Of the FBI and ESR: what can we expect forensic science to deliver?

I haven’t written a blog post for a loooong time.  That’s because in the last year or so I have written another book (Forensic Science and the law: a Guide for Police, Lawyers and Expert Witnesses – the first book of its kind in New Zealand) and have been involved in some high-profile cases including …

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Of zombies and children

“ ’Scuse me, but do dead bodies really look like zombies?”  As questions go at the end of a presentation, this one took me by surprise – but I guess it shouldn’t have done so, given that I was speaking to about 150 primary, intermediate and high school gifted children.  With hindsight, it’s exactly what …

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The CSI effect – it’s still going…but changing shape?

Here is a link to an article on Stuff.co.nz today that deals with the CSI effect: TV shows having an influence on juries. As you will see, I added my two pennarth to it. In my experience over the last 12 months, as a phenomenon the CSI effect raises less questions at presentations and lectures …

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Expert evidence: can we learn from others?

One of the hardest things to do in life seems to be to learn from the mistakes of others.  For example, when learning to drive (“mirror, signal, manoeuvre” has been devised for good reason, not, as young male relatives seems to think, just so older people can tell younger people what to do and then …

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What is a standard alcoholic drink?

What IS a standard alcoholic drink?  It’s a nightmare, that’s what it is.  As a forensic alcohol toxicologist, the concept of a standard drink is somewhat arbitrary and inconsistent because the people drinking them differ in physical stature and biological processing ability so the alcohol in a standard drink contributes a different amount to people …

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Don’t forget: breath alcohol levels continue to rise after you stop drinking!

I have just been watching Campbell Live where the presenters had a two-hour lunch with alcoholic drinks and then tested themselves with a breath alcohol screening device to see how they felt to drive compared with what alcohol they had actually consumed.  This is all as a result of the government’s (good, in my opinion) …

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Children and mud: mutually exclusive?!

At risk of sounding like an old person, I still have to ask at what point did children become allergic to outdoor entertainment involving mud, rain and a stick?  I ask this seemingly inane question as the result of a school trip to the local beach on which I was a parent supervisor recently. We …

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How not to apply for a job/research position/other future career role

We receive a regular flow of email requests from science students around the world enquiring about how they can become forensic scientists.  That’s all good – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. What irritates me immensely is the clearly haphazard and unthinking approach that is so immensely common throughout those from people who are …

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A Criminal Cases Review Commission for NZ?

On the back of the Lundy case, there has been some discussion in the last week about whether or not New Zealand should consider having an independent organisation to assess potential miscarriages of justice, similar to the English Criminal Cases Review Commission. It’s not the first time the suggestion has been mooted: several other high-profile …

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Are all drownings accidental? Are too many fires arson?

What if not all drownings are accidental?  An ABC article asks this question and raises some interesting points about how investigators deal with bodies found on land and those found in water. “Bodies found in water are treated very differently from bodies found on land, for example there is not a county in this country …

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