Choose a forensic discipline that is interesting to you. After reviewing different scholarly journals (must be written within the past 5 years), select five (5) articles and describe how they support or apply to the discipline you have selected. You should also include your opinion as to how the discipline could apply to evidence found at a crime scene.
Each student must utilize the Saint Leo library.
While article reviews may vary in their format, they should include the following:
- Title of article and/or text and author(s)
- Why you chose the specific forensic discipline
- Other background information or literature completed by the author
- Result of the reading/research on topic
- What does the information researched mean for criminal justice practitioners and administrators?
General guidelines consist of the following:
- The review should be at least 1,200 words, excluding the title page, abstract, and reference
- Follow APA style formatting for references and abstracts (consult your APA manual if you are
unsure of APA formatting).
- Express yourself thoroughly and write in complete thoughts and sentences.
- Use proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation (as this will be included in your grade).
Link to Saint Leo Library:
Click here to enter text.The genetics of skin, hair, and eye color variation and its relevance to forensic pigmentation predictive tests
Author(s): Maroñas, O., Söchtig, J., Ruiz, Y., Phillips, C., Carracedo, Á., & Lareu, M.V
Journal: Forensic Science Review
Publication Information: 2015, 27(1), 37-40.
Abstract: The article explores SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism)-based predictive tests and the potential of their application in forensic analysis, more specifically in the manner they would be integral in aiding police investigations with no witnesses or database matches. The authors explore pigmentation and related genes and how they differ from one person to another. They give insight into how such can be used for criminal identification purposes because of the variations from one human being to another.
Introduction: This article was considered worth reviewing for the manner it attempts to boost criminal investigations where there are no database matches. It presents an alternative to contemporary forensic genetics where emphasis is placed on DNA tests. Its subject, pigmentation variation, is particularly important for it is an alternative lead to follow during investigations especially where DNA tests reveal/yield identical profiles.
Analysis and Synthesis: As opposed to the usual peer-reviewed articles that detail studies with typical research ingredients (research questions, hypotheses, study samples), this article is more of an exploration of contextual literature (on forensic genetics). Maroñas and colleagues present a description of melanogenesis biology and shed light on how pigmentation varies from one human being to another. They explore the predictive factors for common variations in skin, hair, and eye pigmentation.
They start by introducing the significance of pigmentation analysis in forensic science, more specifically in the subfield of forensic genetics. They point out to the shortcomings of relying on witness testimonies and normal DNA tests. They elevate the need of paying attention to specific pigmentation characteristics that would ultimately yield crucial leads to identity based on ancestry tests. They then proceed into exploration of melanogenesis biology particulars by making occasional reference to and borrowing from related literature. After reviewing literature on different functional groups (of pigmentation genes) they cap their article by inferring that multiplex tests can find application in investigative analyses based on common variation in pigmentation among human beings.
By and large, it can be deduced that the authors have done a good job in drawing attention to a new aspect that could help in forensic investigations. Indeed, they have shed light on a path that could have far-reaching implication in forensic sciences. Their presentation is particularly helpful in providing an alternative to cases where investigations hit a dead end or are marred by confusion due to identical DNA profiles.
Implications: The article’s content finds application to physical evidence collected from a crime scene in the sense that understanding pigmentation pathways and melanogenesis biology could help in forensic analysis through predictive tests. This would help in criminal identification processes especially in instances where there are no known eye witnesses or where DNA profiles are identical. This is made possible by the use of polymorphic genetic markers (Maroñas et al., 2015). This is a great contribution (by the authors) to forensic science.
Cinderella story? The social production of a forensic “science”
Author(s): Edmond, G., & Cunliffe, E.
Journal: The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology
Publication Information: 2017, 106(2), 219-274
Abstract: The article explores in detail the sub-field of forensic podiatry and more specifically examines forensic gait analysis. It elevates the place of this sub-discipline (forensic gait analysis) in forensic science by bringing to the fore the role CCTV surveillance images can play in criminal identification. Such can be analyzed to identify suspects even where they (suspects) have concealed or disguised their identities.
Introduction: Edmond and Cunliffe focus on forensic podiatry which in its simplest entails image analysis based on posture and movement to draw inferences as to the similarities and/or differences of images captured by surveillance (CCTV) and identified suspects. This article has been considered for reviewing because it boosts the applicability of surveillance images for criminal identification even in cases where suspects have disguised their identities. Overall, it elevates surveillance images and how they can be useful in the criminal justice system especially in the absence of eye witnesses.
Analysis and Synthesis: Like the previous article, this piece does not have the usual ingredients of peer-reviewed articles (research questions, hypothesis, and samples); rather, it carries out a detailed exploration of the history and development of forensic podiatry. As expected, the authors introduce their subject and place it within the context of forensic science, explaining its significance. They particularly make reference to its potential to address “a conspicuous evidentiary gap confronting the rapidly increasing range of images and videos associated with criminal acts”. They emphasize the concept of POI (person of interest) and explain why analyzing posture and movement (also referred to as gait) is helpful in addressing the challenge of identity that is encountered within the criminal justice system. They trace the development of forensic podiatry to clinical podiatry, a practice that has been around for some time now. They make reference to how the two practices play out in different jurisdictions, namely the United States and the United Kingdom. Emphasizing the centrality of evidence-based practice in their assertions, they gradually introduce the legal recognition and implications of forensic podiatry which they admit is an emerging discipline.
The authors dig deep into the history of this discipline, eventually bringing to the reader’s attention that some physical/bodily features that inform the practice are unique to individuals. They emphasize the practice’s commitment to uniqueness and relate this to how it employs the procedures of analysis, evaluation, comparison, verification, and review as methodological basics guiding the identification process. Indeed, the authors must be commended for doing a good job in exploring the practice in terms of its history, development, current state, and future possibilities. Notably, the article is quite a lengthy piece, covering over 54 pages; its voluminous nature is suggestive of how deep the authors have gone in uncovering the practice of forensic podiatry. It is thought highlighting every aspect of their presentation(s) would not be optimal for this review (due to its limited scope). However, imperative is the way the authors cap their piece. They infer that forensic gait analysis (in forensic podiatry) could be applied to revealing identities even in cases where surveillance images are poor or where those commiting crimes have disguised their appearances (hence identities). One must agree with the manner they position the practice within the legal arena; implying that at the end of the day even legal practitioners (lawyers, judges, investigators) have an obligation to pay attention and embrace the opportunity that forensic podiatry presents for the discipline of forensic science and the criminal justice system at large.
Implications: The implications of this article to the forensic science discipline are appreciated especially considering the manner it positions forensic podiatry within the legal stage. Recognition of the legitimacy and legality of admissions emanating from forensic gait analysis could help deliver justice by correctly identifying perpetrators based on surveillance images.
An Empirical research agenda for the forensic sciences
Author(s): Koehler, J.J., & Meixner
Journal: The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology
Publication Information: 2016, 106(1), 1-33
Abstract: The article argues the case for the need to conduct preliminary studies to boost the reliability and validity of the methods employed in forensic science. It explores various techniques that have are usually employed in drawing inferences (especially on identity) and places them in the context of forensic science. Highlighting a few examples, it finally re-emphasizes the need for scrutiny and reconsideration of contemporary methods relied on in informing decisions (even as may be extended to the criminal justice system).
Introduction: In summary, the article argues that present procedures and methodologies (employed in forensic science) need to be scrutinized and reviewed because they lack in different aspects thus providing a recipe for errors and denial of justice through wrongful conviction. It has been considered for review because it focuses on one of the most crucial challenges facing the criminal justice system: wrongful conviction.
Analysis and Synthesis: The authors do well in setting the stage for their argument by, in the opening paragraph, making reference to a murder case where conviction was reversed after the suspect had spent 28 years in prison. A forensic dentist had identified bite marks on the deceased’s arm as belonging to the suspect leading to a subsequent life sentence. However, the “conviction was reversed after a court concluded that the bite mark testimony was junk evidence” (Koehler, & Meixner, 2016). Indeed, this was a serious development that calls for further scrutiny of the methods used in forensic science hence the significance of this article. As regards the bite marks around which the case centered, the authors assert that bite mark evidence has been relied upon for many years but that case was the 26th (since the beginning of the new millennium) “whose conviction was released or indictment dismissed based on discredited bite mark testimony” (Koehler, & Mexixner). In fact, following this development bite mark evidence was banned and could not be used in trials. To show how serious the contextual confusion is, they mention a 2015 study that showed that in most cases, experienced certified forensic experts confuse and disagree as to the source of bite marks in crime scene photographs.
The authors proceed to quote numerous cases that have involved controversy on the admissibility of scientific evidence in criminal trials. So that the cloud of confusion and doubt can be eliminated, they argue that empirical research is necessary whereby the methods used therein matter a lot. In this breath, they explain that differences in aspects like sample and accuracy levels have far-reaching effects in inferences and how such are applied in the forensic science discipline. After analyzing various approaches and theories employed in most descriptive studies, they cap their piece by emphasizing reliability in the methods used to gather and analyze scientific evidence.
Implications: This article is considered a great piece for the forensic science discipline because it underscores the need to scrutinize and review the methods that are used to gather and analyze scientific or more precisely crime-scene evidence. If the empirical agenda that the authors seek to promote is given adequate attention, then perhaps the number of wrongful convictions could significantly come down in the long term. Nothing could be greater for the criminal justice system as far as wrongful convictions are concerned.
Incorporating argumentation through forensic science
Author(s): Wheeler, L.B., Maeng, J.L., & Smetena, L.K.
Journal: Science Activities
Publication Information: 2014, 51(3), 67-77
Abstract: The article elevates the need to incorporate argumentation early enough in prospective practitioners’ learning process. It takes the reader to as far back as high school and proposes a mock trial. It outlines the practical aspects of such a trial and explains why it is important to prepare prospective practitioners in forensic science as early as middle or secondary school.
Introduction: Generally, the article provides a general forensic science unit and presents aspects that the authors consider would help teachers instill in students the right mix of skills and knowledge even as they prepare them for a career in the field. It has been selected for review because it emphasizes early skill development and cultivating familiarity in future forensic science experts for what they are likely to encounter when they specialize in the discipline.
Analysis and Synthesis: As the rest of the articles in this review, it has not laid out any research questions, hypotheses and samples. The authors simply present a forensic science unit and what they think it should include to adequately preparing students for future roles in the field.
In the unit they include typical scientific practices that students need to engage in. Such include planning, asking questions, investigating, constructing explanations, analyzing and interpreting data, as well as engaging in argument based on evidence that has been collected from a crime scene. They also emphasize the role of physical sciences in connection to crime scene investigations whereby students are taught on the chemical and physical properties of matter as such would find application in analyzing and identifying any substances that may be collected from scenes of crime. More imperative in their presentation is their forensic unit overview where they explain various approaches to successful investigations, for instance by establishing hypotheses and developing research questions that could guide investigations. To a large extent the authors deserve credit for analyzing different approaches to chemical analysis. They cap their article by presenting the reader how insight from their forensic science unit could be applied in real life situations.
Implications: The article finds application in the forensic science discipline in that it emphasizes the importance of equipping future forensic experts with the necessary critical skills at an early stage as they get more involved in physical and biological sciences. It cannot be disputed that a forensic expert who, for instance, understands the chemical and physical properties of matter will have had the necessary exposure to various substances and understood their different properties long before they encounter them at crime scenes. To a large extent the article underscores the need for improved curriculum so that practitioners get a good foundation for the knowledge and skills that they need in discharging their duties and responsibilities.
Error terror in forensic science: When spectroscopy meets the courts
Author(s): Jackson, G.P.
Publication Information: 2016, 31(11), 13-15
Abstract: The article revisits the issue of uncertainty in the context of analytical reports that are more often than not the basis upon which decisions with far-reaching effects are made. It sheds light on contextual issues such as errors in analysis and subsequent reporting and how such are likely to affect justice delivery. It also mentions the likelihood of misinterpretation of information by those to whom it is presented. After highlighting several examples and discussing the implications of errors and uncertainty, the author calls for solutions either through basic research or standards.
Introduction: The article revolves around the issues of errors and uncertainty related to analytical reports in forensic science. It, through examples, discusses the likely sources and implications of the aforementioned errors and uncertainty, either in analyzing, reporting, or interpreting information. The article has been selected because it focuses on uncertainty and errors, issues that have been known to affect process in the criminal justice system, perhaps through wrong or misinformed decisions.
Analysis and Synthesis: Jackson’s article is short and it does not have any research questions or hypotheses mentioned. Like others contained in this review, it focuses on one issue of relevance in forensic science and seeks to explore it from many angles before finally making an inference as to what should be done. The article may be short but it discusses one of the most crucial aspects worth considering when making various efforts of ensuring or improving fair and timely justice delivery.
Jackson draws attention to the issue of certainty/uncertainty when giving analytical reports. He makes reference to the use of sophisticated spectroscopic instruments in making chemical measurements that then make the basic of laboratory analytical reports used in court. Arguably, the author’s presentations relate to the example of the wrongful conviction in the case given by Koehler and Meixner (2016). Errors in reporting can greatly influence justice outcomes as the wrong people can be convicted for crimes they did not commit. The author revisits a number of instances where errors have led to wrongful conviction and emphasizes the need for guidelines and standards for measuring and reporting uncertainty in forensic analyses. Implications: The article is indeed important to the forensic science discipline for it draws attention to some of the limitations that call for urgent research and solutions. If the author’s arguments are considered seriously, there is no doubt that better tools can be developed to “measure, understand, and report the uncertainty in qualitative determinations”, thereby improving outcomes in the criminal justice system. After all, errors in measuring, analyzing, and reporting crime scene evidence constitute some of the biggest challenges facing the forensic science discipline. It is imperative that they be addressed.
Edmond, G., & Cunliffe, E. (2017). Cinderella story? The social production of a forensic “science”. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 106 (2): 219-274.
Houck, M.M., McAndrew, W.P., Porter, M., & Davies, B. (2015).A review of forensic science management literature. Forensic Science Review, 27 (53): 67-71.
Jackson, G.P. (2016). Error terror in forensic science: When spectroscopy meets the courts. Spectroscopy, 31(11): 13-15.
Koehler, J.J., & Meixner, J.B. (2016). An Empirical research agenda for the forensic sciences. The Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology, 106(1): 1-33.
Maroñas, O., Söchtig, J., Ruiz, Y., Phillips, C., Carracedo, Á., & Lareu, M.V. (2015).The genetics of skin, hair, and eye color variation and its relevance to forensic pigmentation predictive tests; Forensic Science Review 27(1): 37-40.
Wheeler, L.B., Maeng, J.L., & Smetena, L.K. (2014). Incorporating argumentation through forensic science. Science Activities, 51(3), 67-77.
Yacine, N., & Fellag, R. (2012). Forensic science. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science Publishers.