Teina Pora case: funding case re-investigations

You may or may not have seen 3rd Degree’s programme last night about the case of Teina Pora, a south Auckland boy imprisoned in 1994 for rape and murder, the former that DNA testing shows he did not commit and, after a retrial in 2000, for murder based on confessions. There has been comment about …

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Standards and Codes for forensic scientists

A short blog post, this one.  The US Department of Justice is setting up a commission that will establish standards, a professional code and educational requirements for forensic scientists.  Presumably this would mean that a Bachelors degree in forensic science and European film won’t make the muster (a degree which has apparently been offered in …

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Zero drugs; plenty of alcohol

It’s always struck me as a bit odd, the disparity between the NZ drug driving law and the drink driving law. My non-lawyer’s view is that drug driving law stipulates that a person is guilty of the office if their blood contains evidence of a qualifying drug.  This means that if even a small amount …

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Curious case of the vanishing court file

Many people think that, as an independent forensic scientist, my job is about science in the legal system. That would be true when I have my ‘specialist’ hat on such as when I’m doing blood or breath alcohol calculations, preparing a statement for Court or giving evidence. For the rest of my job, you’d be …

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Mt Tongariro: the aliens are invading

It’s volcano time again here in New Zealand: with the eruption of the andesitic Mt Tongariro in the central North Island. As a geologist (and tephrostratigrapher in times gone past) it’s exciting, but there’s always a small point (for me) that detracts from the media reporting: the plethora of ‘vulcanologists’. It would be great if …

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FBI admits flaws in forensic science evidence – how about NZ?

“The [US] Justice Department and the FBI have launched a review of thousands of criminal cases to determine whether any defendants were wrongly convicted or deserve a new trial because of flawed forensic evidence” So reads the Washington Post on July 11. The article indicates the problems with fibre and hair evidence, which are notoriously …

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NetHui and ‘trolls’

I am such an unintentional luddite.  I turned up at a conference about the internet (NetHui) and started adding things to my To Do list by using a piece of paper and a pencil, being surrounded by so many ipads, netbooks, iphones, androids and other technical gadgets that make me feel old that the air …

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ID by fingerprints: not fact but opinion

Many people in New Zealand still seem unaware of the substantial shake-up going on in forensic science globally. Alot of it has come from the USA National Academy of Science’s review on forensic science. Some has come from the UK Law Commission’s review of forensic science practices. One of the many areas of interest is …

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Legal Aid costs and forensic science: the cost of justice?

NZ has spent NZ$1 billion dollars on Legal Aid in the last 12 years, since 2000.  So it is reported: The cost of justice: legal aid bill $1 billion . The five most expensive cases involved individuals found not guilty or whose cases were discharged. Based on my experience, it costs money to investigate a …

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ABC. Assume nothing. Believe nobody. Check everything.

ABC. Assume nothing. Believe nobody. Check everything.  This is the mantra of British crime scene manager John Cockram.  That is a truly excellent mantra and pretty much covers all you need to know about forensic science.  His commentary on crime scene examination is fabulous reading in The Guardian’s The real CSI: what happens at a …

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