Forensics

Pets Help Solve Crimes

by Diane Dimond on April 7, 2014

First Animal DNA Lab in the U.S.

As far as crime laboratories go it is not very impressive looking. And it is not very big, with a permanent staff of just three forensic scientists and a few interns. But the work product that comes out of the Veterinarian Forensic Lab at the University of California at Davis is important and it has changed the way crimes are investigated and prosecuted worldwide.

The lab has been called the “CSI of the four legged world” and it is the nation’s first laboratory dedicated to animal DNA profiling.

It’s accredited by the prestigious American Society of Crime Lab Directors because the VFL conducts animal-related forensic tests as rigorously as any lab dealing with human DNA. [click to continue…]

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Your Nose Could Save Your Life

by Diane Dimond on March 10, 2014

Learn the Smell of Geraniums!

My dear Grandma Cora always grew geraniums – red geraniums, to be specific. Nearly every time I went to went to visit her she had pots of them flowering outside the front door.

I would gently stroke the leaves and breathe in that unmistakable geranium smell. To this day I love the smell of geraniums so much I grow them myself – all year around.

Now I discover that retaining the memory of that smell could help save lives. Same holds true for the smell of garlic, horseradish and other common odors.

If suddenly detected in the wrong place at the wrong time it could signal that a chemical weapons attack is underway. [click to continue…]

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Remembering The Dick Tracy of Wichita

by Diane Dimond on February 17, 2014

Ken Landwehr circa 1978

This is a story about a cop’s cop. A hometown kid who devoted his life to keeping his community safe, a man who took on the duty no one should have to do – to minister to the murdered and help seek justice for their families.

This column is dedicated to the late Lt. Ken Landwehr, Commander of the homicide unit of the Wichita, Kansas Police Department because he epitomizes the determination, integrity and ingenuity that all great detectives possess. His deeds will live on in the annuals of America’s crime and justice history.

Landwehr was the son of an aircraft worker and a homemaker. He was an Eagle Scout as a boy and devoured books about the investigations of the legendary Sherlock Holmes. He attended Bishop Carroll Catholic High School where he played tricks on the nuns and was no stranger to occasional bouts of brawling and drinking. [click to continue…]

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A Crime and Justice Wish List for 2014

by Diane Dimond on December 30, 2013

 

Tops on the List : Tolerance

Tops on my Crime and Justice Wish List this year is the sincere hope that America finds a way to become a better functioning and more tolerant country.

I wish for the lethargy of the electorate and the deterioration of trust and respect – in our government and in each other – to magically evaporate. 

It is a tall order, I know. We live in an ugly era of perpetual backbiting that serves no real purpose but to distract us from finding solutions to very real problems.

Democrats routinely ridicule Republicans and vice versa. Various ethnic groups point to those who are different and declare their problems are the other groups fault; both heterosexuals and homosexuals complain their lifestyle is under attack; the unemployed and under-employed label business people and corporations as greedy devils without acknowledging they are the very entities providing the most jobs. Our children grow up hearing our viciousness toward one another and are likely to continue the corrosive tradition of intolerance.  [click to continue…]

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When Internet Fantasies Become Criminal

by Diane Dimond on March 18, 2013

A Cop With Death Fantasies

The “Cannibal Cop” Case was not really about free speech.  But it raises the question: When Does Internet Fantasy Become Criminal?

In case you hadn’t heard about it – it was a bizarre criminal case sensationalized by both the media and the defense team. Slogans and spin were tossed about so fast and furiously that the real facts of the case were hard to determine. At the core of the federal case a very important issue: when do thoughts expressed in internet chat rooms become fodder for criminal prosecution? Could something you write on-line be used against you in a court of law?

From the get-go reporters branded the defendant in this case, New York Police officer Gilberto Valle, “The Cannibal Cop” – a man who used the internet to feed his vile fantasies and conspire with others to kidnap, cook and eat female victims.

Attorneys for Valle maintained federal prosecutors were trying to convict their client, “For his thoughts … his (written) fantasies,” and not for any bona fide criminal activity. [click to continue…]

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“The Great Brain Robbery”

The worldwide headlines say it all. 

From the United Kingdom: “Pathologist ‘Stockpiled Children’s Organs.’”

In Canada, the headline: “Ontario Service Has 4,000 Autopsy Organs, Unmatched to Families.”

From Las Vegas, this shocker: “Misplaced. Thrown away. Stolen. Sold? Nobody Knows What Happened to Richard Boorman’s Missing Organs.” And from New York: “Parents Shocked to Learn Examiner Kept Son’s Brain.” 

The cleverest headline for this macabre topic: “The Great Brain Robbery.” 

It is the last thing grieving next-of-kin should have to worry about. But if burying an intact body is important to a family’s religious, moral or ethical beliefs, they should ask the funeral home to make sure their loved one has all of his or her organs in place.  [click to continue…]

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Open Up DNA Databases To All

by Diane Dimond on January 28, 2013

Justice For All, Right?

The scene: A criminal courtroom anywhere in America.

The players: A judge, a prosecutor, a defense attorney and the accused.

The assumption: That all parties involved enjoy a level playing toward the twin goals of discovering the truth and finding justice.

The fact: In many criminal cases the prosecution holds the key to what could be the most important evidence of the trial – DNA. Prosecutors in most states have exclusive access to CODIS, the national database of more than 11 million DNA samples, which is considered to be the gold standard in forensic-based investigations. CODIS is used in two ways – to match a known suspect to a crime or to find an unknown suspect who may have been entered into the system years earlier. [click to continue…]

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A Crime and Justice Wish List for 2013

by Diane Dimond on December 31, 2012

Hopes and Wishes for 2013

Where do I even begin with my annual Wish List for the New Year? Because the fog of despair still hangs over us from the elementary school shooting in Connecticut – and because the list of individually meaningless gun control ideas continues to grow – I’m compelled to start there.

I fervently hope that we, as a nation, can come to an agreement on a whole package of anti-gun violence ideas to try to make this country safer. I hope the shrill hysterics – heard from both sides – can be tuned down in favor of common sense solutions.

To those who think all we need to do is get rid of assault rifles, 30-bullet magazines or those video games youngsters spend so many hours playing I say: Don’t kid yourself. After Newtown, Connecticut there was another gun massacre in Webster, New York. I seriously doubt the shooter, William Spengler, who served 17 years in prison for beating to death his grandmother with a hammer, had ever played a violent video game. [click to continue…]

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Your Body Telegraphs Your Lies

by Diane Dimond on July 26, 2012

Polygraphs Have Come a Long Way

So, have you heard the stories about how to beat a polygraph test? Ever read any of the odd suggestions on the internet? Among them: Count backwards from 100 during the test to distract your brain, learn to control your breathing, put a tack in your shoe or bite down hard on your tongue to elicit a pain response and the one that makes me laugh the hardest – contract your anal sphincter muscle to confuse the results of the test.

Do any of these methods work? According to the experts they do not.

In fact, if used they can actually make innocent people look guilty. [click to continue…]

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When A Confession Is Not Enough

by Diane Dimond on June 4, 2012

A Confession is Just the Beginning

It is hard to believe or understand but people confess to committing crimes – sometimes horrible crimes – when they are completely innocent. It happens more often than you can imagine. False confessions can be traced to unjust interrogation techniques, poor legal advice or even the mental illness of the suspect.

That’s one reason detectives involved in the groundbreaking missing persons case of six year old Etan Patz are still hard at work even though 51 year old Pedro Hernandez has now confessed to killing the boy more than three decades ago. False confessions often come in to police around the anniversary of high profile, unsolved cases and Hernandez made his self-incriminating statements to police just days before the 33rd anniversary of Etan’s disappearance. [click to continue…]

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