Other kinds of forensic tools, such as particular types of trace analysis and questioned document analysis, do not have as good a track record of producing reliable, accurate, and powerful results. Observers, however, should not cast them off as not being useful. For example, if an analyst were to find a hair in the trunk of a car bound to a piece of duct tape that was consistent with a victim’s head hair, the car owner would have a lot of explaining to do. This is not to say that this hair couldn’t have come from another source—in fact, the analyst would be hard-pressed to come up with a statistic of the likelihood that the hair came from the victim’s head. If, in fact, the analyst offered this statistic, it would be a disservice to a jury, the defendant, and even the victim since this information is uncertain and not based on sound statistical principles. If DNA material—whether nuclear DNA material or a kind called mitochondrial DNA material—were available for examination, then analysts would gain the power to include specific statistics in the present case to aid in the interpretation of the findings. Otherwise, a certain degree of caution should be used in interpreting the results and weighed accordingly when making a decision based on the information found in a final report.
Don't commit yourself to a forensic career before becoming competent in your clinical field, at the MD (or PhD, MSW, MSN, or other "terminal degree") level, unless you just want to work for someone else. If you want to be a forensic psychiatrist, be a physician first, then a psychiatrist, and only then a forensic psychiatrist. Also, try to talk with a psychiatrist or clinical psychologist in your community. Most of us are happy to talk with students about what we do, and a short visit will clear up a lot of questions. (Please note that I am not in a position to respond in detail to the many emails I get from students. Talk with some near you.)
Not many, in my case. I often work with psychologists, and sometimes with other kinds of medical specialists, but forensic psychiatry rarely involves fields such as fingerprinting, ballistics, chemistry, or pathology. I am a member of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, however, and enjoy learning about other fields.
Through various techniques of visualization, collection and preservation, hair and fur evidence has made its debut in the forensic science world and in court rooms.
While the forensic services at a crime lab play an important role in contemporary criminal justice and civil courts, other key services are offered outside of the crime lab that are important to mention. Two areas in particular stand out—forensic pathology, since these services are utilized so regularly, and forensic anthropology, for its topical importance in solving identification mysteries worldwide. The following two sections describe these aspects of forensic science, often considered off in their own realms and separate due to where they are organizationally located, in the government (pathology, and a minor part of anthropology) and in academia (anthropology).
On a final note, much investment has been made in professionalization and the encouragement of continuing education and training to assist forensic practitioners in expanding their knowledge base. This will assist these professionals in keeping up with the state of the art in the fast-paced world of science and technology, and their advancement. The most recent U.S. presidents have also made commitments to expand forensic science research and development, particularly in the DNA analysis and human identification areas. Such advances in technology will be key for many years to come in the U.S. criminal justice system’s capacity to solve crimes, seek justice, and learn truths about the many mysteries that will confront it.
The future of forensic science has much to do with evolving with the standards the courts will set over the coming years. If more states were to move to the Daubert criteria for evaluating expert testimony, it is more likely that a portion of the more subjective-heavy analyses of forensic science would be decommissioned. While many would argue that this is a necessary and overdue development in forensic science, a good portion of these forensic services do offer value to investigators that may or may not be lost. For example, there is no reason that investigators or litigants should not continue to use these services to provide this value—it is just that the information found in the final reports of these investigations must be used only to help someone make a case and would not be allowed at trial. As previously suggested, these analyses can lead to further inquiries, which may break cases wide open, whether they are civil or criminal.
Due to the wide variation of facets in the forensic sciences, the undertaking of sifting through all methods and techniques of all forensics is the stuff that makes up a complete book, if not a series of books. As outlined in this research paper, a variety of types of examinations performed in forensic laboratories cannot even be assessed with conventional statistics with the exceptions of DNA analysis and blood group typing (which has lost prevalence as DNA analysis gained popularity), and certain analyses of gunshot residue models (Faigman, Kaye, Saks, & Sanders., 2002). Therefore, it is important to cite the variability of the subjectivity and objectivity within these methods and techniques to gain some insight into the overall utility of these analyses as stand-alone pieces of information. David Faigman et al. begin taking on the task of typing many techniques used within the vast fields of the forensic sciences in terms of amount of subjectivity, reliability in the minds of forensic scientists, and their individual susceptibility of attack when measured by the criteria posited by Daubert. Since no aggregate data are available to seek relative frequency probabilities, it is up to the experience of the individual examiner to establish levels of confidence around his or her determinations. The complexities of placing these confidence intervals around scientific testing are apparent to those with even an elementary knowledge of statistics.
Frye’s general acceptance test survived until contemporary times, and was hardly mentioned until talk about updating the Federal Rules of Evidence began to stir up controversy. In 1993, this controversy came to a head in Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals when the Court revised the judge’s role in admitting expert testimony. The decision was to make the judge act as the gatekeeper to screen out junk science and allow the expert testimony that is reliable, valid, testable (falsifiable), and generally accepted. The Court did not mandate that these criteria should be limiting nor inflexible, but it did stress that judges should utilize, to the best of their ability, their analytical skills in making a judgment call on the evidence or testimony’s methodology and standing in the field from which it came. Two more key decisions were made by the Court to enhance the role of trial judges as gatekeepers of expert testimony. In Joiner v. General Electric Co. (1997), the method of appealing lower courts’ decisions on allowing or disallowing expert testimony was set to abuse of discretion instead of a de novo review of the proffered expert testimony. Thismeans that trial judges should be challenged on their decisions to accept or disallow expert testimony only if a plaintiff or defendant can prove that this judge broke a procedural rule in the process of coming to this decision. Complete overviews of this judicial decision were deemed inappropriate. The second was Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael (1999), which expanded the Daubert decision to include all expert witnesses, not just those with a scientific background (auto mechanics, accountants that have worked closely with the FBI on fraud cases, and many others without advanced degrees but who have specialized knowledge).
"Forensic Odontology or forensic dentistry is a branch of forensic science that deals with the handling, examination, and presentation of dental evidence in court." Forensic Odontology: A Closer Look | Forensic Science.