Forensic science & forensic Medicine

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Forensics or forensic science is the application of science to questions which are of interest to the legal system as well as social sciences such as archaeology.

  Forensic science is the application of the scientific method to help the judicial system. As a forensic scientist one must be impartial, and only draw conclusions based on what the evidence shows. A forensic scientist might be asked if other scenarios are possible, and even if other scenarios are as strongly supported by the evidence as the scientist's opinion, the expert must admit it when other scenarios are possible.

  This is does not mean that anything is possible. In many instances in science, scientific certainty simply means that probability of any other option is so remote it is a practical impossibility.

  Today forensic scientists are claimed by courts, law enforcement, defendants, and plaintiffs to analyze evidence and report conclusions. Sometimes forensic experts are asked to be an expert witnesses in court and report those findings to a trier of fact.

  Always remember that when forensic experts are in the courtroom they are impartial to either side, regardless of which side listed them as a witness, and regardless of the demeanors of the lawyers during the court session. While forensic expert may be at the top of game in the laboratory, in the courthouse the lawyers have the upper hand. They know the rules, and forensic expert little recourses once on the stand. Expert hopes while on the stand to escape a serious verbal beating, is to have a good lawyer step in for him. This is rarely the case. You are on your own, and allowing yourself to get emotional during a tough cross-examination will only encourage the lawyers behavior, and probably get the word out to other lawyers that you are "easy prey" the stand. Keep calm, keep professional, get some good training on testimony skills to learn how to defeat/disarm a vigorous cross-examination.

  Just as important as having a solid scientific background and education, in forensics someone must also have good public speaking skills. Take classes in public speaking, theatre arts, or join a local Toastmasters group. Anything that will help you be more at east while talking in front of large groups of people. If you do not have the ability to speak well in front of groups, even after training and classes, consider another career field. If you can not articulate your scientific conclusions to a trier of fact, you might as well have never performed the analysis to begin with.

While forensic science has evolved and improved over the years, forensic analysis has been documented at least as far back as Archimedes (287 - 212 BC).

  The "Eureka" legend of Archimedes can be considered an early account of the use of forensic science. In this case, by examining the principles of water displacement, Archimedes was able to prove that a crown was not made of gold (as it was fraudulently claimed) by its density and buoyancy.

  The earliest account of fingerprint use to establish identity was during the 7th century. According to Soleiman - an Arabic merchant, a debtor's fingerprints were affixed to a bill, which would then be given to the lender. This bill was legally recognized as proof of the validity of the debt.

  The first written account of using medicine and entomology to solve (separate) criminal cases is attributed to the book Xi Yuan Ji Lu "Collected Cases of Injustice Rectified", written in 1248 China by Song Ci (1186-1249). In one of the accounts, the case of a person murdered with a sickle was solved by a death investigator who instructed everyone to bring their sickles to one location. Flies, attracted by the smell of blood, eventually gathered on a single sickle. In light of this, the murderer confessed. The book also offered advice on how to distinguish between a drowning (water in the lungs) and strangulation (broken neck cartilage).

  In sixteenth century Europe, medical practitioners in army and university settings began to gather information on cause and manner of death. Ambrose Pare French army surgeon, systematically studied the effects of violent death on internal organs. Two Italian surgeons, Fortunato Fidelis and Paolo Zacchia, laid the foundation of modern pathology by studying changes which occurred in the structure of the body as the result of disease. In the late 1700s, writings on these topics began to appear. These included: "A Treatise on Forensic Medicine and Public Health" by the French physician Fod, and "The Complete System of Police Medicine" by the German medical expert Johann Peter Franck.

  In 1775, Swedish chemist Karl Wilhelm Scheel devised a way of detecting arsenous oxide, simple arsenic, in corpses, although only in large quantities. This investigation was expanded, in 1806, by German chemist Valentin Ross, who learned to detect the poison in the walls of a victim's stomach, and by English chemist James Marsh, who used chemical processes to confirm arsenic as the cause of death in a 1836 murder trial.

  Two early examples of English forensic science in individual legal proceedings demonstrate the increasing use of logic and procedure in criminal investigations. In 1784, in Lancaster, England, John Toms was tried and convicted for murdering Edward Culshaw with a pistol. When the dead body of Culshaw was examined, a pistol wad (crushed paper used to secure powder and balls in the muzzle) found in his head wound matched perfectly with a torn newspaper found in Toms' pocket. In Warwick, England, in 1816, a farm laborer was tried and convicted of the murder of a young maidservant. She had been drowned in a shallow pool and bore the marks of violent assault. The police found footprints and an impression from corduroy cloth with a sewn patch in the damp earth near the pool. There were also scattered grains of wheat and chaff. The breeches from a farm laborer threshing wheat nearby were examined and corresponded exactly to the impression in the earth near the pool.

Forensic specialities

As technology has improved, various specialties in forensics have developed. These include:

  • Forensic pathology

  • Forensic toxicology

  • Forensic engineering

  • Forensic anthropology

  • Forensic evidence

  • Forensic chemistry

  • Forensic odontology

  • Canine forensics

  • Forensic genetics

  • Forensic entomology

  • Forensic palynology

  • Forensic accounting

  • Forensic psychiatry

  • Forensic palaeography

  • Serology

  • Ballistics

  • Criminalistics

  • Dactylography

  • Computer forensics

  • Textile forensics

  • Document examination