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Forensic Science

Forensic Science

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Published by: TheGreatHelper on Dec 14, 2010
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 Forensic ScienceDone by : Bahaa Q.“A fingerprint expert can tell apart the marks of two digits more easily than he can differentiate two people’s faces”.Ever wonder how detectives and police officers can solve crimes based on finding littleelements such as finger prints or bloodstains that are left behind unintentionally? They rely on forensicscience to help them solve cases having to do with rape, murder, theft, and crimes of that nature. It isimportant for the definition of forensic science to be clearly defined first. “Forensic science maygenerally be defined as the application of scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge to assistcourts in resolving questions of fact in civil and criminal trials”(Forensic Access). This paper willexplain how forensic science began historically, how it has evolved until present time helping solvecrimes, and how the perception of forensic science is influenced by television shows.Forensic Science began gradually developing since the Roman time. In 44 B.C. Antistius, a Roman physician who examined Julius Caesar’s body came with the conclusion that “out of Caesar’s twentythree wounds, only one had been fatal” (Bursztajn
). In 1000 A.D. a Roman attorney named Quintilian proved that a blind man was framed of killing his mother by showing a bloody fingerprint that belonged to someone else. In the year 1248, the Chinese published “Hsi DuanYu”, a book thatinformed people how to tell the difference between a drowned and strangluated victim. Ambroise Paré,a French army surgeon, wrote a book in the 1540’s on how gunshot and arrow wounds affect our internal organs. In the 1830’s, since Arsenic had been commonly used for murder, James Marsh createdthe first affective Arsenic detection test. This test is still used today. In 1892, Francis Galton publishedthe first book on fingerprints and how they can lead to solving crimes. Later in 1897, the firstfingerprinting bureau opened in India. It was not until 1906, that Unites States began fingerprintingcriminals. In 1905, Theodore Roosevelt organized the Federal Bureau of Investigation, also known asFBI. They created their own crime laboratory in 1932. However, the first police crime laboratory ever established was in 1910 by Edmund Locard. The DNA profiling technique was first produced in 1985 by Sir Alec Jeffreys. Gradually over the years, new things that are essential in forensic science todaywere being constantly discovered.Today, forensic science is split into several branches. Each branch has a specific duty to perform its joband find answers based on all the evidence and information they get from a crime scene. These branches include forensic biology, forensic chemistry, forensic anthropology, forensic odontology,forensic pathology, and forensic psychology. It often takes several branches to solve a case.
 In forensic biology, Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) analysis is performed to identify individuals who
may have committed a crime. Typically they examine blood, semen, saliva, dental pulp, hair, nails,tissue, and bone. If such things are found in crime scenes, it is the forensic scientist’s job to gather andanalyze them. Since DNA is unique to every individual, a DNA analysis can be used to trace these
samples back to the person who may have been present during the crime. In order to identifyindividuals forensic scientists look at 13 DNA regions, also known as loci. It is very uncommon for two individuals to have an identical DNA profile for a specific set of 13 loci’s (westechester). DNA
analysis is not necessarily just used in crime investigations. It can be used for simpler things such as paternity testing, detection of bacteria, and matching organ donors with recipients. Several instrumentsand techniques that are used to analyze DNA include “Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism
(RFLP), PCR Analysis, STR Analysis, Mitochondrial DNA Analysis and Y-Chromosome Analysis”(www.ornl.gov
).Dan M. Sullivan explains that, “Forensic chemistry encompasses organic and inorganic analysis,toxicology , arson investigation, and serology”. Forensic toxicologists are in charge of testing and
measuring the amount of alcohol, drugs, or other toxic substances present in biological speciments.They begin to do so by taking notes of the substance. This consists of 
weighing it, recording the color and smell, and performing a microscopic crystal test that is able to identify the drug. The most
commonly used instrument is the Gas Chromatogrph/Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS). The GC/MS canseparate, qualitate, and quantitate each component of a sample.t
reports that, “Thereare 500,000 structure fires overall a year; 75,000 of them are labeled suspicious”. Arson, intentional
setting of a fire to a building or home, is a serious crime. People commit such an act to receiveinsurance money. A forensic scientist will examine the fire debris to find any traces of accelerants suchas “gasoline, kerosene, or charcoal lighter fluid” (www.terpconnect.umd.edu
). Serology is the
examination of blood that tests the precense of antibodies. A serology test can find out a person’s bloodtype and detect any infections. Blood splatters found in a crime scene can reveal plenty. The weaponsused can be determined, as well as the direction of where the attack came from.Forensic anthropology is the examination of bones. Anthropologists first determine whether the bones
are human or animal. If human, it is their job to determine the age, sex, ancestry, stature, and uniquefeatures of the decedent. Because certain structures differ in men and women, it is easy to determinethe sex based on “general size, architecture, supraorbital margin, mastoid process, occipital bone,
glabella, gonial angle, palate, and occipital condyles” (Terrie Winson). Age is determined byexamining the jaw and teeth. Bone remains can also help figure out the time since death, the cause andany illnesses or wounds while the person was still alive. Forensic Anthropologists use the followingtimeline to determine the time since death: “3 weeks-articulated bones, 5 weeks-some scatter/somearticulated, 4 months- disarticulated/within 10' circle, 7 to 8 months-most bones w/in 10' circle and allw/in 20', 1 year-small bones missing/complete disarticulation, 2 to 4 years-some bones broken/somelarge bones missing, 12+ years-bone rot, 15 to 20 years-no surface evidence” (Terrie Winson).Forensic pathology deals with examining a dead body and determining the cause of death. A forensic pathologist’s job is to find the identity of the deceased, establish the cause and time of death, identifythe type of weapon used, distinguish homicide from suicide, and discover any traumas or pre-existingconditions. Identification is made by showing a photo to a family member. They are able to estimatethe time of death based on discoloration of the body, the stiffness, and change in bodytemperature.Joseph I. Cohen explains, “Approximately half of the deaths examined by the forensic pathologist are natural deaths occurring in the absence of injury”. That also means that approximately
half the deaths are unnatural and are caused by other individuals. There are two groups of pathologists:
coroners and medical examiners. Coroners are elected officials that have been around for centuries.Widegeek.com states that, “In a way, a coroner advocates for the dead, ensuring that the case ishandled respectfully and efficiently”. On the other hand, medical examiners are appointed officials that
work with the law enforcement.Forensic Odontology handles cases that have to do with teeth. They can identify an attacker bycomparing a record of someone’s dentition to any bite marks left on a victim. The records show anyfillings, extractions, surface structures, adjacent teeth, or twisted/tilted teeth. Apsu.edu states that,
“There are seven different types of bite marks: hemorrhage -small bleeding spot,abrasion -undamagingmark on skin, contusion- ruptured blood vessel or bruise, laceration-punctured or torn skin, incision-neat puncture of skin, avulsion- removal of skin, and artifact- bitten off piece of body”. The upper 
teeth leave more effect than the lower. Bite marks can last for hours and some for even days. However,it is important not to move the body because the bite marks can change with movement. Ted Mundy, aserial killer, was actually caught for leaving a bite mark on one of his victims in 1979. This just shows
how important a bite mark can be.Forensic Psychology is needed for several reasons. They specialize in treating mentally ill offenders,consulting with attorneys, and analyzing a criminal's mind and intentions. They testify in courtreporting information to the judge, attorneys, and juries. One might ask what the criminal’s state of 
mind was during the time of the crime, and it is the forensic psychologist’s job to provide the answers.There are many forensic science televison shows being aired daily. Shows such as “CSI”exagarate forensic science’s abilitites, sometimes showing procedures that may not even exist. Theseshows select a few characters that are able to do all procedures and analysis’, even though forensic
science is really separated into several branches and is more complicated than how it appears. Theyshow that evidence can be easily found. However, evidence can be difficult to find and demands athorough search. Although these television shows make it seem like crimes can be solved quickly and
easily, it can actually take weeks or even months. They display that all crimes are solved and criminalsare identified. According tolibrary.thinkquest.org
,“The majority of crimes are never solved and thechances of a person being sent to prison for committing a crime are 1 out of 100. Approximately eighty
 percent of murders are solved, but less than twenty percent of burglaries are solved”. Such shows alsocause criminals to be aware of the different techniques being used, giving them an advantage. Another issue that is caused by these shows is that jurors who watch them believe they know all about forensic
science and investigation procedures. Karren Lotter reports, “In a survey of the 500 people in the jury pool, the defense found that about 70% were viewers of CBS's CSI or similar shows such as Court TV'sForensic Files or NBC's Law & Order”. This is problematic because juries expect more from forensicevidence even though there are limits to how much forensic science can do. Prosecutors and lawyersare pressured to work harder in presenting cases as well.As you can see, forensic science is very vital to the society. Robert Bellz claims, “Forensicscience enables science as a tool in crime investigation and social justice. It enables reduction in errors
which helps reduce the number of people wrongly accused”. It can prove whether possible suspects areguilty or innocent. It is very difficult not to contaminate a crime scene. Rowan Hooper writes, “GuyRutty tested just how easy contamination is by asking a volunteer to walk around a sterile room andrepeat a phrase. Rutty was able to retrieve the subject's DNA even though the man had been in theroom for only a few seconds. Contamination occurred even if the subject was wearing a face mask of the kind used by crime scene investigators”.Although the real amount of crime is unknown, we do

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