December 21, 2006
Perils of Bite Mark Evidence
The New York Times today tells the story of Roy Brown, who was convicted for the 1991 murder of Sabina Kulakowski. A recent DNA test of the purported real killer's daughter appears to exonerate Mr. Brown of the crime. The daughter was needed to supply DNA because her father committed suicide just days after Mr. Brown wrote him a letter accusing him of the crime. A major piece of evidence used to convict Mr. Brown was forensic bite mark evidence, a particularly suspect form of forensic "science." The bite mark testimony was offered by Dr. Edward Mofson, and concerned the identity of six upper teeth-marks, despite the fact that the defendant only had four upper teeth. Interestingly, the defense offered the expert opinion of Dr. Homer Campbell, who vehemently disputed the prosecution's expert's identification. The jury believed the prosecution's expert. This case thus illustrates not only the bankruptcy of bite mark forensic evidence, but also the added value of having some sort of effective gatekeeping standard to exclude this sort of bogus testimony in the first place. See full story here.
December 19, 2006
Women in Science -- The Trenches
Women continue to occupy a disproportionately small percentage of working scientists. This fact is a product of a host of forces, but appears to be changing -- if ever so slowly. The New York Times today has an excellent article on the cultural changes now taking place, and on those that remain in need of considerable attention. See full article here.