By: Tino Kyprianou
As technology advances by leaps and bounds, digital devices are now an integral part of our lives. Every day we use cell phones, laptops, iPads, iPods, GPS systems -- the list is endless.
Most of us are familiar with the recent report from the National Academy of Sciences regarding the current state of forensic science. The section of the 254-page report that addresses the forensic discipline of bloodstain pattern analysis comprises fewer than two pages, yet succeeds, I believe, in making some astute points. The National Academy lists seven minimum requirements for an analyst to be able to interpret and integrate bloodstain patterns into a crime scene reconstruction. In this post I would like to comment on these seven requirements:
As with many of the forensic disciplines addressed in the National Academy of Sciences report, much of the deficiency implicated in the discipline of bloodstain pattern analysis lies not with the discipline itself, but rather with the analyst who lacks an understanding of scientific principles and who has an inadequate grasp of critical thinking skills.
But education in these areas is not enough. In addition to an understanding of scientific principles and critical thinking, a successful analyst must possess a good quantity of common sense and extensive practical experience in the discipline. Most of us have personal contact with people who can produce a piece of paper that shows that they graduated from an institution of higher learning with a degree in one of the sciences; yet, they are not capable of fully understanding and displaying the skills necessary for a forensic discipline such as bloodstain pattern analysis. Practical experience and common sense are crucial elements of bloodstain pattern analysis; as are a sense of integrity, a healthy curiosity, and a motivation that springs from a quest for the truth, not from a desire to please the person who is signing the paycheck.
Science is not only important, but essential. But let us not be taken in by the idea that a scientific education is a cure-all for the deficiencies that may be encountered in the examiners who analyze bloodstain patterns. Our court system is an adversarial system. I believe we should take advantage of that fact and continue to counter ineffective analysts with competent, experienced analysts. And in the end, let the jury decide.
Jeff Saviano is a Certified Forensic Consultant who has been involved in the Examination and Evaluation of Forensic Evidence for over 26 years. Mr. Saviano has testified in both state and federal jurisdictions as an expert in several forensic disciplines. As a forensic examiner and consultant, he has worked on cases originating in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Nevada, and Washington.
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