Friday, March 12, 2010

Forensic Science Day: Left Coast Crime

I'm at Left Coast Crime: Booked in L.A.. I wasn't able to make the first day, Forensic Science Day, but Bill and Toby Gottfried were. Here's their Guest Blog on that fabulous daylong event:

Forensic Science Day: Booked in L.A.

Toby and I joined about 70 others on Wednesday March 10th, to participate in an all day, intense and brilliant series of lectures, discussions and tours at the California Forensic Science Institute in LA. This program was brought together by Jan Burke, President of The Crime Lab Project Inc, and we went along with many other fine authors including Meg Chittenden. This was one of the most enlightening series of lectures we have participated in during our 25 years of attending various Mystery conventions.

The program began with a discussion by Don Johnson of CSULA School of Criminal Justice and Criminalistics, entitled The Crime Scene (uncomfortable slides of a mass murder investigation), followed by Mel Cavanaugh on Questioned Documents (forgeries, etc) from the LASD Scientific Service Bureau. We were all given an opportunity to attempt to disguise our handwriting and to forge signatures of our sitting partners (and I failed).

Professor Myrna Raeder, Professor of Law, SW University of Law give a legal discussion on Forensic Science, including application of Frye and Daubert principles in accepting testimonies of expert opinions during trial presentations.

Following this we toured the relatively new facility and visited the shooting range (checking out ballistics of weapons associated with crimes), the PCR and DNA analysis labs, the narcotic storage rooms (we did not have clearance to enter here and just viewed the locked doors), the ballistic comparison labs and the entry points for evidence storage.

Allison Manfreda took us through a very thorough review of weapons and ammunition (how is a bullet different from a cartridge and what do calibers mean?). She is associated with the Firearms Analysis unit of the LAPD Scientific Investigations Division.

Lynne Herold, Senior Criminalist LASD Scientific Service Bureau/Trace section led us step by step through an actual recent crime investigation, showing once again uncomfortable and true slides, of a famous murder investigation (recent and I am sure known to all) and described the processes of obtaining and documenting evidence at the crime scene. She discussed smells, odors and contamination (to cut down smells, use regular Vaseline in your nostrils---not Vicks which might enhance odors, and use hair covering and shoe covering to prevent permeation of odors which might never readily disappear).

The last presentation was by Katherine Roberts, CSULA School of criminal Justice and Criminalistics, and was an in depth discussion of Nuclear and Mitochondrial DNA analysis as a means of identifying individuals who might be associated with a crime.

Jan ended by making a strong plead for assistance from those in attendance to support the Forensic Labs to help assure that determination of innocence and guilt was expedient and accurate and asked our assistance in adopting this lab or local community labs as a means of achieving these goals.

The attendees left with new respect for Forensic processes, and I assume that some of the materials presented will be seen in future mystery novels.
The lecturers handed out a 65 page reference guide which was well worth price of admission. Thanks to Jan and her fellow authors for their extraordinary efforts.

Toby and Bill Gottfried

1 comment:

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

This looks absolutely wonderful, and I wish I could have been there. I did a workshop on Forensic Psychology for my friends at the Liberty State Fiction Writers conference this past week-end. It seems that this is always a popular topic!