Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Splash Patterns- Detecting a Hoax
Some times these random acts are real and truly horrible. One of these occurred in the town I was living in shortly after college where a man snapped for lack of a better word. After killing his cat he decided to kill the first person that passed his house, and he did. It was tragic and the work of a very sick mind.
Well, turns out it was all a hoax. After further questioning, he confessed that he had stabbed himself.
Another story which made national news follows a similar pattern. Just a random girl out celebrating a new job and a woman throws acid in her face! How terrible! Why her? There's no connection! It could have been me. Well...maybe not so much. Although her story held up longer than our gorilla man, it did fall apart eventually. Part of what made it fall apart was good old fashion forensics.
So often these stories fall apart. Officers questioning them find holes in the story or inconsistencies. So too is this true in forensics. Although my testimony is focused on toxicology I am often asked, is this consistent? Is the story consistent with the test result? Is the behavior consistent with dose? In the case of the acid splash it was, are these burns consistent with acid being thrown into someone's face?
One of the arguments I've scene made against this type of forensic work is that it's subjective. I know it when I see it. Well...Yeah. Why is that a "bad" thing though? I would hope that if I were having surgery my surgeon would know it when he sees it. Just as the stories given in interviews to Officers must be consistent so too must the stories be consistent with the resulting data, injury, etc. It's actually a simple concept and one that must be relayed to attorneys, judges and juries. Science isn't always a mysterious, scary concept!