collection and analysis?
• Can the ‘chain-of-custody’ be fully documented for the collection, submission, and analysis of the evidence?
• Does an examiner’s ‘on-the-job experience’ automatically
qualify him/her as an ‘expert’?
• Does the examiner have the necessary training and competency to perform the analysis?
• Were new, novel techniques and procedures used during the
• Were the analytical procedures used and the results obtained
by the examiner technically peered reviewed?
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Kenneth C. Mohr, Jr., a principal of Crime Lab Design, has 17 years experience and specializes in forensics laboratory planning and design. Mr. Mohr has worked extensively
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plan and design laboratories that can achieve or retain ASCLD/LAB, NAME, or ISO
accreditation or address the issues related to those guidelines. Mr. Mohr is an author of
special guideline publications, as well as articles on programming tools and designing
for science. He speaks on a variety of planning topics at conferences and workshops
across the country.
Lou Hartman, P.E., a principal of Crime Lab Design, has nearly 25 years in the industry
and is experienced in all aspects of crime lab projects development from beginning to
end. Mr. Hartman has a strong technical background in a wide variety of laboratories
environments and is a registered engineer in 13 states. In addition to his direct experience, he is also a member of several national committees helping to set guidelines for
laboratory design and engineering. Mr. Hartman is the author of the “Laboratories”
chapter for the 1995, 1999, and 2003 ASHRAE Handbooks and has contributed to various articles in Forensic Magazine. He is an active speaker at conferences and workshops across the country.
(Each web conference lasts approximately an hour and costs only $179* per telephone line.)
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68 Forensic Magazine I
3:26 PM
Page 69
• What were the results of the examiner’s proficiency testing?
• What other analyses were performed on the forensic computers and when?
• Who maintains the forensic computers? How often is the
software/hardware updated?
• Were licensed copies of the forensic software tools used
during the analysis?
• Does the examiner have documentation demonstrating
that the forensic software and hardware tools were verified/validated in his/her laboratory prior to their use?
• What standards/controls were used during the analysis?
• Did any of the software tools used contain documented (or
undocumented) ‘bugs’?
• Did any of the analytical processes have the potential to
alter or change the evidentiary data?
Before convicting a subject of a crime, the court would need
to have answers to these and other important questions. Additionally, the court may require a Frye2 or Daubert3 hearing to
assess the admissibility of the examiner’s scientific expert testimony. Thus, the question becomes “What Quality Assurance
Practices are in place in the Computer Forensics unit?” to provide the necessary answers. Quality Assurance Practices are
not a new concept; rather they have to be applied to Computer Forensics in the same manner they have been applied to all
other forensic disciplines. Addressing the following topics in
a Quality Assurance Manual can demonstrate that Quality
Assurance Practices are in place:
• The unit’s organizational structure and responsibilities
• Dealing with management related issues
• Communications within the unit/agency and with external agencies
• Standard Operational Procedures related to the unit’s daily
• Specific Quality Control and Quality Assurance Practices
• Physical Plant Security
• Health and Safety
• Documenting policy changes
Forthcoming columns will discuss in more detail the Quality Assurance Manual and specific Quality Assurance Practices.
1. See Forensic Magazine, “Digital Evidence Accreditation” Winter
2004 issue for more detailed information concerning what could
be considered evidence.
2. Frye v. United States, 293 F. 1013 D.C. Cir. 1923.
3. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 1993.
I welcome your comments and questions. Contact the Digital Insider at:
John J. Barbara is a Crime Laboratory Analyst Supervisor with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)
in Tampa, FL. An ASCLD/LAB inspector since 1993, John has
conducted inspections in several forensic disciplines including
Digital Evidence. John is the General Editor for the “Handbook of Digital & Multimedia Evidence” to be published by Humana Press in 2007.
FEBRUARY I MARCH 2007 I Forensic Magazine 69
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It Would Be Industry Calendar
a Crime....
February 26-March 1, 2007
March 29-31, 2007
58th Pittsburgh Conference (PITTCON)
Chicago, IL
Preserving Evidence, Saving Lives
The Roles of Forensic Science, Medicine, and
the Law in Mass Disaster Response
The 7th Annual Forensic Science and Law
Pittsburgh, PA
March 12-16, 2007
43rd Annual Forensic Dental Identification
and Emerging Technologies
Bethesda, MD
March 25-29, 2007
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Nebraska Division of the IAI (NEIAI) Annual
Educational Conference
Ashland, NE
April 10-12, 2007
Wisconsin Association for Identification (WAI)
41st Annual Education Conference
Eau Claire, WI
18th Annual International Scientific Meeting
on Scanning Microscopies
Foundation for Advances in Medicine and
Science, Inc. (FAMS)
Monterey, CA
March 30-31, 2007
April 11-13, 2007
Chesapeake Bay Division of the IAI (CBDIAI)
Spring Educational Conference
Cumberland, MD
North Carolina Division of the IAI (NCIAI)
Spring Conference
Fayetteville, NC
March 28-30, 2007
70 Forensic
Society of Toxicology (SOT) 46th Annual
Charlotte, NC
April 10-11, 2007
Air Science USA LLC ................................................... 4
ALLPRO Imaging ...................................................... 25
Applied Biosystems ............................................ 19, 72
ASAP LLC ................................................................. 64
Biomatrica .............................................................. 50
Bio-Medical Devices International, Inc. ..................... 58
Bode Technology Group ............................................. 9
Bone Clones Inc. ...................................................... 69
Carl Zeiss SMT ..........................................................51
CARON Products & Services, Inc. ............................... 48
Complete Equity Markets Inc. ................................... 36
Criminalistics, Inc. .................................................... 12
EDAX Inc. ................................................................ 53
Foundation for Advances in Medicine and Science Inc. 68
Fuji Photo Film U.S.A., Inc......................................... 21
Human Identification Technologies Inc. ..................... 61
Independent Forensics ............................................. 16
Innov-X Systems Inc. ................................................13
International Association for Identification ................ 60
Invitrogen Corporation ............................................. 15
IXRF Systems Inc. .................................................... 43
JEOL USA, Inc. ......................................................... 49
Keyence Corporation of America .............................. 27
Kubtec ...................................................................... 6
LabCorp - Forensic Identity Department .................... 47
labX ........................................................................ 26
Leica Microsystems, Inc. ........................................... 29
Matrix Technologies Corporation .............................. 17
MicroLiter Analytical Supplies, Inc. ............................ 22
Misonix Incorporated ............................................... 47
Mitotyping Technologies ........................................... 33
Molecular Machines & Industries .............................. 35
Motorola Inc. ............................................................. 3
National Institute of Justice ...................................... 69
Newport Corporation ............................................... 46
NMS Labs ................................................................ 57
NuAire Inc. .............................................................. 41
Ocean Systems ........................................................ 23
PerkinElmer Life & Analytical Sciences ........................ 2
Princeton Separations ................................................ 6
Promega Corporation ........................................... 5, 11
Puritan Medical Products Company LLC ..................... 67
Quincy Technologies ................................................. 45
Rees Scientific Corp. ................................................. 34
Rice Lake Weighing Systems ...................................... 7
Shimadzu Instruments ............................................. 71
SoftGenetics LLC ...................................................... 65
Spectronics Corp. ..................................................... 39
SPEX Sample Prep LLC ............................................. 42
Starlims .................................................................. 37
Tecan Schweiz AG .................................................... 31
Troemner LLC ........................................................... 39
University of Florida Forensic Program ......................63
Zarbeco, LLC ........................................................... 46
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