Friday, May 29, 2009

Mayhem Panel on Forensics

Jan Burke, who is highly involved with the Crime Lab Project, pointed out that we need to be aware that there is a vast different between real life and TV and movies. The detectives still need to do their work. Many of the labs that work on DNA aren't accredited. Even the FBI has made mistakes with DNA. It's not the DNA that goes wrong, it's the people working with it who make the mistakes.

Because readers have a vague idea at least crime scene investigation techniques, the author needs to have some knowledge too.

Crime scene investigation varies from county to county, might even vary from shift to shift--and even who makes the decision as to whether or not there will be an autopsy.

There is always the possibility of human error and cross contamination no matter how good the lab and the pathologist.

Too much detail can date a book, because investigation techniques keep changing.

Some author are getting too fascinated by all the new stuff and are forgetting to write a good story. After all, if someone wants to know all the scientific detail they can read a text book.

DNA is overrated by the general public. If someone you know kills you, that person's DNA will be all over the house. DNA might not be on file. It's expensive to process DNA.

A coroner can be anyone, some are elected officials with no forensic experience. Many medical examiners are questionable, some may be the local funeral directors. Some counties don't have enough forensic people.

John and Jane Doe are often cremated with no testing done.

There is no good system for tracing people.

There are 12,000 untested rape kits and a ten-year back-up of rape-kit investigations.

Relying completely on technology is dangerous because if the technology breaks down, there will be lots of problems.

And a few interesting tidbits about cell-phones:

People do lose their cell phones.

Phones are often dropped in toilets.

An overcharged phone might blow up.

This was a dandy panel with Julie Kramer as the moderator, Jan Burke, Mary Jane Maffini, and Zoe Sharp.

Tomorrow I'm going to post what some of the authors revealed about themselves.

Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith

Authors need to be careful

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