crime

Testis unus testis nullus

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Over the years, multiple people have been wrongfully convicted all over the world of which some had an alibi for the moment that the crime was committed to prove their innocence but were not believed. In the criminal justice system, there appears to be an assumption that innocent people can generate an accurate and believable alibi, which means that the alibi should be correct and be supported by strong evidence. For an innocent person, it can, however, be very difficult to provide such strong evidence as also appears in the cases of wrongfully convicted people where convincing evidence is often lacking. If people were not at the crime scene but elsewhere and they can remember where they were at that time and evidence to support their alibis, it is perhaps the best chance to prove their innocence. […]

The objective of the present study was to establish the base rate of alibis and its supportive evidence of non-offenders. Despite the fact that most non-offenders report an alibi, the vast majority of their alibis do not match the criteria of the perfect alibi by the police because strong evidence is lacking. The reported evidence is more often weak, and the evidence for their alibi differs depending on when the alleged crime was committed (i.e., during the morning, afternoon, evening, or night). In addition, an alibi without supportive evidence—the least believable alibi—is most likely to be expected during the night compared to other timeframes. An alibi supported with evidence is most likely to be expected on Saturday afternoon. The results show that the perfect alibi to which police detectives compare a suspect’s alibi is an illusion because only 7% of innocent people can present strong physical evidence (i.e., video recordings), and therefore, the base rate of alibis should be taken into account when evaluating alibis.

{ Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling | Continue reading }

Your window of opportunity is not a door

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D. B. Cooper is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the airspace between Portland, Oregon, and Seattle, Washington, on November 24, 1971, extorted $200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1,170,000 in 2015), and parachuted to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and protracted FBI investigation, the perpetrator has never been located or identified. […]

He dictated his demands: $200,000 in “negotiable American currency”; four parachutes (two primary and two reserve); and a fuel truck standing by in Seattle to refuel the aircraft upon arrival. […]

The FBI task force believes that Cooper was a careful and shrewd planner. He demanded four parachutes to force the assumption that he might compel one or more hostages to jump with him. […]

Agents theorize that he took his alias from a popular Belgian comic book series of the 1970s featuring the fictional hero Dan Cooper, a Royal Canadian Air Force test pilot who took part in numerous heroic adventures, including parachuting. […]

In February 1980 an eight-year-old boy named Brian Ingram, vacationing with his family on the Columbia River about 9 miles (14 km) downstream from Vancouver, Washington, and 20 miles (32 km) southwest of Ariel, uncovered three packets of the ransom cash, significantly disintegrated but still bundled in rubber bands, as he raked the sandy riverbank to build a campfire. FBI technicians confirmed that the money was indeed a portion of the ransom—two packets of 100 twenty-dollar bills each, and a third packet of 90, all arranged in the same order as when given to Cooper.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

photo { Robert Mapplethorpe, Untitled (Candy Darling), 1972 | one more }

Is this a dagger which I see before me, the handle toward my hand?

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The June 5 escape from Clinton was planned and executed by two particularly cunning and resourceful inmates, abetted by the willful, criminal conduct of a civilian employee of the prison’s tailor shops and assisted by the reckless actions of a veteran correction officer. The escape could not have occurred, however, except for longstanding breakdowns in basic security functions at Clinton and DOCCS executive management’s failure to identify and correct these deficiencies.

[…]

Using pipes as hand- and foot-holds, Sweat and Matt descended three tiers through a narrow space behind their cells to the prison’s subterranean level. There they navigated a labyrinth of dimly lit tunnels and squeezed through a series of openings in walls and a steam pipe along a route they had prepared over the previous three months. When, at midnight, they emerged from a manhole onto a Village of Dannemora street a block outside the prison wall, Sweat and Matt had accomplished a remarkable feat: the first escape from the high-security section of Clinton in more than 100 years.

[…]

In early 2015, the relationships deepened and Mitchell became an even more active participant in the escape plot, ultimately agreeing to join Sweat and Matt after their breakout and drive away with them. In addition to smuggling escape tools and maps, Mitchell agreed to be a conduit to obtain cash for Matt and gathered items to assist their flight, including guns and ammunition, camping gear, clothing, and a compass. Even as she professed her love for Sweat in notes she secretly sent him, Mitchell engaged in numerous sexual encounters with Matt in the tailor shop. These included kissing, genital fondling, and oral sex.

[…]

The Inspector General is compelled to note that this investigation was made more difficult by a lack of full cooperation on the part of a number of Clinton staff, including executive management, civilian employees, and uniformed officers. Notwithstanding the unprecedented granting of immunity from criminal prosecution for most uniformed officers, employees provided testimony under oath that was incomplete and at times not credible. Among other claims, they testified they could not recall such information as the names of colleagues with whom they regularly worked, supervisors, or staff who had trained them. Several officers, testifying under oath within several weeks of the event, claimed not to remember their activities or observations on the night of the escape. Other employees claimed ignorance of security lapses that were longstanding and widely known.

{ State of New York, Office of the Inspector General | Continue reading }

photo { Chisels, punch, hacksaw blade pieces, and unused drill bits left by Sweat in tunnel }

Das Medusenhaupt

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After London’s 2011 riots, the superrecognizers combed through thousands of hours of footage; Collins alone identified an incredible 190 faces among the rioters. Today, Neville heads London’s central forensic image team, which has tested thousands of police officers and identified 152 super-recognizers. These face-spotting stars normally work in their local stations, building up a mental library of the area’s criminals, and periodically attach to New Scotland Yard to solve crimes.

{ National Geographic | Continue reading }

Apollo Creed: Now, when we fought, you had that eye of the tiger, man

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Criminal investigations often use photographic evidence to identify suspects. Here we combined robust face perception and high-resolution photography to mine face photographs for hidden information. By zooming in on high-resolution face photographs, we were able to recover images of unseen bystanders from reflections in the subjects’ eyes.

To establish whether these bystanders could be identified from the reflection images, we presented them as stimuli in a face matching task (Experiment 1). Accuracy in the face matching task was well above chance (50%), despite the unpromising source of the stimuli. […] In a test of spontaneous recognition (Experiment 2), observers could reliably name a familiar face from an eye reflection image.

For crimes in which the victims are photographed (e.g., hostage taking, child sex abuse), reflections in the eyes of the photographic subject could help to identify perpetrators.

{ PLOS | Continue reading }

And the cloud that took the form (When the rest of Heaven was blue) Of a demon in my view

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[O]ne in six serial killers are female. Their crimes tend to go undetected for longer than their male counterparts, likely in part because “our culture is in denial of women’s proclivity for aggression.”

Harrison and her team have profiled 64 US female serial killers active between the years 1821 to 2008. […] The female serial killers had murdered between them at least 331 victims (making an average of 6 victims each). Their victims are of both sexes, but disproportionately male. The women had an average of age of 32 at the time of their first killing, and poisoning was the most common method. […] “the women in our study poisoned, smothered, burned, choked, shot, bludgeoned, and shot newborns, children, elderly, and ill people as well as healthy adults; most often those who knew and likely trusted them.”

Many of the homicidal women had stereotypically female professions, including being nurses and baby-sitters. They tended to be above average in physical attractiveness, which may have helped to engender trust in their victims.

As to motives, the most common was “hedonistic”, a category in forensic psychology that refers to killing for financial gain, lust or thrill, with nearly half the sample fitting this category. The next most common motive was “power-seeking”, which includes killing people in one’s care. […]

Quotes from some of the killers hint at their psychopathological thinking:

“They [the children] bothered me, so I decided to kill them.”

“I like to attend funerals. I’m happy when someone is dying.”

“That is my ambition, to have killed more people – more helpless people – than any man or woman who has ever lived.”

A striking contrast with male serial killers is the relative absence of sexual violence and deviance. Two exceptions were a female serial killer who was a rapist, and another who reportedly barked like a dog during sex. But overall, the researchers highlighted how the women in their study primarily killed for resources, while their male counterparts kill for sex. This follows evolutionary theory, Harrison and her co-authors explained, in the sense that men are said to be motivated more by seeking multiple sexual opportunities, while women are motivated to find a committed partner with sufficient resources. […]

The new analysis points to a worrying trend: a 150 per cent increase in the number of reported cases of female serial killers since 1975.

{ BPS | Continue reading }

Jerry, just remember, it’s not a lie if you believe it

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Over the past twenty years, DNA analysis has revolutionized forensic science, and has become a dominant tool in law enforcement. Today, DNA evidence is key to the conviction or exoneration of suspects of various types of crime, from theft to rape and murder. However, the disturbing possibility that DNA evidence can be faked has been overlooked. It turns out that standard molecular biology techniques such as PCR, molecular cloning, and recently developed whole genome amplification (WGA), enable anyone with basic equipment and know-how to produce practically unlimited amounts of in vitro synthesized (artificial) DNA with any desired genetic profile. This artificial DNA can then be applied to surfaces of objects or incorporated into genuine human tissues and planted in crime scenes.

Here we show that the current forensic procedure fails to distinguish between such samples of blood, saliva, and touched surfaces with artificial DNA, and corresponding samples with in vivo generated (natural) DNA. Furthermore, genotyping of both artificial and natural samples with Profiler Plus1 yielded full profiles with no anomalies. In order to effectively deal with this problem, we developed an authentication assay, which distinguishes between natural and artificial DNA based on methylation analysis of a set of genomic loci: in natural DNA, some loci are methylated and others are unmethylated, while in artificial DNA all loci are unmethylated.

{ Forensic Science International: Genetics | PDF (2009) }

why the fuck is my ex texting me omfg go away

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{ Oscar Pistorius’s account of events on the night that Reeva Steenkamp died }

From the air (dropped by an eagle in flight), by fire (amid the carbonised remains of an incendiated edifice), in the sea (amid flotsam, jetsam, lagan and derelict), on earth (in the gizzard of a comestible fowl)

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On a street in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, an unremarkable gray box protrudes from a telephone pole. Inside the box lies a state-of-the-art airflow-sampling device, one part of an experiment to track how a gas disperses through the city’s streets and subway system. […]

The goal of the project is to develop a model for how a dangerous airborne contaminant, such as sarin gas or anthrax, would spread throughout the city in the event of a terrorist attack or accidental release.

The scientists released tiny amounts of a colorless, nontoxic gas at several locations around the city. The airflow samplers, located at various points throughout the city, measured the gas to determine how fast and how far it spread.

{ LiveScience | Continue reading }

unrelated { Eproctophilia is a paraphilia in which people are sexually aroused by flatulence. The following account presents a brief case study of an eproctophile. | Improbable }

Yes. I have personally torched all the evidence that proves that you are you.

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In August 2009, scientists in Israel raised serious doubts concerning the use of DNA by law enforcement as the ultimate method of identification. In a paper published in the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics, the Israeli researchers demonstrated that it is possible to manufacture DNA in a laboratory, thus falsifying DNA evidence. The scientists fabricated saliva and blood samples, which originally contained DNA from a person other than the supposed donor of the blood and saliva.

The researchers also showed that, using a DNA database, it is possible to take information from a profile and manufacture DNA to match it, and that this can be done without access to any actual DNA from the person whose DNA they are duplicating. The synthetic DNA oligos required for the procedure are common in molecular laboratories.

The New York Times quoted the lead author on the paper, Dr. Daniel Frumkin, saying, “You can just engineer a crime scene… any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

Dr. Frumkin perfected a test that can differentiate real DNA samples from fake ones. His test detects epigenetic modifications, in particular, DNA methylation. Seventy percent of the DNA in any human genome is methylated, meaning it contains methyl group modifications within a CpG dinucleotide context. Methylation at the promoter region is associated with gene silencing. The synthetic DNA lacks this epigenetic modification, which allows the test to distinguish manufactured DNA from original, genuine, DNA.

It is unknown how many police departments, if any, currently use the test. No police lab has publicly announced that it is using the new test to verify DNA results.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Rock and roll comin’ like a rhino

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Normally, tracking a criminal using DNA requires, at a minimum, that the perpetrator leaves behind a DNA sample in some form or other. As they are not often so accommodating, the role of DNA in crime busting, while significant, has its limits.

Applied DNA Sciences (ADNAS) has developed a new approach to solve crimes using DNA tagging. The difference is that instead of tagging the objects being stolen, they tag the pilferer with DNA. While this has been tried before by applying the DNA to a fleeing criminal with a gun, ADNAS has adopted a more subtle approach. […]

DNA Fog is an airborne suspension of artificial DNA molecules with a known but biologically inert sequence. The DNA molecules (Applied DNA’s SigNature DNA) are artificially constructed, so that a strand of DNA with 20 base pairs can have over a trillion unique combinations. A security system could use one sequence per location, one sequence for each area within the location, or even use RFID tags to instruct a sophisticated spraying device to spray a unique DNA signature for each item stolen.

Once released, DNA molecules attach onto a malefactor’s clothing, shoes, hair, and skin, as well as the objects stolen.

{ Gizmag | Continue reading }