The right way and the wrong way of presenting statistical and geological evidence in a court of law (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!)
Wayne C. Isphording, 2004. "The right way and the wrong way of presenting statistical and geological evidence in a court of law (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing!)", Forensic Geoscience: Principles, Techniques and Applications, K. Pye, D. J. Croft
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On 21 March 1981 a young black male was abducted in Mobile, Alabama, and taken to a site across Mobile Bay where he was beaten and murdered. The act was in apparent revenge for the mis-trial of a black man accused of killing a white police officer from Birmingham, Alabama. Three members of the notorious Ku Klux Klan were apprehended and charged with murder. All were found guilty and the ringleader was executed in 1997; the others are now serving life sentences.
Ironically, the perpetrators were successful in having evidence tying them to the crime scene completely discredited. Statistical evidence purporting to show similarities in soil chemistry from samples taken from the victim, the defendants, and the crime scene was totally invalidated because improper statistical analyses were used. Following completion of the trial, the defence's expert witness was contacted by the district attorney and asked to describe the appropriate statistical tests that should have been offered and that would have supported his case. He was further able to take solace by learning that strong mineralogical evidence could also have been used. It simply had not been reviewed by anyone who possessed the proper expertise.
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Forensic Geoscience: Principles, Techniques and Applications
Forensic geoscience is an increasingly important sub-discipline within geoscience and forensic science. Although minerals, soils, dusts and rock fragments have been used as only begun to be recognized in the last ten years or so. The police and other investigative bodies are keen to encourage such developments in the fight against crime, particularly since many criminals show a high level of forensic awareness with regard to evidence such as fingerprints, blood and other body fluids. The papers in this volume illustrate some of the main principles, techniques and applications in current forensic geoscience, covering research and casework in the UK and internationally. The techniques described range from macro-scale field geophysical investigations to micro-scale laboratory studies of the chemical and textural properties of individual particles. In addition to forensic applications, many of these techniques have broad utility in geological, geomorphological, soil science and archaeological research.