The Aftermath

As Pointing From the Grave comes to a close, it is evident that Weinberg forms a relationship with Frediani that would raise a couple eyebrows had she developed the relationship during the trial. In my opinion, it was strange for Weinberg to continue a working relationship with Frediani after his conviction. Did she have doubts? In addition, did she think Frediani was capable of love? At first, I did not believe Frediani could be capable of real emotions because of the stereotypes surrounding sociopaths and his history of manipulating and hurting his partners. But I was wrong. “Inside the Mind of a Sociopath” describes the type of love Frediani was capable of.

“whatever it is that we feel affection, for me it’s maybe 70 percent gratitude, a little bit of adoration, a little bit of — if it’s a romantic relationship — infatuation or sexual attraction”

It was still wrong, in my opinion, for Weinberg to get wrapped up emotionally with Frediani, but we benefited as readers because we read more of Frediani’s personality and gained possible evidence that he did commit the crime.

The Aftermath

Planting Evidence: Would it have Mattered?

A passage that struck me in Chapter 12 brought up the subject of planted evidence. Weinberg recalls Fredriani’s statement during an interrogation regarding his DNA under Helena’s nails:

“As far as DNA evidence, oh, I’m sure you’ve got some DNA evidence that probably points to me. Where you got it, how you got it, that’s a whole different matter. I’ve been in your custody for a long time.” (Weinberg, pg 335)

After these words, he addresses the likelihood that police planted his DNA at the crime scene in order to the close the case. I searched for how often cases of planted evidence are recognized and found a website with several examples of shady policework; surprisingly, very few criminal cases a year involve planted evidence. Usually the officers involved in evidence planting have a vendetta against their targets, who can range from high profile suspects to ex-girlfriends and wives. Regardless as to whether Fredriani’s DNA was planted, I am not particuarly surprised that such an action, which is legally a crime, would be committed especially concerning the runningtime for this case and a longstanding, powerful desire to see Fredriani brought to justice.

http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/how-often-do-cops-plant-evidence-no-one-knows-for-sure

 

Planting Evidence: Would it have Mattered?

The Omnipresence of DNA

DNA has been used to tie criminals to their crimes for years now, but how exactly does that process happen? What is DNA? How can it be matched to a suspect? How much DNA is necessary to be a useable sample? Is DNA enough to convict someone in a courtroom? Samantha Weinberg answers these questions and many more in her nonfiction book Pointing From the Grave: A True Story of Murder and DNA. This novel tells the true story about Dr. Helena Greenwood, a thriving marketing director at a biotechnology company. Greenwood worked at the forefront of the biotechnology world, and had her sights set on getting involved in DNA fingerprinting. In 1984, Dr. Greenwood was sexually assaulted at her home in San Francisco. She was set to be the key witness during the trial, but in 1985, she was murdered outside her home in San Diego. With a suspect, but no evidence, the case went cold for 15 years before the technology that Greenwood had been so hopeful about was the exact technology that set her case to rest. Continue reading “The Omnipresence of DNA”

The Omnipresence of DNA

Frediani’s Life in prison

Weinberg’s decision to visit Frediani in prison was not something that surprised me. However, what did surprise me was that she decided to visit him multiple times. Trying to gather all the information she could regarding the case, it makes sense to talk to the central figure of her future book. Being in an environment for an extended period of time with a convicted sexual offender and murderer takes a tremendous amount of courage, yet Weinberg does not flinch. Frediani’s typical response would be to avoid Weinberg, but he slips back into his natural state of being a cool, calm, and collected individual who can lie his way out of a difficult situation.

Frediani’s Life in prison

POINTING FROM THE GRAVE: THE INVISIBLE HELIX THAT TRACKS YOUR EVERY MOVE

In Samantha Weinberg’s book, Pointing From the Grave: A True Story of Murder and DNA, readers get the first inside look to how the innovation of Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) technology evolved to become a key aspect within forensic criminology. Following the story of young scientist, Helena Greenwood, Weinberg places the reader into a courtroom drama while giving accurate details about this cutting-edge technology. This was the first novel Weinberg had ever published with the topic of DNA. After publishing this novel in 2003, she went on to fully establish herself as a novelist by creating a trilogy known as the Moneypenny Diaries. Although Pointing From the Grave was the first criminology novel for this British novelist, she was able to successfully take complex scientific terminology and break it down to where her readers can fully understand it in a more simplistic manner; the need for a scientific background is not necessary. Weinberg is able to show the true story of Helena Greenwood’s sexual assault and murder by providing accurate forensic evidence and integrating different perspectives from those who knew the victim and suspect best. Continue reading “POINTING FROM THE GRAVE: THE INVISIBLE HELIX THAT TRACKS YOUR EVERY MOVE”

POINTING FROM THE GRAVE: THE INVISIBLE HELIX THAT TRACKS YOUR EVERY MOVE

Biotech is on the Case

Samantha Weinberg’s “Pointing From the Grave” is a suspenseful story that illustrates the brilliant use of science in the world of police work. Ms. Weinberg has become a very successful writer as she has written many books from the light hearted Moneypenny Diaries which focuses on the life of the secretary of James Bond, Miss Moneypenny, to the riveting drama “Last of the Pirates: The Search for Bob Denard” which also focuses on a woman in this case a French mercenary. However, her crowning achievement is “Pointing from the Grave” as she won the CWA Gold Dagger for Non-fiction. In each of Weinberg’s books she focuses the story on a female throughout the story and in “Pointing From the Grave” it is no different. In this book Weinberg focuses on the mysterious murder of Helena Greenwood, a head of a biotech marketing team. Throughout the story the audience is taught the importance of science in particular DNA in its use of solving high profile murder cases. Continue reading “Biotech is on the Case”

Biotech is on the Case

Past and Present: How DNA Intertwines with Crime

Unlike many narratives that are focused on the technical world of DNA and genetics, Pointing From The Grave by Samantha Weinberg introduces and incorporates the language and function of DNA into a murder mystery. The novel-like nature of the book encourages the inclusivity of all readers. Weinberg achieves this by describing and defining genetics at a level that allows the reader to learn and follow a court case effectively. Like jury members, readers learn about DNA during the sexual abuse and murder trials of Helena Greenwood.  Weinberg keeps us wrapped up in her slightly, graphic account of the prime suspect, Paul Frediani, by relating the factual evidence of DNA to civics, the criminal justice system, and psychology. It makes for a chilling tale. A large emphasis is placed on DNA so the readers have enough background and information to partake in the journey with Weinberg to figure out “whodunit”. The roles of numerous detectives in the story are in locating and trying the perpetrators of cromes committed against Helena. Weinberg as the author places herself in between the detectives with an intentional lack of the third person as omniscient. Opposed to texts like Where Good Ideas Come From, by Steven Johnson, the knowledge from Weinberg does not focus on inventions, but she rather applies the use of DNA in modern day cases, and explores how DNA has helped in past court cases. It is effectively noted as “both the history of a science, overlaid with human drama, and a human tragedy inextricably entwined with science” (xi). Weinberg’s crime narrative is one that can be followed by any reader familiar with the work of DNA and interested in seeing how it is woven into the legal system and identifying criminal suspects. Weinberg has previously written other books such as A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth, The Moneypenny Diaries, and Last of the Pirates: In search of Bob Denard. Weinberg is definitely an experienced and qualified writer; her motivation for this book may be her similarities with Helena Greenwood in age and both being from England. Continue reading “Past and Present: How DNA Intertwines with Crime”

Past and Present: How DNA Intertwines with Crime

DNA: The Smallest Clue

Samantha Weinberg, a writer, reporter, and politician, wrote Pointing from the Grave: A True Story of Murder and DNA. This book tells the story of Paul Frediani, a sex offender, and murderer. In a thrilling manner, Weinberg explains how DNA was discovered, and eventually used to convict Frediani of the murder of Helena Greenwood, a prominent research scientist. Helena was a visionary who “knew the power of this twisted molecule: she could see its potential” (xiii). In the prologue Weinberg writes “this is a story about a murder and a molecule. It is both the history of a science, overlaid with human drama, and a human tragedy inextricably entwined with science” (xi). This book lays the perfect amount of foundation, scientific knowledge, along with an engaging story of a man who got away with murder for 15 years until technology finally caught up with his crime. Without being a dry summary of DNA, Weinberg explains everything from Mendel’s study of peas to Mullis’ discovery of PCR. Without the knowledge of these scientists, each discovery was a step towards the conviction of Paul Frediani. The two stories, one about the discovery of DNA analysis, and another about Helena’s sufferings at the hands of Frediani, are perfectly intertwined, almost like the double helix of DNA. Weinberg has certainly done her research. The entire history of DNA is laid out within this book with expert input from the scientists who participated in the research. This book is perfect for any reader who isn’t afraid of light academic writing, but also keeps it interesting with engaging drama. Continue reading “DNA: The Smallest Clue”

DNA: The Smallest Clue

Opportune Timing of Discovery

“Pointing from the Grave” by Samantha Weinberg is a captivating murder-mystery novel. Weinberg received her degree from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and went on to become a journalist, novelist, and travel writer. In this book, she focuses on the journey of a man who had been prosecuted for several years. She talks about the scientific evidence and the evolution science has played to solve crimes. She touches the themes of fingerprints, DNA evidence, and psychopath characteristics. Her book is aimed to people with curiosity about criminal investigations. In 1985 Helena Greenwood was attacked and sexually assaulted at her home in Southern California. Ironically, Helena Greenwood was in the biotechnology realm where DNA evidence was on its way to being discovered. This was the start of an investigation that lasted over a decade, and involved the use of innovative technology. Continue reading “Opportune Timing of Discovery”

Opportune Timing of Discovery

Modern DNA: The Prosecution’s Greatest Ally

In Samantha Weinberg’s book, Pointing from the Grave, readers are told the true story about a man named Paul Frediani and his conflict with the law. The British novelist, journalist, and travel writer tells us about how she became fascinated by the story of Helena Greenwood, a woman who was sexual assaulted and then murdered by her alleged assaulter in the 1980’s. Although Pointing from the Grave is a nonfiction book, Weinberg writes about both Frediani and Helena as if they were characters in a story, giving a fiction feel to her book. Weinberg tells the story of Helena and David Paul Frediani, her alleged assailant, as though it is unfolding before our eyes, intertwining scientific knowledge and human emotions in order to grab and hold her reader’s attention. The scientific knowledge Weinberg uses in her book stems from the biotechnology field (specifically forensics) and although she uses a lot of scientific terms that many people would be unfamiliar with, she presents the material in a clear and concise way that is easy for the average reader to understand. Continue reading “Modern DNA: The Prosecution’s Greatest Ally”

Modern DNA: The Prosecution’s Greatest Ally

It Isn’t Just CSI: Piecing Together DNA, the Courtroom, and Perspectives

       Do you ever find yourself watching Crime Scene Investigators (CSI) and wonder: How do they trace a killer in 45 minutes? Samantha Weinberg’s book, Pointing from the Grave, answers this question as she follows the court case involving the sexual assault and murder of Helena Greenwood. Weinberg has established herself as a scientific author through her other books like A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth where she explores the process of scientific discovery to explain the evolutionary history and ecological importance of this organism. While Weinberg expresses interest in evolutionary science, in an astonishing crime and science thriller, Pointing from the Grave, she pieces together genetic technology, forensic science, and courtroom laws to formulate an exciting tale of a crime solving. Weinberg presents readers unfamiliar with the field of science with reliable scientific explanations, an in-depth understanding of the trial, and an inside look into the perspectives of various individuals involved to effectively tell the story of the murder of Helena Greenwood and the tracing of her killer, Paul Frediani, fifteen years later. Continue reading “It Isn’t Just CSI: Piecing Together DNA, the Courtroom, and Perspectives”

It Isn’t Just CSI: Piecing Together DNA, the Courtroom, and Perspectives

Frediani: Murderer or Victim?

Pointing from the Grave: a True Story of Murder and DNA is a scientific, crime novel about the murder of Helena Greenwood, a young DNA scientist who was sexually assaulted and then murdered a year later, and the main suspect in both of these cases, David Paul Frediani. It is written by Samantha Weinberg, a British author, journalist, and politician. She has written both scientific books such as A Fish Caught in Time, the story of J. L. B. Smith who was tasked with identifying a prehistoric fish, the coelacanth, and fictional novels such as The Moneypenny Chronicles which detail the life of James Bond’s secretary, Ms. Moneypenny. She combines both of these styles of writing in Pointing from the Grave, which is written as a novel but is filled with detailed scientific processes which Weinberg explained very well. In addition to detailing the story of both Helena Greenwood and Paul Frediani’s lives, she also describes the birth of many essential modern forensic DNA techniques with chapters focused on key figures such as Kary Mullis, a Nobel Prize winning biochemist. Continue reading “Frediani: Murderer or Victim?”

Frediani: Murderer or Victim?

Pointing From The Grave: DNA’s Fingerprint

Samantha Weinberg writes, Pointing from the Grave: a True Story of Murder and DNA, a non-fiction book chronicling the sexual assault and murder of Helena Greenwood in 1985, and the eventual conviction of her killer using emerging DNA technology 15 years later. Educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, Weinberg as authored books like A Fish Caught in Time: The Search for the Coelacanth and the Moneypenny Diaries, a James Bond inspired trilogy. Additionally, Weinberg is also a member/politician of the British Green Party. Pointing From the Grave uses real events about Helen’s assault and murder; background in the defendant’s past and state of mind; and the progression of DNA profiling from its discovery as a tool for evidence to it becoming the dominant tool for convictions around the world. Continue reading “Pointing From The Grave: DNA’s Fingerprint”

Pointing From The Grave: DNA’s Fingerprint

What Makes A Sociopath?

“Sociopaths tend to be nervous and easily agitated. They are volatile and prone to emotional outbursts, including fits of rage. They are likely to be uneducated and live on the fringes of society, unable to hold down a steady job or stay in one place for very long.” (Psychology Today)

We talked a lot about Frediani possibly having some sort of personality disorder but we never really came to any conclusions. I believe Frediani is a sociopath because of many of his personality qualities and actions point to that fact. According to Psychology Today, Frediani has many sociopathic qualities such as being easily agitated, volatile, prone to emotional outbursts, fits of rage, and unable to hold down jobs or stay in one place for very long. Additionally, “any crimes committed by a sociopath, including murder, will tend to be haphazard, disorganized and spontaneous rather than planned” (Psychology Today)  which is similar not only to Frediani’s first sexual assault, but, the murder of Helena Greenwood; both of these were spontaneous events and were not carefully planned or thought out. Interestingly enough, sociopaths also have difficulty forming attachments and relationships with other people, this could point further to Frediani’s illness because throughout the book he had difficulty staying in relationships with women.

 

Source:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201401/how-tell-sociopath-psychopath

What Makes A Sociopath?

Mentally Ill Plea

By the ending chapters, Frediani’s mental state was questioned. We had discussed multiple times in class about a personality disorder Frediani could have but it was never mentioned this in the book until the last few chapters. Something that I have previously seen on an episode of Law & Order was a man who was a retired professional football player that was very famous. There was a young girl by the age of 14 who was forcibly being pimped out men willing to pay money for her services. This man was caught paying her for this. In the eyes of the law, he was said to of raped her because of her age. However, the next day he was unaware of his actions. The insanity plea is extremely hard to come across due to people pretending to be insane to get away with murder. Many psychological reviews must be performed to be diagnosed. Obviously, the jury did not believe that he was ill. He himself was too proud to admit he was sick as well. It was not until the end of the trial where his defense lawyer had him on the stand at a late night court arrangement where he exhibited the defendants sundowning affect.What really stuck out to me in this episode was the defense lawyer saying a latin phrase that meant, the body can only be guilty if the mind is as well”. The poor judgement displayed by this man was not of his choosing but rather by his diseased brain. This made me relook at Frediani’s case and wondered if they had had a psychological review of him, would they have diagnosed him with an illness. The causes for these diseases truly vary but should a person be held accountable for their actions when their ability to choose from right and wrong is compromised? I’m not sure.

The next connection to Frediani’s case I made was a another episode of Law & Order. I love this show. Anyways, there was a young child that was an outcast of his school because his family was considered gypsies. He was found murdered one day when he walked home from school but all the clues were pointing to the wrong person. Once her friends gave up her secret, this young girl, most likely 15 years old, admitted to murdering the young boy by strangulation with his scarf. The most stunning thing was at the end when the investigator asked her why she did it. Her response was “why not”? This is a very clear indication of no remorse and it is deviance and crime at the age of 15 which is a necessary requirement for the disorder, Antisocial personality disorder.

The idea that a child so young can commit such a heinous crime is unthinkable. I was very curious how a court room will handle such a case because the murderer is not an adult. The story of Jordan Brown was shocking to the world. How does a child that shows no signs of aggression murder a woman and her unborn baby? According to this video, a child’s brain is not fully developed at this age, especially the part about decision making and impulse. For this reason, the death penalty will no longer be an option for an child under the age of 18. Below is a Picture of him at the age of his conviction.

jordan brown

 

Mentally Ill Plea

The Facade of a Sociopath

“Frediani has the personality of a sociopath, charismatic..and ultimately remorseless”(Weinberg, 339).

Samantha Weinberg visited Frediani while he was in prison, and while learnng about him, talked to a psychiatrist who was on the defense case, She described Frediani as “Charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and utterly remorseless”(Weinberg, 339). We have learned so much about Frediani, And I do believe that he is a sociopath, wether he did it or not. For not showing emotion during the trial, relationships ending in failure, but always able to start a relationship, and convince many people that he was a good guy and was innocent. He was even convincing to Samantha, as she wrote the book in a way that we wanted him to be innocent. What doesn’t show that he is maybe not one?

 

The Facade of a Sociopath

Sociopaths and Relationships

“Frediani has the personality of a sociopath: Charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and ultimately remorseless” (Weinberg Chapter 21, pg. 339)”

Chapter 21 of Pointing from the Grave explores how Frediani has personality traits of a sociopath. The quote above mentions how Frediani is faithless in relationships and that trait attributes to a sociopath. Throughout the story we learn that Frediani falls for women very fast and he sees himself together with his women for a long period of time. In his relationships everything is all good until suddenly something happens and Frediani begins to have aggressive behavior. His partners find it very hard to trust him because of his sudden behavior changes. I found an article discussing sociopaths in relationships that explore personality patterns.

Essentially sociopaths in relationships are confusing. They are confusing because their emotions are completely different from their partners. They lack empathy which is “the ability to understand or share feelings with another person” (Oxford English Dictionary).  Sociopaths tend to be extreme with their emotions, one minute they are caring and the next they are angry. With this type of behavior, sociopaths are able to manipulate their partner. Their partner may not feel comfortable speaking about the harsh times of the relationship because the sociopaths can easily switch back to being sweet and kind. The relationships are a whirlwind of emotions that generally affect the person dating the sociopath. I was shocked learning about this type of relationship and truly hope anyone involved in a situation like this can find a way out of it.

relationships

The image above was taken from Google.

Works Cited: Website

Sociopaths and Relationships

Last Thoughts

Seeing as this is the last opportunity to discuss Pointing From The Grave in the commonplace book, I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions on the book. Overall, I thought this was a really intriguing book, not only because of the plot and storyline, but also because Samantha Weinberg does an excellent job of describing and educating readers about scientific information we read during the book. For example, before this book I didn’t even know a PCR machine existed, and after chapter 9 I was pretty much all filled in about how and why this machine is vital for investigators analyzing DNA. I also thought the way she covered events in the court room was stellar and she painted a perfect picture in my head about Frediani and his behavior. This book is not only just a true crime novel, but also a historical timeline of events that cover the progression of court cases and the revolution of biotechnology in the justice system.

Last Thoughts

Disguise

“Paul is the kind of guy who sends Christmas cards and thank you cards on time. I keep thinking, did I miss something? Did I see any anger brewing up where it might have become uncontrollable? And the answer is no.”-Weinberg (p.341)

Frediani is described many times throughout the book as having multiple personalities. Many tried to link him to someone with multiple personality disorder and Kathy testifies to this idea. As she states, its apparent that Frediani had, or at least created the illusion that, he was two-faced. We’ve known thus all along so why is this significant? Well, if someone is unable to comprehend Frediani as committing these crimes than he must’ve had to have been a very genuine person. If someone states a fact and you still have trouble understanding, your counterargument must be very strong. We may not be able to comprehend it to the extent of Kathy because we are viewing the situation from an external point of view. But, if we put ourselves in her shoes and try imagining this in our own lives, Im sure it wouldn’t seem so crazy. If someone you knew very well and you admired was accused of the same crimes as Frediani, I’m sure we would all have our doubts. But, that is what separates us from felons. We don’t wear guiles to cover who we truly are. Frediani was a murderer and he was crazy enough to hide it. He was two people in one, and the worse half got the better of him. Our perception on the whole case is skewed because we cannot truly understand the emotions that run high during a time like this. But, Frediani was tow faced as we know, but it placed the most significant part in his life, and was ultimately the reason for his demise.

Disguise

The Impact of DNA

After reading this book, I have realized the extent to which testing or analyzing DNA can affect someone’s life.  While reading the end of the book, and interesting thought came up for me: Is it better to live in a world where DNA use is very prominent or one where DNA use is virtually nonexistent?  This book advocated for the use of DNA testing, especially in cases where it will help bring a killer to justice.  In that instance it seems very beneficial to society, no question.  But, with DNA tests becoming more and more advanced and it being applied in different ways, there is definitely a moral conflict.  DNA can now be analyzed to identify defects and mutations in humans before they are even born.  You could even rearrange DNA to eliminate these things, or to essentially “customize” a human to have the traits to want it to.  Also, cloning is another example where DNA tampering might be crossing the line.  In my opinion, DNA is starting to reach a point where any advancements can lead to controversy.  Use of DNA is fine when you are using it in a criminal setting and trying to catch a murderer or rapist.  But, when it is applied in order for a government to control its people or to clone humans, it is just going too far.  Especially after interviewing a biologist yesterday, DNA can be a scary thing and that some of its uses may be immoral when applied to everyday life.

The Impact of DNA

Profile of the Sociopath

“3-4% of the American male population can be characterized as sociopathic” – Weinberg p. 339

In chapter 21 of Pointing from the Grave, Weinberg discusses her belief that Frediani is a sociopath. After reading this quote, I read into traits of sociopaths online . A common trait is superficial charm, something Frediani definitely possessed. Frediani was able to even charm Weinberg into feeling empathetic for him; she said that it was though he could put people under a spell. Another trait of sociopaths is an exaggerated sense of entitlement. They feel as though they have rights to things simply because of who they are. In this chapter, Weinberg states that if Frediani had killed Helena, he might not even feel that he is in the wrong. Rather, he might feel that his act was justified. Sociopaths also have somewhat of an incapability to love. Throughout this entire book, Weinberg ruins his relationship with women one after another due to his violent nature with them. Another trait of sociopaths is a need for stimulation and the inability to deny impulses. Frediani sexually assaults and murders Helena and there seems to be no true motive behind the acts. It’s suggested that perhaps he committed both of these crimes due to his own impulses that he just couldn’t deny. After reading all of these traits of sociopaths, I am convinced that Frediani is indeed a sociopath.

Profile of the Sociopath

Positioning of the Body At Crime Scenes

Chapter 19 once again discusses the idea that Frediani re-positioned Helena’s body at the crime scene, and I was intrigued to learn more about this course of action, which happens to be utilized by many murderers. After some searching on Google, I came across an informative website. It turns out that crime scene staging and positioning of the body play a huge part in the ultimate success of the investigation process. It makes sense that the manipulation of the body or any other elements of the crime scene makes it difficult to evaluate. Researchers have discovered that some murders stage the body for a few different reasons. First, some do it to mislead investigators. Often, this can be done with the purpose of making the homicide look like a suicide. Furthermore, some stage crime scenes in order to meet psychological needs. Positioning the body in a certain way so that it looks like an object, symbol, etc. almost always has some kind of significance. In this case, the position of the body could account for a message the murderer is trying to make. Lastly, the murderer may position the body in such a way as to leave a personal “trademark.” A lot of the time this is what is portrayed on television shows such as “Criminal Minds.” Overall, there is almost always a purpose for the re-positioning of the body, and this is an interesting point to consider given the state that Helena was left in.

Positioning of the Body At Crime Scenes

Selecting A Jury

While reading and learning about the serious case described in this book, I often thought about the task the jury had.  Any jury that deals with a murder case has an immense amount of responsibility and based off the fact that I have yet to be selected to be part of a jury, I was wondering how one is properly selected.  The following article does a great job explaining the process.  After 12 people are selected from the jury list, the judge in the case asks them if they have any personal experiences that may cause them to be biased about the case.  I was particularly interested in the voir dire, or interview process, that is conducted because I did not know it is often done by both of the lawyers.  The article explains how the lawyers have the option of dismissing jurors based off a cause, such as a certain relative or job that connects them to the case.  A peremptory challenge will allow a lawyer to dismiss a potential juror without any particular reason, but they are limited based on the case details and should not be biased based off of race or sex.  Overall, the jury process involves mainly lawyers and the judge agreeing on 12 people who could properly and seriously come to conclusion on a court case.

Selecting A Jury

Sociopaths

Chapter 21 of Pointing from the Grave presents a quote which states that:

“3-4 percent of the American male population can be characterized as sociopathic; in prisons, this percentage rises to 20” (Weinberg p. 339).

This quote allowed me to realize that I have watched a lot of crime shows and movies, and heard the word sociopath thrown around a lot, but I never really knew the actual definition of it. I wanted to know what characteristics made up a sociopath, and from there be able to determine if I considered Frediani to be one or not.  In my research of sociopaths, I found out that the ten characteristics that make them up are: charm, intelligence, lack of remorse, spontaneity, hatred of losing, incapability of love (real love), intense lying, poetical speech, lack of  apology, and thinking that the things they say are truth even if they are not. By these characteristics, I would definitely classify Frediani as a sociopath, what do you guys think? Read a little more about sociopaths here, and let me know!

 

This is a photo of Jack Nicholson in the famous movie The Shinning, where he played a Sociopath.
This is a photo of Jack Nicholson in the famous movie The Shinning, where he played a Sociopath.

The image above was taken from Google.

Sociopaths

Sociopath

“I spoke to someone who had been involved in the case on the defense side, a psychologist. She said that, in her view, Frediani has the personality of a sociopath: charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and ultimately remorseless.” -Weinberg, pg 339

I thought it was interesting that, following a discussion in class regarding possible personality disorders Frediani may have had, the book closes by addressing this idea.
But I’m also intrigued by the fact that a psychologist had been involved in Frediani’s case and had never testified. It seems she was able to create a relatively strong profile of Frediani as a sociopath–her description fits Frediani very well. Although the jury isn’t supposed to let themselves be swayed by emotion, building on the suspect’s character seems to be a key part of both the prosecution’s and the defense’s arguments. If the prosecution could suggest to the jury that the suspect is a sociopath, I’m sure they’d think it much more likely that such a person could commit murder.
Of course, it looks like this psychologist was working with the defense, and Bartick certainly would not have wanted the jury thinking his client was a sociopath. We don’t even know if the psychologist in question shared her view with anyone apart from Weinberg.
It certainly makes me wonder about the role of psychology in the courts.

Sociopath

The Effects on the Family

“‘Does he look like he belongs in prison?’ he asks me. ‘She’s dead now, she has no family–so why does our family have to suffer, even if he is guilty?'” – Weinberg, p346

As I was reading the end of Weinberg’s book, this quote struck me as interesting and truly made me think about each word the Mr. Frediani was saying. It made me question whether what he was saying was right, or whether it was selfish considering Helena lost her life in an abrupt and cruel way, and her family had to suffer from the pain her loss caused them, and then ended up dying themselves after battling cancer. Some people may comment that the Frediani family lost a son, like the Greenwood family lost a daughter and wife, but I believe that they are much different types of losses. The Frediani family can still visit Paul in prison and write to him, whereas the Greenwood’s were suddenly stripped of all communication with Helena. That being said, it is evident that Paul is not living the free life he once was, and the Frediani family now feels that they have to hide this event from their community so that they are not judged for Paul’s actions. I do see Mr. Frediani’s point about how his family has had to suffer because of Paul’s actions because I could imagine how hard it would be for a normal family to be struck with this unfortunate series of events. However, I believe that Helena’s family suffered a much greater loss and therefore the Frediani family must accept that the product of their combined DNA broke the law, and that as a consequence their family has to suffer with him.

The Effects on the Family

Different Faces in the Human Race

” Paul is the kind of guy who sends Christmas cards and thank you cards on time. I keep thinking, did I miss something? Did I see any anger brewing up where it might have become uncontrollable? And the answer is no.”-Weinberg (p.341)

In Pointing From the Grave, many people who knew Mr. Frediani describe him very differently. Some people, like Andrea, would describe him as very hostile, aggressive, and angry. However people from Frediani’s workplace and Kathy describe him as amiable, kind, and passionate. It can be baffling for readers to think Frediani as a normal person if he behaves very differently at times. However, what if Frediani wanted to portray himself in one way and a different way to others?

In life, human beings show many different attitudes depending who they are with. This touches the sociological concept of face. According to David Yau-fai Ho, the concept of face is clarified and distinguished from other closely related constructs: authority, standards of behavior, personality, status, dignity, honor and prestige. The claim to face may rest on the basis of status but may also vary according to the group with which a person is interacting. The idea of keeping face and portraying yourself to whomever you may be interacting with is a very interesting topic. It speaks to something that all us do. As social human being we desire to keep shown as certain person whenever we may be interacting with a certain group. For example, students in a classroom setting would interact in classmates and professors in a very professional matter. Students would refer to professors, a higher authority, with respect and call on them by their doctoral name. However, when that same student will act differently when he/she is outside the classroom and socializing with their friends. This change in face serves to provide that person with ability to socialize with certain groups depending who he/she is with. These social interactions can vary in considering different cultures. Depending on the culture we live in different social norms are acceptable while other behavior may be considered taboo.

 

 

References:

-http://www98.griffith.edu.au/dspace/bitstream/handle/10072/14601/33409.pdf?sequence=1

-http://www.jstor.org/stable/2777600?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

-https://lifebehindthewall.wordpress.com/tag/face-sociological-concept/

Different Faces in the Human Race

Genetic Nature of Personality Traits

“Hamer noticed a correlation: the people with more copies of the mini satellite- more stutters- exhibited a greater desire for novelty… It was one of the first studies linking a personality trait to a specified genetic state….In the coming decades, there will be a monumental leap in our knowledge of the genetic location of inherited diseases. And more and more genes will be discovered that link behavior to the chemicals in our brains, and genes tied to our urges and emotions” -Weinberg p 349-350

I think that if Weinberg were to comment on her speculation today, almost 15 years after the publication of her book, she would say genetic disease typing is moving a lot slower than she thought. I myself might just be out of the loop, but I feel like there have not been any major leaps forward in the field that studies genetic links to our personalities.

On the other hand, a 2012  article describing a study done by British researchers asserts that nature (genes) play more of a role in our personalities than nurture does, supposedly providing an answer to the nature vs. nurture debate. The study showed that identical twins were twice more likely to share personality traits than non-identical twins, who do not have identical DNA. The researchers focused on personality traits such as perseverance and self-control, and showed that there was the biggest genetic difference in these types of traits, i.e. the ability to keep going when things got hard. The researchers were less focused on individual talent, and more about what drove that talent.

I think that this is a very interesting and diverse field, with plenty of room for several applications and a great potential to make people’s lives better by understanding and diagnosing their conditions efficiently. But I also think it leaves a lot of room for ambiguity, particularly where what doctors diagnose as psychological conditions intermingle with what would now be known to be genetic predisposition. I also think that people might have more excuses for their behavior, now that they could blame their actions on DNA, or almost like instinct, as if they were forced to do something. But I think the biggest issue comes from what Weinberg was afraid of, completely knowing what every trait and gene in our body do and having a map of them. I think this is a ethical dilemma, and further research in this area would be open to ethical scrutiny of not done carefully.

Genetic Nature of Personality Traits

The Rippling Effect of Crime

“These are good people. They are victims as much as Sydney Greenwood was. What has happened to their son has taken over their life and they are wading through it every day, terrified to think about his future—or theirs” (Weinberg: 347).

You skip a rock across the surface of a lake, and barely any of the water moves or ripples. You throw a massive boulder in that very same lake, and not only do you get a giant splash but a rippling effect that can go on and on. This visual representation can provide a simple yet drastically indicative example of how crime can reverberate to different people; possibly those who had nothing to do with a crime in the first place.

Murder, rape, arson, and other horrific crimes tend to do this. Victims themselves and their families can and will experience the tragic ramifications that result from these kinds of crimes. The quote mentioned above though sheds light onto a different, more sympathetic perspective: that is, the perpetrator’s family. The perpetrator may be so far removed for his or her family that a crime he or she might commit may not have any initial effect; however, this perpetrator is still somebody’s daughter or son. This perpetrator was once a child, teenager, adult, senior, or someone along that process. The fact of the matter is that crime will erode the fabrics of our society from top to bottom. It’s not a matter of how big the boulder is that is dropped in a lake, but the reach of the rippling waves that are produced. The catch is that the even the smallest pebble will have a rippling effect that will reach the shore line, getting everybody wet.

 

The Rippling Effect of Crime

The Possibility of Justice

“In an ideal world, there  would be no imponderables in the judicial arena: the facts, the witnesses, the evidence would be laid out before the deciding panel. And money would play no part–in the choice of the lawyers the defendant could afford, or in the number and ability of expert witnesses the defense could hire. Justice would be perfect, transparent” (Weinberg: 336).

“Justice would be perfect.” Is this truly possibly? Can we really define justice anyway? Philosophically, justice is an opinion. ‘Right or wrong’ will always have its limitations, particularities, and redemptive qualities. Today’s justice may be tomorrow’s injustice. Do we define justice as a prison term, or by using the phrase ‘an eye for an eye.’ This famous phrase can often be split, disallowing the more ominous MLK Jr. alternative: ‘an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind.’

Granted, Weinberg has some wishful ideas, but it in all realistic practices, we are all human who are subject to our error. In this error, we will never be allowed to properly “deal” with our problems. Justice can never be properly given because, simply put, we all have different conceptions into what should constitute appropriate justice. Victims or their families may want someone locked in a cage forever, subjected to the perpetrator’s own crime, or even be executed. These are just three broad paths that justice can fall under, but there will always be other forms and ideas as to how justice should be administered.

Weinberg is taking the more legalistic approach; however, her approach still touches upon similar shortcomings of justice itself. Leveling the playing field can though, in fact, bring about more equal outcomes which I feel is one common goal behind justice.

The Possibility of Justice

The Similarities of Law and Science

“They were still forbidden from discussing the case with each other or their families” (Weinberg 322).

During a case the jury is not allowed to talk to or discuss any of the legal proceedings in the case besides with the jurors themselves. This law or standard put in place is very similar to how patents and other laws that protect the ability from two different labs or research firms having the ability to talk about experiment and findings. In both cases the argument can stated that this stalls progress rather than improves upon it. In both cases the jury and the scientists can discuss and learn more about their findings rather than just having the opinions of their colleagues. It enhances both science and law as more people are aware and attentive to what is going on in the world and in turn solve the problem at hand. There must be some way that jurors and scientists are able to freely talk about their ideas and findings in order to progress both science and the law.

The Similarities of Law and Science

Genetic mutation an excuse?

“‘You have about as much choice in some aspects of your personality as you do in the shape of your nose or the size of your feet.’ ” -Weinberg, 349-50

After reviewing the existences of the “gay gene” and the genetic mutation that makes people predisposed to aggressive and impulsive tendencies, Weinberg includes this quote from Dean Hamer, the scientist who found these genes.

This in particular is very interesting to me because it technically takes some responsibility for his crimes away from Frediani. The untreated genetic mutation that failed from discouraging Frediani the same way someone without the mutation might be discouraged is a rather compelling argument supporting Frediani’s innocence. Ultimately, the mutated genes did not force Frediani to do anything, nor do they absolve him from his actions as a “temporary insanity plea” would.

I wonder that if the jury had known about this gene mutation, and if it was explained to them in a similar way that the temporary insanity plea would be, would they have been more merciful. I don’t believe so, especially considering the more conservative area of Del Mar that Weinberg had described, because I’d imagine that the jury would feel his actions outweigh any genetic mutations that he has.

 

Genetic mutation an excuse?

The Warrior Gene

The final chapter and epilogue of pointing from the grave talk about the possibility of Frediani being a sociopath and how his childhood could have influenced his actions. However that reminded me of the warrior gene which we saw in a video a few weeks ago. I did some more research into the warrior gene and found that now it is also linked to anti social behavior. That surprised me and if it is true I do not think Frediani has the Warrior gene becasue in the book Pointing from the Grave he is portrayed as very outgoing, but had I not know that I had pretty much assumed that because Frediani was so aggressive he had the gene.

https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org/2014/11/04/does-the-human-warrior-gene-make-violent-criminals-and-what-should-society-do/ 

The Warrior Gene

Sociopath

“She said that, in her view, Frediani has the personality of a sociopath: charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and ultimately remorseless”  – Weinberg, 339

Fifteen years later, Frediani is convicted of a murder that he did not commit. This psychologist that was on the trial has studied Frediani and has come to the conclusion that Frediani is a sociopath. These types of people, as mentioned in the quote, do not show remorse. However, later in the book he mentions that it was antidepressants that is what has made him continue on, and he would cry for no reason. In my opinion, him crying is showing emotions and it was when the feeling that he was going to spend the rest of his life in prison. He did show charisma, was impulsive with his exes, very smart, and sometimes it seemed he was manipulative, but is he really a sociopath?

Sociopath

Frediani, a Sociopath?

At the end of the book, Frediani is repeatedly referred to a Sociopath. How can he be diagnosed as one without a formal psycho-analysis? Can you diagnose a Sociopath purely based on behavior and surface characteristics, or is it something hidden deep within the mind? Sociopaths have several key surface characteristics. Frediani is charming, during his young days with his roommates, he seduced several women a week and many people found him pleasant company. He clearly is very spontaneous and showed very little planning behind his sexual assaults of which he never showed any guilt or shame of committing. Paul also is capable of forming intense lies, like his alibis he created in court, and will do anything to win. He proved he was willing to kill Helena just to avoid prison time for his assault. Frediani, in my opinion was also incapable of love, he abused any person he was ever in a relationship with. And last but not lease, in this novel at least, we never hear an apology from Paul for either the assault or the murder. In my opinion an obvious sociopath.

Frediani, a Sociopath?

The Sociopath Gene

“We are peering over the brink of an abyss. In the coming decades, there will be a monumental leap in our knowledge of the genetic locations of inherited diseases. And more and more genes will be discovered that link behavior to the chemicals in our brains, and genes tied to our urges and emotions.”- Weinberg, page 350 (Epilogue)

In her closing statements, Weinberg talks about inherited genes and infers that Frediani might have inherited sociopathic traits from his ancestors. On first glance, this statement seems kind of preposterous. Our genes determine our physical traits, but our mental ones, our attitudes and opinions, seem to come from other places. I have been raised to believe that our mental state results from our choices, beliefs and experiences. In other words, I would not act the same way I do today if I grew up in Amsterdam or if I was born into Donald Trump’s family. I always thought that someone goes thrill-seeking because they have a boring life, or someone is a sociopath because of traumatic experiences which cut them off from their emotions and morals.

However, this may not be exactly the case. Weinberg brings up Dean Hamer, who claimed to have identified genetic reasons for homosexuality as well as a gene that makes one seek out thrills. Here is an interview between him and Time magazine, for more information. His research suggests that many aspects of our personality come from our genes rather than our minds. This would not be an unprecedented idea; everyone knows someone who “acts just like their mother/father” or has heard of a family where a certain trait like aggressiveness or ignorance “runs in their blood”. In fact, Adolf Hitler’s descendants agreed never to have kids in order to end his bloodline, possibly out of the fear that being a ruthless dictator was an inheritable trait. Obviously it is still preposterous to think that a human mind is only a product of one’s genetics and not a myriad of factors, but Hamer’s information seems to show that we likely inherit many mental traits in addition to physical ones.

The Sociopath Gene

Is Frediani Really A Sociopath?

In Chapter 21, I found the statement from the Psychologist about Frediani’s personality to be intriguing:

“Frediani has the personality of a sociopath: charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and ultimately remorseless” (Weinberg, 339).

This was not the first time the possibility that Frediani had a sociopathic personality has been brought up in the novel. However, following the end of the trial I was inclined to believe that Frediani was indeed sociopathic. I looked up information about connections between sociopathic personalities and violent or murderous behavior. I found an article titled, “The Sociopath-Serial Killer Connection.”  This article stated that many of the qualities that are common in serial killers are also common characteristics of sociopaths. Frediani was not a serial killer, but I was interested in seeing how many of these qualities were similar between Frediani and serial killers. The article listed some of the same qualities of a sociopath as the psychologist Weinberg quoted: “a disregard for laws and social mores, a disregard for the rights of others, a failure to feel remorse or guilt, and a tendency to display violent behavior.” These are all qualities that Frediani displayed over and over again. The article also stated that sociopaths are “easily agitated” and “prone to emotional fits of rage.” This is consistent with Frediani’s behavior around his girlfriends. He showed a pattern of getting easily agitated and ended up physically enraged with them.

However, there were also a few statements made in this article about sociopathic behaviors and killers that do not resemble Frediani’s behavior throughout the novel. The article states that sociopaths “often live on the fringes of society . . . are unable to hold down a steady job, and are unable to stay in one place for very long.” This is not descriptive of Frediani’s typical behavior. He lived in a highly populated city. He was usually able to hold down a job and even managed to get promotions. He lived in San Francisco for years, moving only when his circumstances changed. The article stated that sociopaths often appear to be disturbed. However, whenever any of his close friends or coworkers were asked about Frediani’s behavior prior to his crimes, no one saw anything unusual in his behavior. In fact,  they often wondered, “was there something that I missed?” And finally, the article states that sociopathy is often thought to be the result of a person’s environment, such as childhood trauma or abuse, rather than an “in-born characteristic.” Frediani, however, was raised with a relatively normal childhood. He found his parents to be quite strict, but we weren’t informed of any life-changing trauma or abuse in his past. The reader is left unaware of any event(s) in Frediani’s past that would likely be the underlying cause of this antisocial personality disorder.

I am left wondering, was Frediani a sociopath and therefore his actions are less surprising, or does he simply display some sociopathic tendencies and in truth he is just a murderer?

 

Is Frediani Really A Sociopath?

Doing Your Job vs. Doing What’s Right

Some unwanted qualities can come with the job of being a defense attorney– especially if the attorney believes his/her client is in fact guilty of the crime they are charged with. However, like we have seen so far in Pointing From The Grave, the difference between what the defendant did, and what the prosecutor can prove is the ultimate decider in criminal cases. Throughout the history of our justice system many high profile cases that have made their way to national television have solidified the notion that sometimes guilty people can get away with murder if their attorney proves beyond a reasonable doubt that his/her client didn’t do as they are charged. For example, in the O.J. Simpson case, his “dream team” of Lawyers at some point in the case probably realized that they were representing a man who probably committed the double murder he was being charged with. However, even though their defense wasn’t that strong, they found ways to make the prosecution’s attack on Simpson seem less credible than it was. How hard do you think it is for a lawyer to successfully draft up a defense for a client that for the most part actually committed the crime? Do you think there are an ethical boundaries that he/she must face if they chose to accept an example of such a case? At the end of the day, being a lawyer is still a job. People earn a living representing people and I think that if defense attorneys keep this “ethical dilemma” in their minds then they will not be able to do their job correctly.

Doing Your Job vs. Doing What’s Right

Inside a Sociopath

In the book a psychologist stated that Frediani has the characteristics of a sociopath and describes him as “charismatic, impulsive, hedonistic, smart, manipulative, faithless in sexual relationships, and ultimately remorseless.” (339) This got me wondering if Frediani had shown these characteristics the whole time throughout the book and what clues the author had given to this possibility.

I found an article that is title “The Six Hallmarks of a Sociopath.” This addressed the different ways to identify if someone is actually a sociopath. Many of the hallmarks fit Frediani perfectly. Especially number 5 which was “Externalizes blame. The sociopath does not take ownership or blame for his mistakes or misdeeds.” Throughout Frediani’s assault trial he did not show any signs of guilt or recognition that he had sexually assaulted Helena and he didn’t not admit that it was wrong until his trial for Helena’s murder many years later. Another one that fit Frediani was number 2 which said “Manipulates others, either from the sidelines or directly.” Frediani got many people to lie or cover for him when he felt that the police were closing in on him. He made sure to get an alibi to cover his tracks. http://blogs.psychcentral.com/childhood-neglect/2015/09/the-six-hallmarks-of-a-sociopath/

 

This article opened up my eyes to the way that Frediani acted and even offered some explanation to why he committed such horrible acts against the many women he came into contact with.

Inside a Sociopath

Frediani and Nature vs. Nurture

The close of the novel was a very interesting one. Frediani was found guilty and brought to prison; however, his time in prison was what stood out most. Weinberg stated that Frediani was part of a psychological case study that dealt with parenting styles and behavior, very similar to the nature vs. nurture debate that states that either it’s your genes that make up your behaviors or its the external forces and influences of the environment that shape behavior. During this case study Frediani suggests that his parents were very strict, his dad had a macho attitude, and his mother rarely stood up to him. During his adolescent years Frediani stated that he had built up an enormous resentment towards his parents and started acting out. This idea was very interesting because it was also brought up but quickly overlooked at the very beginning of the novel. It is interesting to think about whether it was Frediani’s life and the influences of his parents that made him have mood swings and exhibit irregular behavior at times. While genes make up the traits of an individual, there is a heavy influence of external environment and parenting styles that shape the behavior of an individual. It was also interesting because Frediani was referred to as possessing the characteristics of a sociopath early in Chapter 21. This makes an interesting connection between the way in which Frediani described his young life and the behaviors exhibited in his new self. Below is a link that explains the nature vs. nurture debate in more depth and it is interesting to see the connections between Frediani’s external influences and how that shaped his behavior with the debate below.

Frediani and Nature vs. Nurture

The Chain of Custody of Physical Evidence

“He directed her to her testimony at the preliminary hearing. She had described then how she had collected the fingernail cuttings and scrapings and put them in paper bindles. Now they were in clear boxes. When had they been transferred? Mary Pierson said had no independent recollection. It was a phrase that was becoming more familiar with the trial.” -Weinberg (p. 287)

During the time of the investigation of a crime scene it is pertinent to keep a chain a custody of any physical evidence collected. This provides a means of monitoring where and when the evidence is being stored. If the chain of custody is improperly managed then the evidence collected at the crime scene could be thought that it it could have been potentially tampered with. In cases where DNA, a piece of physical evidence, is the only evidence that links the defendant to the crime scene it is crucial that this evidence is held under the proper protocol and management. Because if it isn’t properly cares then evidence used court can be dismissed. Taking a forensic entomology class at Loyola, I learned that when investigating a crime scene it is critical to annotate everything done in and out of the crime scene. So that there are no inconsistencies and have the forensic eyewitness report allowed in court.

The chain of custody described by the SART Toolkit says, “To maintain chain of custody, you must preserve evidence from the time it is collected to the time it is presented in court. To prove the chain of custody, and ultimately show that the evidence has remained intact, prosecutors generally need service providers who can testify.” These service providers are typically the forensic scientists or trained policemen that can explain:

  • That the evidence offered in court is the same evidence they collected or received.
  • the time and date the evidence was received or transferred to another provider.
  • That there was no tampering with the item while it was in custody

All these components are critical for a service provider to have. Not only will they explain that the procedures done in the crime were up to protocol standards under oath but also convince the jury that the evidence is reliable. This requires a lot of understanding of the scientific methods used as well as have ability to be well spoken. The art of testifying is can be difficult and daunting for most people. Withstanding the badgering by defense lawyers, and surviving shots made towards your credibility as a scientist are some qualities that not all service providers have. That is why its important when dealing with trials, like the Frediani case, to have service providers that hold their own against sharks of defense lawyers.

Media involving the chain of custody:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cArnlbn-ums

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFXzG6qfxWc

References:

Dr. River’s Forensic Entomology Class

http://ovc.ncjrs.gov/sartkit/develop/issues-coc.html

https://ic.fsc.org/en/our-impact/program-areas/chain-of-custody

http://d4discovery.com/discover-more/2015/7/how-to-document-your-chain-of-custody-and-why-its-important

 

The Chain of Custody of Physical Evidence

Ethics Concerning Defense Lawyers

In most every case we see in our court system, if the defendant can afford a lawyer, they do so because they feel as if they have no chance in winning unless they pay for the service. However, in the case of murder, the questions of whether the lawyer knows if his client is guilty or not questions the moral compass of the lawyer. Should it bother the lawyer that they are defending a person guilty or rape, murder, embezzlement etc. ? In my opinion, it takes a certain mindset to do this job. The person in law schooling interested in becoming a defense lawyer has to be aware of the moral decisions he must make in his profession. I am not implying that these decisions are going to ever be easy or morally correct but this is what the profession brings. If a person can handle these situations than it might make them an excellent defense lawyer.

However, a hired defense lawyer’s obviously have a choice to let go of the client but if its a public defender they have no choice. Public defenders are assigned to a case and usually have to stay. It is part of a lawyers duty as a job to do what is best for their client, so they cannot try to give up the case. It is like gambling, the lawyer has to take the best shot at the case and it is for his own reputation as well as the well being of his client.

Another interesting suggestion I thought of was what if they client admits they are guilty but could be lying to the lawyer. There have been many cases where people try and take the rap for a loved ones bad doings so that they do not spend the rest of their life in jail. For example, a parents who knows his child committed homicide. In this case, it also doesn’t seem beneficial for the defense lawyer to know whether they are guilty or innocent. Even if they get an answer, it could be a lie in either direction. Over all, it is the side that makes the strongest case for the conviction. The way evidence is presented to the jury is a huge aspect of how the verdict comes out. Stronger evidence such as DNA, has become extremely useful in our court systems today. They knowledge of DNA has also broadened due to it being taught during primary schooling and the fact that it is all over crime shows. The awareness of it has grown which makes it more difficult for a murder/ rapist to get away with their crime.

kuwait dna

Image Source

Ethics Concerning Defense Lawyers

Bartick’s Interesting Argument

In chapter 18, Frediani’s lawyer David Bartick takes an interesting approach regarding the DNA evidence being used in the case.  He specifically states, “DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, but in this case, what the DNA is going to stand for is, DOES NOT APPLY.”  I think it is very interesting that Bartick takes such a negative stance regarding the new technology and science that could prove his clients innocence.  One would think that Frediani would be an extreme advocate of the use of DNA in hopes that it would finally set the truth state regarding his criminal activity.  If Frediani had really not committed the murder, I think he would be much supportive of using DNA tests to prove that.  All he would need is to prove that his DNA did not match any of that found at the crime scene.  However, Bartick with his theatrical opening statement and negative view of DNA, seems almost desperate.  Anyone who so blatantly claims their innocence would want to prove their case in the most accurate and efficient way possible, which for Frediani would be the use of DNA. DNA testing has not always been kind to Frediani, but he understand the weight it holds in court and if he could use that to his advantage, I don’t see why he wouldn’t.

Bartick’s Interesting Argument

Collecting Hair Samples

Chapter 18 of Pointing from the Grave continues with Frediani’s trail. Bartick begins questioning the DNA samples that were collected at the scene of the crime. He brings up the hair sample that was picked up by hand, and placed into an old dirty cigarette box. Clearly this is no proper way to handle DNA that can put somebody in prison for the rest of their life. So that got me thinking, “What is the proper way to handle a hair sample?” I went online and found the article that I attached below. It’s pretty interesting check it out. It discusses the ins and outs of collecting DNA samples at a crime scene, particularly hair. Go to the web link below an click on the section titled hair.

http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/collect.html#3

Collecting Hair Samples

The Media and the Courtroom

“They sit as far away from away from everyone else they can, and make sure their lines of sight cannot be intercepted” (pg.269)

Chapter 18 of “Pointing From the Grave” introduces the jury and the jury’s place in the Ferdiani trial. The jury consists of the body of people that give a verdict in legal cases on the basis of the evidence submitted to them in court. In many court cases  especially high profile cases the media is heavily involved. The media has a big influence on society and spreads information to many people. When crimes receive lots of media the defendant, prosecutors and defense attorneys deal with the challenge of having the public know everything that is going on with the case. Essentially, the media can be a big distraction. The jurors are hidden from the media but still have to deal with press and their cameras in the courtroom. Media is a good thing because it keeps the public informed however it is stressful to have media involved in high profile trials.When I was reading this chapter I kept on thinking on how everyone felt in the courtroom with so many people surrounding them. Everyone works hard to present their case and nobody wants to be biased. Ferdiani’s jurors had to keep straight faces in the courtroom to stay unbiased and focused on the facts of the case. I look forward to observing how the media is like on the next high profile court case in the news. court 2

The Media and the Courtroom

Detective Decker Emotional for a Professional

Detective Decker took the stand to report what he has observed from Helena’s murder scene. While mentioning that he checked to make sure the gate latch shape matched the mark on Helena’s head, he was told to be more professional about addressing the deceased:

“The judge admonished him for calling her Helena, as if he knew her–asked him to be more formal.” -Weinberg, 282

I wonder, first of all, why the Detective used “Helena” in the first place. An established and successful Detective, Decker would have been to hundreds of trials, all where the proceedings and level of formality remains the same. He knew that he shouldn’t have called her “Helena”, but rather “Dr. Greenwood.”

Maybe, after searching of for her murderer for fifteen years, Detective Decker is haunted by Helena’s cold case. Maybe, just like Laura Heilig (who had been studying the case since 1998 and knew Helena’s face, job, interests, and family better than any other investigator) he became attached to the story.

Such expressions of emotion are predictable from other, less professional witnesses, like Roberta Loiterton, who cried on the stands (Weinberg, 279). A detective should not be as obviously affected and emotional by the case.

Detective Decker Emotional for a Professional

Pathos in the Courtroom

“It gave Valerie an opportunity to put the photograph of Helena, crumpled behind the gate, back on the easel. For the rest of day two, the jury was confronted with this constant reminder of the pathos of violent death.” Weinberg, pg 280

Reading this chapter, the word ‘pathos’ jumped out at me. I’m currently taking a class in rhetoric, or the art of persuasion. And we learned about the three main types of arguments a person can make: logical arguments, based in the issue itself (logos), ethical arguments, based in the speaker’s reputation (ethos), and pathetic arguments, based in emotion (pathos). Based on this quote, it appears obvious that the prosecuting attorney is trying to get an emotional reaction out of the jury by leaving the picture of Helena’s body on display. She wants the jury to feel pity for the victim, which would lead to the jury feeling anger towards Frediani, which would in turn lead to his conviction. Pathos can be used to create very compelling arguments, especially in a case such as this one, a case so focused on people.
But the above quote isn’t the only mention of emotional appeals in this chapter.

“Solemn-faced, the twelve file into their seats on the first morning of their duties and listen as the judge instructs them of their powers, that they must apply the law without being influenced by pity or passion, and based on the facts and the evidence presented to them.” -Weinberg, pg 270

This explanation of the jury’s responsibilities makes it clear that they’re expected to ignore any emotional appeals made throughout the trial. Frediani should be convicted or exonerated based on evidence alone.
And yet the prosecution and defense will inevitably use pathos in their arguments, trying to stir up pity for the victim or the suspect, passion against the accused or the prosecution. Because they know that facts can be ignored and witnesses can be discredited. But it’s very hard to forget how something or someone made you feel.

Pathos in the Courtroom

Underqualified for a Huge Deal

“you are not an expert in… molecular biology…biochemistry…Population studies…demography?” “No” (Weinberg, 289)

one of the biggest things that stood out to me in this case about Frediani getting the death penalty or not was when Bartick called Harmor to the stand, who made the DNA analysis and said that it was Frediani, but the man does not have an expertise in the fields mentioned that are major factors for finding answers in the DNA for the case to prove innocence or guilt. With anything that takes the most accuracy and for it to be done right, you have to have someone who is the most capable doing it. This case might end alot different because of this, and people don’t realize it.

Underqualified for a Huge Deal

“Ambiguous” DNA Tests

“Taylor’s laboratory had spent the last year running all sorts of tests on the Profiler Plus system and the 310 Genetic Analyzer, he told Bartick. On numerous occasions, the results had been, at best, ambiguous.” -Weinberg 259

I find it very astounding to think that DNA tests that were being used to test people’s innocence or guilt in certain situations were not giving clear results. I think that when people’s lives are at stake, everything should be as blatantly clear as possible. This obviously ties in to the Innocence Project and its purpose of freeing wrongly convicted people, but it was from the other side: using DNA evidence to show that people were innocent. I think that it is a hard line to walk, especially because DNA evidence has the power to be so influential, so it is important that it be used ethically and carefully.

This also brings into question the nature of the court system and prosecution. Why were they so quick to accept the lab results given to them? I think it was because they were amazed by the infallibility of DNA. But as infallible as science is, it can be fallible when handled or interpreted incorrectly, either on purpose or unknowingly. I think that the best solution for this is to do all testing blind, but most importantly, make sure the technology is 100 percent accurate before it is used to convict someone of a crime. I think the end goal of the courts should be to find the person who committed the crime, not just person.

“Ambiguous” DNA Tests

Suspects: Are they seen as real people?

“At this point, Frediani is not a real person to me; just a man accused of murder, approaching his day of judgement. My thoughts and sympathies are with Helena Greenwood, the victim, the person I am already relating to” – Weinberg, p238

I found this quote from chapter 16 very interesting for two reasons. Firstly, I wondered whether Weinberg was putting into words what all the jurors who were gathered for this case were already thinking. It prompted me to question whether people can have an unbiased view when they are involved in the trial of a murder case. Personally, I think it would be hard for me to go into a murder trial with an open mind about hearing the suspected murderer’s side of the story. Although the person is not convicted yet, the word “murderer” resonates badly, and even though it is coupled with the word suspected, murderer overshadows this word and consequently, I believe it blurs the vision of the jurors. Secondly, Weinberg statement that “Frediani is not a real person” to her anymore is a very strong and opinionated statement. Throughout her book, Weinberg seems to contradict this statement since she makes Frediani into a very real person for her readers by writing about what his family thinks about him, and how he has redeemed himself and made a better life for himself after the sexual assault trial. It is interesting to me that although Weinberg says that Frediani is not a real person to her anymore, she creates him to be a person in order for her readers to build their own opinions about him.

Suspects: Are they seen as real people?

Are Our Forensic Labs Biased?

“The independent labs have an economic motivation to come up with a result, and most of the time,they’re being paid by the prosecution”- Weinberg 263

In Chapter 17, Kary Mullis says the above quote when talking about how DNA evidence can be faked or changed. His argument is that the independant labs that do the DNA testing are paid by the prosecution, meaning it’s in their interest to come up with incriminating results. Every journalist, lawyer, and news reporter knows this kind of motivation as bias. When you will gain something from supporting a certain side, it greatly impacts your decisions and statements. If a political candidate is threatening to tax educators, than they probably wouldn’t get a lot of support from professors and teachers. However, forensic labs may not be as biased as Mullis states; in one of the videos we watched in class on Tuesday, we saw many examples of forensic experts who truly strive to keep our justice system working correctly. One of these experts did DNA testing on evidence from crime scenes, and we saw that they often were not told if their evidence convicted someone or not. Either way, this is an important flaw in our justice system that we must be aware of in the future.

Are Our Forensic Labs Biased?

Media Influence in Death Penalty Cases

“A television camera is being set up, a press photographer leans against the barrier between the court and the spectators. Four reporters take their seats across the aisle from the family…” – Weinberg p. 270

Often times, high-profile cases, such as death penalty cases, attract a swarm of media attention, leaving up to question: how much does the media actually influence these cases? According to Capital Punishment in Context, jurors who are qualified for such death penalty cases are statistically likely to watch daily news programs and are, overall, well educated. Therefore, these jurors tend to be more biased against defendants by nature. These jurors are able to recognize the facts of a high-profile case and statistically are more likely to believe the defendant to be guilty. Likewise, in cases that are highly publicized, judges are more likely to give more serious punishments than in cases with little publicity. They feel the responsibility to punish someone for a crime that has received a lot of fame and buzz. Lastly, the potential for fame and profit can affect the way some lawyers act. They can develop motives aside from defending or prosecuting someone. For example, it’s been discovered that famed female serial killer Aileen Wuornos’ lawyer lacked prior crime law experience but rather took the case for her own potential benefit. Overall, media plays a large role in high-profile cases. The unfathomable attention that these cases draw bring about a new sense of pressure for the jurors, judges, and lawyers to do their jobs properly.

Media Influence in Death Penalty Cases

Death Penalty Disappearing

Chapter 16 begins to get to the ladder part of the case with Frediani and brings up the possibility of him facing the death penalty.  Executions from the death penalty have occurred in thirty-four states since its coming back in the year 1976, but I was curious if the death penalty will ever be banned again.  This article does a great job providing 5 reasons why the death penalty is slowly fading away  . I will detail two of these reasons as talking about all five will be too long of a post.  Reason 1 details the fact that despite the many methods of execution that were preformed over the years, the deaths do not always go smoothly and effectively.  The older ways such as burning and electrocution clearly caused problems of slow deaths that can even take hours for the person to die, but lethal injection was not the effective way that some people thought it would be.  Pharmaceutical companies will not always supply their drug for the purpose of execution and cases of botched injections have occurred.  When there is no certain way to make these deaths quick these executions are only becoming a hassle.  Another reason listed in the article is the constant burden that the U.S. Supreme Court faces.  There is never a fine line about who should live and who should die in cases and the talks of this controversial topic will never cease to end with it still being an option.  The Time article even goes on to say that the Justices know that the modern day death penalty is set up in a failed way, and this would lead us to believe that eventually they will just get tired of trying to  “prop up this broken system”.

Death Penalty Disappearing

What Crimes Fit the Death Penalty?

“As it relates to crimes against individuals, though, the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken.” -Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the majority in Kennedy v. Louisiana (2008)

The death penalty is kept for the most heinous crimes committed by people, but, the vast majority of crimes that result in the death penalty are from trials for murder. But for even the most evil and twisted of crimes such as the rape of a child or torture, federal government has outlawed the practice. The case that went to the Supreme Court to decide this was a 2003 case, Kennedy v. Louisiana; it was a case involving Patrick Kennedy, who raped his step-daughter and was given the death penalty in Louisiana for his crimes. However, after his lawyers appealed this ruling with the circuit court of appeals, the case ended up in the supreme court where the majority ruled that “as it relates to crimes against individuals, though, the death penalty should not be expanded to instances where the victim’s life was not taken.” (1) Although, murder is not the only crime that can result in a death sentence, “espionage, treason, trafficking large quantities of drugs, and attempting to kill any officer, juror,or witness in cases involving Continuing Criminal Enterprise” (1) (“large-scale drug traffickers who are responsible for long-term and elaborate drug conspiracies” (2)).

1.http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/death-penalty-offenses-other-murder

2.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuing_Criminal_Enterprise

What Crimes Fit the Death Penalty?

The Truth of DNA

“In the United States, Governor George Ryan of Illinois, a pro-death-penalty Republican, imposed a moratorium on capital punishment after thirteenth wrongly convicted man was released from death row in his state following DNA confirmation of his innocence”-(Weinberg 249-250)

The general consensus for DNA is that it is the best form of evidence when dealing with high profile cases. Often it has been used to put away the right people however, there have been cases to which the DNA was tampered with leaving innocent people in jail or worse dead. The death penalty is something very unique to this country as most developed nations have gone away from using capital punishment. There have been instances in which the prosecution or defense tampers with the DNA results leaving the jury to make an imperfect decision. Therefore what is the best solution to this very serious problem. I for one believe there should be more government intervention in order to avoid this problem of killing innocent people. Yet, in this case DNA here spared a man’s life as it proved his innocence.

The Truth of DNA

Motive

“I thought then that a person who was innocent, as he had proclaimed through two trials, would certainly want to see the results of DNA testing before going to trial…the fact that he avoided the DNA testing by pleading spoke volumes” (Weinberg: 180).

“And he got away with it; got away with it until now. Thank you” (Weinberg: 321).

These quotes, both from persecutors in the sexual assault case and murder respectively, really show the guilt behind Frediani. But what was his motive? Well, there are multiple reasons why he may have committed the sexual assault, but it seems that DNA was the answer behind a no contest plea in the first case, indicating something deeper about this case that truly makes you believe that he had motive to kill.

That’s what crime is all about, isn’t it? Motive. It is the inspiration to do your crime. Why commit something if you have no motive. Motive truly is the most important aspect of a criminal case, for without any motive, it seems to be quite difficult to demonstrate that a defendant has a reason to do whatever the crime may be. It’s not hard to illustrate circumstantial evidence that is coincidental and superficial; however, once there is a concrete reason as to why the circumstantial lines up with other details, motive can be established, consisting of reason and logic for the particular act.

Motive

Simple Blood Pattern Analysis

In Chapter 18 it the prosecution discusses that they were given the clues to look for trace DNA evidence on Helena’s body by using blood stain analysis to determine where she was attacked. This lead them to discover areas on her body where an attacker might have left DNA such as the blood around her ankles and under her fingernails. After watching the video last week which included a segment about blood stain analysis I wanted to do a little more research on it. I learned that “Bloodstains are classified into three basic types: passive stains, transfer stains and projected or impact stains”. (Source Article) Usually most Blood Pattern Analysis happens after they have categorized the stain because certain stains are more common with certain crimes. Also often footprints and other markings can be identified and used as evidence which I thought was very neat. Overall the article has a lot of good information about blood pattern analysis and I recommend you check it out.

Source Article

Simple Blood Pattern Analysis

The Jury Selection Process

     Lawyers are faced with the critical task of choosing individuals to make up their jury. In civil cases, a jury can be made up of anywhere from six to twelve people, while most federal cases consist of a twelve-person jury. One of the main responsibilities that these lawyers are obligated to carry out not only involves gathering a group of 6-12, but finding the right group, made up of people who can be trusted to tell the truth at all times. As I have limited knowledge when it comes to lawyers and jurors, I looked to Mental Floss to better my understanding of how the selection process works, and I learned that many different components are taken into consideration — some even slightly surprising. The first factor listed as part of the selection process is relationships. Lawyers look to make sure that one’s relationships do not affect their opinions. For example, any linkage to someone in law enforcement (police officers, jailers, probation officers) can create too much of a bias. Going off of this, lawyers are also going to look at one’s previous experience with the law. Even if there is no direct relationship to the people listed above, bias can still exist about these people based upon personal experience. Unwanted experience with the law, for example, may impact a juror’s handling of the case. The ideal candidate is someone who is accepting, open-minded, and trusting of the law. Another way to pick out bias is to do a background check of the potential jurors on the internet, as it is helpful in revealing information about a juror that the juror themselves may not directly state.

     The following components of the selection process came as no surprise to me: body language, attitude, leadership skills, and religion. Little did I know that lawyers will even consider hair and clothing. These factors seem appropriate from the stakeholder of an employer conducting a job interview, but the fact that lawyers pay attention to them struck me as surprising. The website informed me that “open and receptive jurors will have hair that is casual and naturally flowing, rather than highly styled or gelled or plastered to the head.” Same for clothes; open and accepting jurors will dress casual. A rather superficial point to consider, but I suppose it makes sense in a courtroom setting.

The Jury Selection Process

Planted or Not?

In Chapter 17 of Pointing From The Grave  by Samantha Weinberg, David Bartick, the defense lawyer hired by the Frediani’s considers using the defense of planted evidence to get Paul acquitted of his charges. In tv shows on a regular basis cops plant evidence on criminals to get convictions. But how often does this happen in real life? how many times do the police get caught doing it? This article sheds some light on cops planting evidence. It would have been completely possible for police to plant Frediani’s dna since it had already been collected by law enforcement, so is there a federal agency watching over this case like in the ones mentioned in the article? Perhaps the lab did in fact plant the dna to get a conviction since Frediani was the only suspect.

Planted or Not?

A question of life or death.

“In April 2002, a national landmark was reached when the one hundredth person was freed from death row, after DNA had proved him innocent” (Weinberg: 250).

This quote reveals two core issues: the death penalty itself, and then innocent people in prison. Put the two together, and you get a nasty combination that highlights one of or the greatest fault in the criminal justice system: innocent people have more likely than not been executed in our country.

Firstly, the death penalty, in my opinion, should not exist, but my reasoning has actually nothing to do with executions themselves. Death row incarcerates such a small minority of the overall prison population that it seems to me that it does not have any deterring effect on crime. Death row inmates will spend an average of 7 years awaiting appeals and other delays that prevent a speedier process. Granted, there are safeguards in place that are supposed to ensure that someone who is put to death is guilty as guilty gets, but these safeguards are expensive, costing sometimes millions of dollars per case. Furthermore, the criminal justice system, namely court rooms mistakes and misconducts, land an unknown percentage of people in jail or prison who are innocent. With innocent people being exonerated from death row, it makes you realize that even with safeguards in place there will still be error that executes innocent people: the greatest miscarriage of justice.

If only there was a better way one may ask. I for one think that “rotting” in prison for the rest of your life is quite inhumane, so it might be better to just remove this particular person from society fatally if they deserved it. However, and as cited above, there a number of problems with having a system that does execute people. More innocent people would end up on death row if there wasn’t enough litigation behind it. Overall, the death penalty is an ineffective means of preventing crime, and there are just too many nuisances that do not make it a good system. The death penalty is a lose-lose no matter how you critique it. Our judicial system is intentionally cumbersome so people do not get unjustly punished, but there is an irony in this that creates a multitude of its own issues as well.

 

 

A question of life or death.

Death Penalty

In chapter 16 the book discussed people’s differing opinions on the death penalty. It was decided that the death penalty would have been too harsh and that the jury would not have been able to sentence Frediani to death simply based on the evidence presented. Although Heilig did not agree and she thought that yes Frediani deserved to die because of what he did to Helena. I wanted to know more about the death penalty in the United States and if most people agreed with Heilig’s mentality of an eye for an eye.

http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-death-penalty-deserves-the-death-penalty

I found this article that put the death penalty into a different perspective for me. Lincoln Caplan talks about how there have been “more than fourteen hundred executions in the United States”. This really puts into perspective how much the death penalty has been used throughout the years. Is this acceptable? He also goes into talking about the different ways that these people are killed and how many of these drugs have not been approved by the FDA. Also he says that 152 times people have been exonerated. Mistakes have been made and this has cost innocent people their lives.

I know that Frediani is guilty but what if he wasn’t? Is killing him because he killed Helena really a good punishment? Should the punishment always fit the crime? Before I read this article I completely agreed with Heilig, but after reading the article I have begun to rethink my stance on the death penalty.

Death Penalty

Would you defend a guilty man

In this chapter, we are now clear that Frediani is guilty. Some have their doubts about this reality, but the probability of his guilt is much higher than that of his innocence. This makes me wonder, if the defense attorney knows his or her client is guilty, do you think they lack morality in a sense that they are defending a guilty man. It is vague to me of what a defense lawyer really wants. Is it money or justice. It is likely that Frediani’s lawyer knew he was guilty via the evidence the prosecution presented. Does this make the lawyer any less of a person. Socially, would it be normal for people to assume that one trying to defend a convict is just as guilty. With this thought in mind, I feel hate and anger would be present toward that defense attorney.

Would you defend a guilty man

Who decides on death

Towards the end of this chapter it is said that there is difficulty in placing a burden on a jury and giving them the power to decided if a man lives or not. Obviously, this is true to some extent, but on the contrary it does sound extremely terrifying. If a mans life is placed inside the grasp of random people that are likely to have no knowledge on the defendant, this can be extremely controversial. I think that this should be the case on crimes where the prosecution is able to describe and analyze the crime so throughly that the jurors can almost paint the picture in their heads, but cases like Frediani, there was a good amount of vagueness in the obtained evidence, most of which the jury had no knowledge of. I think that placing someones life inside the hands of the uninformed results in an undeserved fate for the defendant

Who decides on death

Prosecution Frustration

on page 230, this conversation takes place between Laura, Vic and Frediani: “Then how come we have your DNA?” “As far as DNA evidence, oh, I’m sure you’ve got some DNA evidence that probably points to me. Where you got it, how you got it, that’s a whole different matter. I’ve been in your custody for a long time.” “Why would we want to plant evidence?” Clearly these prosecutors are trying to get a confession out of him in a tactic that seems to be duress. Frediani remains calm and shows no evidence of fear or nervousness. He claims that the obtained DNA at the scene was not directly pointing to him for the crime. I feel that sometimes, if the prosecution is biased against the defendant, they may try and squeeze out a vague and false confession just to put him away. Is this type of aggression during interrogations fair.

Prosecution Frustration

Is it Good, or Unfair

On Page 216 it say “lt was good for us that Frediani knew nothing about our investigations,” said Laura Heilig. This makes me wonder, why is it good that Frediani does not know anything about the investigations, given his current mental state and his plea, what would him having knowledge on every step the prosecution took to convict him have to do with the chance of conviction. This makes me think that if she had said that then there is a possibility that some strings were pulled illegally. In one of my posts I had elaborated on the fact that Frediani was guilty before proven innocent. Do you think that it is fair for the police or prosecution members to obtain evidence in a snake like way, just to see a man that hasn’t been proven guilty yet put away for life.

Is it Good, or Unfair

Frediani’s Demeanor

When Frediani was first questioned and trialed for the sexual assault of Helena Greenwood, he was described as having these intense change of emotions. He would go from looking frantic to bored to nervous. It causes me to wonder how Frediani uses his emotions against the jury, does he manipulate them? Another instance of his changing demeanor:

“Laura and Vic were trying every tactic the could; cajoling, riling, persuading, threatening. But Frediani did not break… Frediani barely raised an eyebrow” (Weinberg 230)

In this point in time, I see why it would be convenient for Frediani to keep his cool without a presence of a lawyer, especially as an established white-collar worker. But why did he make no move to defend himself? Why does he possess so much confidence when the odds are stacked against him? His actions tie into our class discussion on anti-social personality disorder and bipolar personality disorder.

Frediani’s Demeanor

Irony

In Chapter 16, Weinberg takes a trip to visit Helena’s father, Sydney Greenwood. During her visit, Sydney recounts many memories of his life as a young man, and of Helena’s life. He prided on her accomplishments, and when speaking on her life and murder said:

“Her killer took her life, but he did not silence her. It has taken fifteen years, but I know Helena has spoken from the grave to indict her killer” (244)

This passage gave me chills because it acknowledges the irony of Helena’s career and its connection to her death. Helena had studied the versatility of DNA, and it is ironic to see what a large part it plays in her murder case. Would she be proud of the advancements of her field even though she was a clear sacrifice for its progression? It is grim subject, but I cannot help but wonder.

Irony

Risks of Genetic Testing

While Chapter 16 discussed issues involving the verdict of the case, there was heavy discussion on the importance and advancements of DNA. Particularly involving the Human Genome Project and the ability to genetically identify individuals characteristics, traits, and diseases based on their genome and genetic sequence. In regard to these ideas, there was talk of inappropriate reasons for genetic testing such as genetic engineering if children, and aborting fetuses due to unhappiness with traits that are expressed by fetuses. I thought this was very interesting however, with such a new advancement Weinberg never touched upon the risks of genetic testing. She stated that individuals terminate pregnancies due to unwanted characteristics in the fetus however, can genetic testing also cause that unwanted characteristic? Are there risks? Below is a link from the NIH listing the risks of genetic testing. While it suggests that risks are low due to only using blood samples or cheek swabs, there is severe risk of harming the baby and causing disabilities when doing prenatal testing such as amniocentesis. Thus, it is also important to look at the risks of doing such procedures before looking at the strengths immediately for such a new advancement.

https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/testing/riskslimitations

Risks of Genetic Testing

Psychopathology

One of the main topics in our discussions this week has been about Frediani’s mental health. The question of whether Frediani has a personality disorder or if he simply enjoyed the thrill of molesting women and murder has been a conversation covered in class. I am currently taking psychopathology and we have learned about many disorders people suffer from. Shockingly enough, a large percentage of americans suffer from at least one disorder throughout their life time. The most prevalent ones are depression and substance abuse. For Frediani’s case, as a class we hypothesized that he may have borderline personality disorder or antisocial disorder. However, the book never discusses this possibility. The DMS-5 classifies borderline personality disorder to have multiple checklist criteria that must be present in order for someone to be diagnosed. However, a person does not have to exhibit all the behaviors to be diagnosed. Based on the criteria for borderline personality disorder, I believe Frediani may suffer from this disorder rather than antisocial disorder.

  1. a pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  2. inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights)
  3. affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)

Criteria Source

Frediani is constantly in and out of romantic relationships through out the book. I swear every chapter he has a new woman. He is always sweet and generous in the beginning of each relationship but than somehow turns into a very aggressive man later in the relationship. He always devalues the women hes with by calling them ugly names and pining them down to scream that them. It always ends unhealthy.

Psychopathology

Capital Punishment in the United States

“That in the event of guilty verdict, a jury would not pursue the death penalty (for Frediani). In the California courts death penalty cases are treated almost as twin trials; only after a guilty verdict in the central murder case would the jury then consider the death penalty, and this would be almost like a trial in itself.” – Weinberg (p. 236)

This quote incited curiosity into the history of capital punishment and how it is regulated  in the United States. Capital punishment is a sentence carried out which finds anyway guilty in the process to be executed. Crime museum state that, “in the United States, the death penalty is primarily reserved for people who have been convicted of murder or other capital offenses. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that capital punishment is neither unconstitutional nor “cruel and unusual punishment,” and exists within the boundaries of the 8th and 14th amendments. There are some instances in which capital punishment has been approved for individuals who have raped or sexually assaulted minors in some way. “.Since the United States still implement the death penalty on criminal offenders, it is pertinent to ensure that no innocent persons are wrongfully sentenced to death. 

An organization of team member called the Innocence Project work towards protecting those who are wrongfully convicted of crimes and sentenced to death row. Through the use of biotechnology in the form of DNA testing, the Innocence Project has successfully exonerated eighteen people. These exonerated individuals were eventually found not guilt and set free by the judicial system. What helped the organization to do this is through DNA testing. By taking samples of the convicted individuals and the DNA samples from the crime scene, scientist were able to conclude inconsistencies in the DNA match. This is found by analyzing the DNA banding patterns apparent when running these DNA samples against each other. With the addition of eye witness testimony, alibis, and this crucial DNA analysis the Innocence Project were able to overturn the sentence of capital punishment and free innocent people from jail.

Capital punishment has become a huge issue in today’s world. The moral issue of taking another person’s life for the crimes they have committed is something that is heavily debated. And even though it is carried out throughout the world today, there needs to be assurance that innocent individuals do not suffer because their justice system has failed them.

Interesting News and Media

http://www.abc15.com/news/crime/death-row-diary-the-arizona-executions-of-the-lagrand-brothers-causes-international-stir

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nd-2LC097w

http://www.brainjet.com/random/9553/15-real-death-row-requests-that-will-send-a-chill-down-your-spine#page=1

References:

http://www.innocenceproject.org/free-innocent

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/history-death-penalty

http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5420

http://crimemuseum.org

Capital Punishment in the United States

Power of DNA

“…Now the whole world knows the power of DNA. The trouble is that in the courtroom, there’s always going to be some people saying one thing and some people saying another. The jury’s job is to look at the people and figure out who is lying. Now these molecules have made their job much easier, because they don’t have the capability to lie. – Weinberg, pg 263

It is not a secret that crimes are more easily solved when there is DNA evidence supporting the case. If no DNA is found, then the crime can become a much slower process. Nevertheless, even if DNA is found, the person’s whose DNA was found will still try to defend themselves (unless in the case that they give up). So, there will always two groups saying something different things. DNA cannot lie, it is there and it has an owner. People however can still get away with murder if there DNA is found. How is that so? There has been rare cases where the DNA is there, and we all know it doesn’t lie and people get away with it. Of course, the lawyer must have done a great job. However, if people’s words can win over DNA, how powerful is it actually? In my opinion it insanely powerful, but people should not be confident they will win a case if the DNA is found, because the jury can still be convinced with the other team’s words.

 

Power of DNA

DNA Backlogs

Chapter 14 references the movement of DNA samples from police to genetic crime labs, highlighting the process by which DNA can be identified in limited amounts for probably suspects. However, this process of DNA analysis is very time consuming, and does not immediately produce results. The main issue with this is backlog, where DNA crime labs have an enormous amount of DNA samples from a multitude of cases, forcing some cases to be stalled as the experiments for the analysis are delayed, or not even started. This can be a very serious issue, as most of these samples are involved in sexual assault cases, but may not be analyzed due to the expanding list of samples to go through the protocols. This website gives a quick look at how police use DNA and how backlogs are a major issue at the present time. DNA Backlog

DNA Backlogs

Not All Investigations Were Created Equal

 

Lately in class we have been talking police cover-ups and planted DNA at crime scenes to convict certain individuals, which poses the question, how would someone manage to do this? Moreover, if authorities are in control of all of the evidence present in a case, what are the chances that the police decide “speed up” a case progression by planting evidence, or convicting the wrong person? I recently read an article about tactics police sometimes use called “coaxing”, which is a tactic that tries to force a confession out of person, guilty or not. This method was brought to the public’s eyes after Stephen Avery (Netflix series Making A Murderer) was wrongfully convicted of a crime he never commit. Aside from disregarding some potentially case changing evidence that would have cleared Avery’s name, they forced his cousin into a confession without the presence of council. Unlike something like a murder, planting evidence usually doesn’t leave behind any traces of and is probably most unexpected thing a prosecutor/detective would be looking for. With our sophisticated methods of analyzing DNA and matching it to people, it would be extremely hard for a jury to believe something that the DNA evidence doesn’t directly point to, especially in a case like Helena’s where DNA evidence and 1 measly fingerprint were the only tangible evidence against Frediani. In this decade we have seen hundreds of overturned cases and people exonerated of their crimes because of the incredible technology we have at our disposal. However, sometimes I believe that too much faith is put into our justice system, and certain unfortunate individuals are caught in “wrong place, wrong time” moments and find themselves staring at life in prison for a crime they didn’t commit.

Not All Investigations Were Created Equal

Betting on DNA

“Only a one in 37 million chance of having caught the wrong guy seemed to the police a safe bet.  The problem is that Raymond Easton’s chance of being innocent was not one in 37 million – but only one in thirty-seven.” (Weinberg, 219)

I think this quote displays how the results of DNA can differ greatly depending on what you are looking for.  In the burglary case involving Raymond Easton that was briefly mentioned, police believed they had a solid match for the DNA found at the crime scene.  The tests they ran matched Easton completely, giving them a 1 in 37 million chance that they had the wrong guy.  But, Easton would not admit to the crime.  He was an old man, living much too far away from the crime scene and suffering from Parkinson’s disease.  He could barely get out of his wheelchair, much less drive hundreds of miles to commit a robbery.  The odds the police had the wrong man were actually much, much smaller than they had originally anticipated.  The six loci that were tested did not give the police a 1 in 37 million chance like they had believed, but a 1 in 37 chance.  The original DNA tested had led them to the wrong man, leading me to believe that DNA might not be as concrete a form of evidence as people are led to believe.

Quote

Planted DNA

In Chapter 15 of Pointing From the Grave, Frediani is arrested for the murder of Helena. They bring him in for questioning, and that is when he is told that they found his DNA on Helena’s  body. Regarding the DNA evidence, Frediani says,

 

“As for the DNA evidence, oh, I’m sure you’ve got some DNA evidence that probably points to me. Where you got it, how you got it, that’s a whole different matter” (Weinberg p.230).

Frediani is trying to imply that the DNA evidence that was found at the scene of the crime on Helena’s body was planted. I started to brainstorm and I wanted to know a little bit more about planted evidence. I found an article in the New York Times that I thought was interesting. It takes planting DNA to a whole new level, and describes how DNA can be fabricated, and a crime scene can practically “be built”. Check it out its pretty cool and the link is below.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/18/science/18dna.html?_r=0

 

 

Planted DNA

Bias in Forensic Science

” I said something along the lines of, ‘This looks very promising, but for it to be used in court, we have to pass the Frye standard.’ I outlined the possible weaknesses, as I saw them; validation of the statistics, standards for matches, all the things that seemed pretty apparent to us. I thought I had given a nice talk about what would have to be done, when this woman from the Orange County crime lab stood up and said, ‘This kind of talk is dangerous. You shouldn’t be saying these kinds of things in public. Defense lawyers might find out about this and use it’ ” -Weinberg 192

I think that this attitude from forensic scientists says a lot. Firstly, I think that it shows the bias that at the time forensic scientists had towards defendants in general: they strove to prove them guilty. This statement from this woman shows that she and forensic scientists as a community were most likely to be on the side of the prosecution. This is even proven after Weinberg points out that the DNA testing was never done blind, and so forensic scientists were basically giving their own personal verdicts to the prosecution and courts.

This attitude is very alarming to me personally, because I consider myself a scientist also. It worries me to think that other scientists would inject their own opinions and biases into evidence and use science as a means to an end. For me, science and the discovery of new things should come from and be used as a way to make everyone’s lives easier and more efficient, not to meet one’s own personal agenda. It is also alarming to think that these labs and the courts were not monitoring the DNA testing, so that it would be blind. Weinberg even mentions that a scientist who studied the DNA of birds could’t even imagine doing her experiments unblinded. If birds are monitored so closely, why weren’t humans? Are they not more important and aren’t the implications more drastic? I feel as though this situation was almost a breach of ethics.

Bias in Forensic Science

Shying Away from Capital Punishment

In Chapter 15, the idea that Frediani’s case may be a death penalty case arose. Death penalty cases are controversial, and in 2000 when this case was being tried, the law in California surrounding cases of capital punishment was different than it is today. But they sentence from this chapter that caught my attention was

“Bartick was confident that he had a better than evens chance of persuading the jury of Paul’s redeeming characteristics–in the event that he was found guilty of murder” (Weinberg, 236).

I didn’t realize death sentences were given a separate trial from the original murder trials. This explains why character references may play such a strong part in the sentences. California has not sentenced a prisoner to execution since 2006 so the laws have changed since this trial. However, in 2003 the New York Times wrote an article about jurors sparing the lives of prisoners in exchange for life without parole. The article claims one of the main contributors to this change was an increase in defense attorneys convincing jurors the lives of their clients are worth saving. This is definitely what Bartick was planning to do with Frediani if he was found guilty of murder.

http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/sentencing-news-and-developments-2003-2001

Shying Away from Capital Punishment

Evidence Planting

“Why would we want to plant evidence?”

“To close the case.” -(Weinberg 230)

While reading this chapter of Pointing From the Grave, Frediani’s interrogation by the police struck me.  When asked why they would have his DNA, Paul claimed that the police must have planted evidence against him.  Based off what I know about Paul and the case so far from the book, I do not think the officers involved with Frediani’s crimes framed him at all, but hearing about this type of tampering got me curious.  After a quick google search on evidence planting, I found this article  .  The article does a good job explaining how it is very much unclear how often evidence is planted by cops.  There are no agencies run by the government that look out for and track this type of injustice and it seems the only way people get caught is in the act itself.  The New York City example from 2008 is fascinating based off of the guilty officer’s quote.  He went on to testify that nothing will happen to the wrongly convicted, although he is being completely blind to the fact that these people he planted evidence on will have records of drug possession.  Besides trying to meet an arrest quota, like the New York cop, some officers plant evidence for personal and vengeful reasons.  The article mentions how a police sergeant planted meth in his ex wife’s car as an attempt to win custody of their kids.  How can these types of evidence planting be stopped?  Should there be more agencies that look into and monitor these falsehoods, or should policemen have no quotas and less pressure to meet a certain number of arrests?

 

Evidence Planting

Warrants

In chapter 15 of Pointing from the Grave Frediani is re arrested after ten years for the murder of Helena Greenwood. This is done when detective Laura Heilig obtains a warrant for his arrest. This made me curious about how warrants work. I learned that in addition to the standard search warrant that I was already familiar with, there is also a bench warrant and several different warrants which can be issued for finical reasons. I learned that “A bench warrant is initiated by and issued from the bench or court directing a law enforcement officer to bring a specified person before the court” (Dictionary definition). I found the bench warrant the most interesting because that can be issued in the middle of a trail and people can be taken into court which I found very interesting. Overall the link below was very helpful in learning more about warrants, check it out.

Legal Dictionary Definition: Warrant

Warrants

It’s In His Genes

“Paul Frediani’s parents believed their son when he said he was innocent. To do otherwise would be to question their role as parents, the values they has instilled in their eldest son, the genes they had passed on to him.”
-Weinberg, 234

How much of blame should Frediani’s parents be assigned for his situation? Personally, I feel none. There was no distinct lack of nurture or extreme abuse of Frediani as a child that should have caused this situation.

The genes, however, may have some effect on Fredinani’s criminal record. Earlier in the semester we spoke about a gene that makes people more likely to be violent or have extreme emotional reactions to common occurrences. Based on the accounts from his ex-lovers, in which Frediani was painted as an emotional wreck and a hazard to the women’s safety, he could be exposed to the same genetic mutation. Is it possible that Frediani is just a victim of his genes?

 

I don’t believe so, because in the same video that explained the violent gene we saw an innocent, calm, and gentle family where each member had the gene. The family was in control of their own actions and not harming anyone.

Therefore, if anyone is to blame, it is not his parents, his upbringing, or his genes: it is just him.

It’s In His Genes

Kuwait DNA Database

“The UK has always been at the forefront of forensic DNA research, he states quietly , “and we still are” (Chapter 14 ,page 220)

Chapter 14 of Pointing from the Grave mentions how the United Kingdom has always been leading in DNA research and holds a database for a select number of UK individuals. The database is very helpful for solving crimes and the database will continue to grow. I researched about DNA databases and find out that Kuwait is creating a mandatory DNA database. A huge islamic led suicide bombing hit Kuwait city a year ago and government officials believe that a DNA database will make it easier for arrests. It will only deb used for criminal security cases.  All Kuwaiti citizens and visitors will be asked to submit their DNA. “Any person who refuses to submit to the DNA tests and data mining operation will be subject to $33,000 in fines and up to one year in prison. Any person who provides a fake sample will face up to seven years.”

kuwait dna

Works Cited: Website

Kuwait DNA Database

Steven Avery

 

“‘We already knew that there had to be innocent people in jail and that their innocence could be proved through DNA,’ says Scheck [the director of the Innocence Project].” – Weinberg, p198

In chapter 13 of Pointing from the Grave, Weinberg discusses The Innocence Project, an organization founded for the purpose of exonerating those who had been wrongfully convicted of crimes. One of the most famous cases the Innocence Project had worked on was that of Steven Avery, the subject of Netflix’s hit documentary Making a Murderer. According to the Innocence Project’s website, in July 1985, a woman named Penny Beernsten was brutally raped in a wooded area while she was out for a jog. In court, Beernsten gave an eyewitness testimony and named Avery as her attacker. Despite 16 alibi witnesses and a recipe which put Avery over 45 miles away from the attack an hour after it happened, Avery was convicted on the testimony alone. He served 18 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him and helped to catch the real attacker, a man named Gregory Allen.

As Scheck states in this chapter, I believe the Innocence Project has the capability to prove the innocence of dozens of convicted people, if their cases and DNA evidence could be reopened.

 

Steven Avery

Planting to Wrap Up

“”Why would we want to plant evidence?, ‘to close the case””(Weinberg, 230)

In chapter 15 of Pointing from beyond the grave, Frediani is finally arrested after a decade after the murder of Helena Greenwood. He was brought into the station and was as expected interviewed. One of the parts that caught my eye was the remark that maybe DNA evidence was planted by the police to try to wrap up a grueling case. Is there any instance of where police plant evidence to get a case closed or for other reasons. According to multiple sources like Atlas Obscura, Police have been known to plant things such as drugs, or guns to get names, info, and so on. This really makes me think that maybe something was planted in this case along the way

Planting to Wrap Up

DNA and Innocence

“For every case in which the criminal justice systems of the world has been proven  – primarily through the agency of DNA – to be too eager to convict the innocent, there are multiple examples of guilty people slipping through their nets and escaping punishment” -Weinberg, pg 201

It has been a great topic of controversy whether people should go to jail if their fingerprint is found in the place where the murder happened or if the person that was murdered had the DNA of someone else. However, the Innocent project tries to calm down convictions so that people that could be innocent do not go to jail. In my opinion, someone who goes to jail only in the basis of DNA should not be found guilty. So the Innocent project makes a lot of sense, because it is not fair for people to convicted in a crime with only one compromising evidence. Therefore, it is important that they do not act with eagerness.

DNA and Innocence

The Innocence Project

“The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.” (The Innocence Project Mission Statement)

In Chapter 13, Weinberg talks about the innocence project, whose purpose is to exonerate falsely convicted people of crimes they did not commit. But just how effective and successful is the innocence project? As of March 17th, 2016 there have been 337 DNA exonerations led by the innocence project. However, almost half of those cases become cold cases again, after exoneration, because only 166 of the 337 cases have successfully found the correct perpetrators; the rest of the cases let the innocent person free but have yet to find the true guilty party. The innocence project says that the leading causes of wrongful conviction were: eyewitness misidentification, unvalidated or improper forensic science, false confessions and incriminating statements, and informants.

Other interesting facts about the cases the innocence project takes on were…

• The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 37 states; since 2000, there have been 263 exonerations.

• 20 of the 337 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row. Another 16 were charged with capital crimes but not sentenced to death.

• The average length of time served by exonerees is 14 years. The total number of years served is approximately 4,606.

• The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 26.5.

– See more at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/free-innocent/improve-the-law/fact-sheets/dna-exonerations-nationwide#sthash.GMTgnMoV.dpuf

The Innocence Project

Freudian’s eye surgery

“‘How long after you had surgery on April, 5, 1984, was it before you drove a motor car at night?’

‘It was quite a while. The vision at night was really bad…bright headlights would be excruciatingly painful and I avoided that.’

-Weinberg, 168

When Mr. Frediani was question by Murray, he was asked about the eye surgery he had received. The days following his surgery, Frediani admitted to driving during the daytime with sun glasses on, however, denied driving at night because of how painful and difficult it would’ve been. I looked online and a lot of different sources said to avoid driving at night, even to cover eyes during sleep so to protect eyes from light. I know from personal experience, the last thing you want after an eye surgery is to have a light shown into your eye, especially a headlight. The doctor will usually give patients very dark colored sunglasses to protect the eyes during recovery. I want to know why this didn’t play a bigger role in Frediani’s case. To me, that seems reliable enough to remove Frediani from the scene of the crime. This also made me wonder about how many people are proven innocent in court due to a health reason or recent surgery.

Freudian’s eye surgery

DNA or Not

In this chapter there were ideas contemplating whether or not DNA should be admissible in court. This reasoning is based off the notion that prosecution teams and juries filled with average citizens are likely to know minimal information when it comes to DNA and DNA testing. I do not think it is fair that the prosecution and jury are expected to blindly accept information that they know close to nothing about, I think that this can lead to many false convictions and acquisitions and that is not fair to an innocent defendant. Yes it does help with many convictions but I think that the risk here outweighs the reward, there is always a chance of false conviction, do you think an innocent mans life is worth the continuation of DNA use in court

DNA or Not

Less Sentence Because of Plea or No Plea Taken

In this chapter Frediani changed his plea from not guilty to no contest. Do you think that he had done this because he feels guilty or for the reason that he would simply like a less severe punishment. This makes me think of the large amount of deals the prosecution can make with the defense, all around similar reason. This also makes me think is it smart to release a convicted felon three years earlier because of a plea bargain? In some cases of misdemeanors and petty crimes yes that is agreeable but for felons like frediani, do you think it is the best option to release someone convicted of rape and assault because he “pleaded guilty”.

Less Sentence Because of Plea or No Plea Taken

O.J. Simpson: Accurately Portrayed?

“Once the trial started, the world, the world watched transfixed as week after week, month after month, some eminent DNA expert or another sat on the witness stand, exploring the intimate details of a tiny molecule in a microscope in microscopic detail.”- Weinberg, page 202

Chapter 13 looks into the trial of O.J. Simpson. This case was momentous for many reasons: O.J.’s fame, the fortune he used to defend himself, and the seemingly incriminating DNA evidence all played a part in an event that grew from a simple court case into a nationwide media extravaganza. The media played a large part in people’s perceptions of O.J., and made it tough for the jury and the public to stay unbiased while the trial proceeded. Recently, this trial has come back into the public scene with the tv series The People V. O.J. Simpson. Does this show accurately portray the case of O.J., or is the story of the case dramatized in order to make it seem more interesting than it actually is? In film, one often has to consolidate facts and events in order to make things fit into a certain time-slot. This may have impacted how true to the original the characters and events in the show were. Either way, people should keep in mind that the show is fiction and not completely factual when they are watching, or else they may get the wrong idea about the trial

O.J. Simpson: Accurately Portrayed?

Using DNA

“DNA evidence must always be looked at in the context of the evidence that has to be analyzed. It is an aid, not a substitute for police work.” -Weinberg, pg. 221

I think this quote from the British forensic scientist answers a lot of questions we’ve discussed in class, most importantly whether or not it was just to convict someone on DNA evidence alone. Even though it can point to a single person out of thousands or millions, DNA is still just a type of evidence. It can certainly help build a strong case against a suspect, but it’s important that those working in the justice system acknowledge that DNA is only a piece.
Say DNA is found at the scene of a crime, and it’s a perfect match for a prime suspect. A DNA match shouldn’t automatically call for a conviction; if the suspect has a solid alibi, they shouldn’t be convicted for that crime, despite what the DNA says.

Using DNA

OJ Simpson vs. DNA

“Pre-O. J., few people had ever heard of DNA; the trial changed all that; to this day, in the US at least, its three initials are inextricably linked to Simpson’s two.”- (Weinberg 202)

Few cases have ever garnered so much media attention at once. However, the OJ Simpson case was one of those few cases that become a media sensation. DNA was a piece of evidence rarely used in court before however, due to the magnitude of the case it was essential. It appeared in the text that the DNA used in court was tampered with and switched leading to believe that Mr. Simpson did not commit the crime. Recently I saw the ESPN 30 for 30 on the Duke lacrosse scandal. The documentary pointed out the prosecution running his own DNA test and thus tampering with the results leading to believe that the lacrosse players committed the crime. Eventually all players were found innocent and prosecutor was disbarred. Both these high profile cases illustrate the issues with DNA testing. Once brought up in court it is very hard to argue DNA tests even if in the end they are wrong. This brings up the issue of the negatives of DNA testing and how science can easily be manipulated.

OJ Simpson vs. DNA

STRs

“I was 99 percent sure it was him,” says Laura Helig…But I had heard about this new technology, STRs…I knew they could give us results on really tiny samples (Weinberg 216).

This new form of analyzing DNA emerged in 1999 and was exactly what Helig needed to catch Helena Greenwood’s killer. Short Tandem Repeats could not only be used on small amounts of DNA but could also give specificity. This article goes into detail about STR testing. Essentially the labs like SERI that worked on Fredini’s DNA analyzed the 6-loci tandem repeats and they matched the DNA found under Helena’s fingernails, which had been stored in evidence since the attack, almost a decade earlier. STR analysis was able to use the small amount of very old DNA found under Helena’s fingernails and match it to Frediani’s DNA which was kept in a DOJ freezer because he was a sex offender. This was the beginning of databases like CODIS that emerged in 1998 to catch criminals even easier then with just STR.

STRs

What Evidence We Actually See

“‘I am a psychologist,’ Thompson says. ‘My research is on how people make judgements. And if I know one thing it is: what you expect to see and want to see influences what you do see, when you are looking at something ambiguous'” – Weinberg, p194

I thought this quote was extremely well put and really captures the essence of what I was thinking while reading about how the forensic scientists know exactly which sample comes from the victim, and which sample comes from the suspect. It is clear that if the forensic scientists know the information about the case it would be very hard for them to keep their biased opinion from playing a role in the results of their work. As I was reading this section of the chapter I was questioning why forensic scientists do not go into a case blind, similar to how a scientist who tests finch paternity goes into the experiment blind. I understand that the forensic scientists are considered part of the prosecution team, but I believe that in some cases scientist’s feelings and opinions would be very hard to keep separate from the case, and therefore must play a role in the results. Thompson referenced cases where questionable DNA results came out as matches, and I wondered to myself whether these were cases in which the scientists knowledge of the case impacted the results. I believe that scientists should have to look at the DNA and samples blind, without any knowledge of who the suspect or victim is, or any details about the case.

What Evidence We Actually See

Forensic Bias

In the book on page 193, Weinberg asks the question if it creates bias that the forensic scientists knew which samples came from the suspect and which came from the victim? This got me to thinking about why would  this be allowed? And then how could this effect the results without the scientists even meaning it to? I found an article that had a study done on forensic experts and what could be a factor in their ultimate conclusion. http://www.psmag.com/politics-and-law/biased-forensics-experts-82712

The article talked about how bias, time pressure and expectations could all be a factor. Many of the experts tended to focus on the information that was given them and when examining the bodies they looked for details that would support what they already knew. This is human nature to assume what we already know is correct. It is hard to figure out what we don’t know yet. The study also says that there is a “movement underway” that will hopefully establish some guidelines to erase a lot of the bias that is present in many of these cases.

This connects back to the question in the book because it does create bias that the forensic scientists knew which samples came from which person. They would then be looking for evidence to confirm what they thought was correct instead of looking for new answers.

Forensic Bias

Double personality

Eileen remembers his ugly temper, and also his emotional romantic side. “He has two personalities,” she said, “Just like a Jekyll and Hyde. He even looked different when he was in a rage, his nostrils flaring, these wild eyes, this rage…”- Weinberg, page 185

This description of his other girlfriend makes it seem like he had a double personality. Like even his eyes changed and it looked like he was a different person. Normally, when people get angry they say stuff that they don’t mean. However, this seems to be someone who could have a double personality. If not, he may have anger management issues that he should be treated for. After everything he went through in the trial and having abused of his girlfriends by treating the horribly, he should try to get treatment for it. Maybe the description for double personality may be too much, but controlling his anger could be his problem.

Double personality

Is what you see what you get?

“In the forensic world, the people who are doing the interpretation are, in most cases, considered part of the prosecution team; they meet with the detectives, they know the particulars of the case, often they have strong expectations of what they are going to see…’I am a psychologist,’ Thompson says. ‘My research [says]…what you expect to see and want to see influences what you do see…” -Weinberg, 194

Since forensic scientists are working with the organic evidence and DNA of a case, they should be objective members of the prosecution team. They work directly with the only true links to a crime scene and should be examining the evidence without a personal agenda. However, since they are given all of the information of the case, and are usually hired by the defense or prosecutor to prove that particular side’s case, it becomes difficult to not become personally invested in the research.

William Thompson points out that what a person expects and wants to see will affect how they see what is in front of them. So if a scientist, believing that the accused is guilty, sees an ambiguous analysis or interpretation of evidence, it is possible that they will see a link to the crime. Weinberg gives the example of the scientist who found DNA that could only possibly match the suspect, but insisted that it matched because of there circumstances in which the investigators found the evidence.

This problematic form of scientific analysis poisons the justice system, and gives objective, true evidence the potential to be unreliable.

Is what you see what you get?

Investment Blinds Reality

After reading Chapter 14 of Pointing from the Grave, the Laura Heilig was introduced as she described how she would go through the files of sexual assault cases. One thing that was very interesting was the fact that she stated she was always very invested in the cases and knew every detail down to eye color or the names of their brothers and sisters. I found this very interesting because it brings up the question of when knowing too much information is going too far. Essentially, as a part of Laura’s job, it is important to know the details of the case; however, there is a point when someone can become too invested. According to principles of cognitive psychology, when this investment occurs at an extensive level, it is typical that the real facts or reality can be blinded – people ignore the obvious due to a concept called willful blindness. Essentially, people become so invested in an idea that they do not want to believe something that they think is wrong or could not be an option. Below is a link with a TED talk of the ideas laid out by principles of psychology. So after watching this, is it possible that Laura could be blinded by the facts if she gets too involved or did that aid in her discovery of Helena’s assailant? In the end of the chapter it is revealed that her assailant was matched, however, this is still an issue that is seen in many court cases that was interesting to see throughout this book. Thus, when does becoming invested hit the point of going too far?

https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/08/27/willful-blindness-margaret-heffernan/

Investment Blinds Reality

A New Life?

Frediani’s post-jail life is highlighted in Chapter 12. It seems as though he is off to a typical, clean life in the beginning of the chapter. He starts at lower, entry-level jobs post-bail but soon manages to make it into the white-collar world. I wonder why Frediani was able to succeed so well after three years in prison, when so many struggle with issues such as homelessness, unemployment, and drug/substance abuse. What mentality did Frediani have that made him succeed? How was he able to pursue an MBA? It makes you think that maybe he was innocent because he was so willing to make a 360 right out of jail. However, when discussions of his anger started to arise later in the chapter, it confirmed (in my mind) that Frediani must have been guilty on some account. His temperament issues might be the switch that makes him commit crimes.

A New Life?

Jekyll and Hyde: Multiple Personalities

This would last for days; periods of silence and coldness, followed by accusations and recriminations. Eileen remembers his ugly temper, and also his emotional, romantic side. “He has two personalities,” she said, “just like a Jekyll and Hyde. He even looked different when he was in a rage, his nostrils flaring, these wild eyes this rage…” (Weinberg 185)

Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome, Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD), Schizophrenia, or even alcoholism can trigger somebody into believing that he or she is a different person at certain points in their day, week, month, or years. The most severe of these disorders is multiple personality disorder, in which a person displays two or more distinct identities, they themselves become a completely different person at certain points; not to be confused with schizophrenia where someone has difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imaginary. However, in the way that MPD causes complete changes in someones personality, schizophrenia is often thought of as having a “split mind” or multiple minds in your head, instead of becoming a different person, it is like you have many people or “voices” talking to each other. Possibly the more terrifying is schizophrenia because, unlike MPD, you can lose touch with reality by not knowing what part of those “voices” in your head are telling the truth, so to speak. Additionally, MPD is often associated with “amnesia”, or not remembering an MPD episode, while still unnerving, the person suffering from MPD may not even realize they’ve had an episode.

http://www.humanillnesses.com/original/Men-Os/Multiple-Personality-Disorder-Dissociative-Identity-Disorder.html

Jekyll and Hyde: Multiple Personalities

The bigger picture behind innocence

“By the beginning of April 2002, that number stood at 104—104 people who had spent an average of a decade in prison for a crime they did not commit” (Weinberg 201).

The Innocence Project is potentially one of the most admiral entities in the entire criminal justice system because of its reformatory nature. We see prisons as a way of putting away society’s worst people, but we often do not think that completely innocent individuals can end up there. Moreover, the commonality in hearing a convict saying “Oh, well I didn’t do it” may blind us from the reality and actuality of those who are in fact wrongfully accused and convicted. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be convicted of a crime that I so desperately knew I did not commit.

Justice should always be served, but we must realize that our legal system is very vulnerable to arbitrary tendencies that can discriminate and fault our society. This is not to say that the criminal justice system is not aimed at pledging and giving justice for all, but it is far from a perfect system. The Innocence Project is just one part of a greater reform movement for criminal justice that is duly needed in our modern era. Our overall prison population is too high; too many people are discriminated against from bottom to the top, arrest to conviction. Stigmatization of criminal history bars too many people from obtaining jobs, housing, educations, and supportive families. The 21st century is a new dawn of redefining our freedoms and liberties; we must redraw the line of how we define crime and more importantly how we treat it, for our reactions are our greatest predictors of results.

 

The bigger picture behind innocence

Fredriani, the Real Victim?

In chapter 12, we get a closer look at Fredriani’s personal life after the trial. He manages to find a decent paying job as a truck driver before working his way into corporate society again, reconcile with his family through Andrea, and find love again with Eileen. Despite the sting of fortunate events, ruin continues to follow Fredriani’s every step as he loses both of his new families. I feel the most important factor to consider is Fredriani’s tendency to repeat destructive habits in his relationships; it seems that his wild side always pops out after a certain length of time with a new flame. Andrea’s comments about his physical abuse and Eileen’s concerning his “two personalities” may hint towards a fractured psyche that the man may just be unable to control. Regardless of whether Fredriani killed Greenwood or not, the man is in clear need of psychological help, which would address his emotional stability and pathological drive to extremely passionate relationships.

Fredriani, the Real Victim?

Insanity

“Scared to death of him” – Weinberg (185)

Frediani has a tendency to get into relationships that end in catastrophe. My father’s interpretation of insanity is doing the exact same thing over and over and expecting different results. Frediani’s relationships usually end poorly, yet Frediani never seems to take a different approach. In my father’s eyes, Frediani would be insane.

Frediani’s relationships usually run smoothly at the beginning; he falls for this girl that he can envision himself marrying, then Frediani’s temper gets the best of him and the relationships go south. If you think about it, Frediani probably has no idea why this is happening. Just based off of the fact that all of his relationships go the same way, its fair to say that he is oblivious that he is the problem. If he has made girls feel “scared to death” on multiple occasions, how has he not realized he might be the problem?

Maybe because Frediani is insane. We all understand Frediani has some screws loose upstairs, but his insanity may be overlooked. No one in the right frame of mind would continue to get into questionable relationships that end in disaster without asking the question “am I the problem?” Frediani clearly isn’t in the right fram of mind, but its baffling that he never considers himself the issue.

Insanity

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Syndrome

“He is just like Jekyll and Hyde. He looked different when he was in rage, his nostrils flaring, these wild eyes, this rage…”-Weinberg (p. 185)

After reading Eileen’s comment of what she thought of her boyfriend’s attitude, I got interested in searching up some information on psychopathology. Science daily defines psychopathology as a term which refers to either the study of mental illness or mental distress or the manifestation of behaviors and experiences which may be indicative of mental illness or psychological impairment. David Frediani’s attitude and behavior would seem to be on polar ends. During an extended amount of time David would be display signs of happiness in his environment. He would be kind to Eileen’s daughter, show up to work, provide child support for his own children as well. However, David began showing signs of aggression, anger and rage when he comes into contact with a stimulus or trigger. An example that can cause this behavioral change could be if Andrea did not want her children to interact with their father David without reason.

The connection of David Frediani’s behavior and psychopathology is that there could be an underlying mental disorder. There could be a part where his brain could have structural malfunctions. An area that could be the cause within the brain is called the paralimbic system. Scientific American Mind, a media outlet, explains that the paralimbic system “includes several interconnected brain regions that register feelings and other sensations and assign emotional value to experiences. These brain regions also handle decision making, high-level reasoning, and impulse control.” Malfunctions within David Frediani’s paralimbic system could have caused him to not have control of his impulses and desires. Filled with anger and rage, David could be at a higher predisposition to behave violently against other people and possibly hurt them. Trying to extrapolate Eileen’s quote and David’s past it could very well be possible that David could have been involved in the murder of Helena Greenwood as well. Just think about it, David could have been filled with anger and decided to talk to Helena Greenwood to have her not testify in court. She would have not agreed and could have set David off to physically abuse her and eventually kill Helena.

 

Cool video on psychopaths:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wv91IVpLyBk

Resources:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/terms/psychopathology.htm

http://cicn.vanderbilt.edu/images/news/psycho.pdf

https://www.psychologytoday.com/basics/psychopathy

http://www.cassiopaea.com/cassiopaea/psychopath.htm

 

The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Syndrome

Jail, and then what?

Today in class we discussed Frediani’s behavior and life after he was released from prison, and how he completely turned around his life and got back on a productive and successful track. Now granted, this was over 20 years ago, so how hard would it be for someone like Frediani in 2016 get a job and follow a different road after a prison stint? All companies do some sort of background check on their employees, so getting a job would surely be a tough thing to do. Furthermore, imagine what kid of changes to society someone misses by spending a decade in prison? Smartphones, laptops, instagram, and so many other advancements are just some of the examples that former-prison inmates would need to adjust to once out of prison. Frediani only did a few years in prison and was a well-rounded citizen before his stint, so his release probably motivated him to get back the life he had. But for people who come from low-income backgrounds, and don’t have much experience in the workplace, do you think they are as lucky?

http://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/shorts/life-after-prison/

Here’s a quick video about a man who has spent over 30  years in prison– and he talks about his return to society.

Jail, and then what?

Explanation of PCR and Some Info about GMO’s

In Chapter 10, Weinberg writes about the discovery of the polymerase chain reaction, or the process used to duplicate DNA. While we talked a lot about it in class, I thought that some people still did not completely understand the process (myself included), so here is a post on Reddit which explains it well. In addition to that Reddit post, while I was researching I found many Q&A Reddit threads with scientists who were involved in GMO study. I felt that these threads were relevant to our discussion, since we talked about GMO’s in class earlier in the semester. The questions that the scientists are asked are very interesting and give a lot of insight into how these GMO companies function and understand their work. Here they are:

Monsato AMA

“Ask Me Anything About Transgenic (GMO) Crops!”

Explanation of PCR and Some Info about GMO’s

Lie to Me

The question of whether Andrea’s alibi is valid or a way to cover Frediani tracks has been a discussion within the book along with in our class. She was his sole supporter in the case and was pregnant by him with twins. We made a speculation that she wouldn’t want him going to jail because it would leave her by herself to raise them. The question than became if she was willing to lie in courts for him, committing a felony herself which would also put her in jail if she was found to be guilty of perjury.

The action of being about to tell if someones lying reminded me of a show I use to watch called “Lie to Me”. I loved this show because it was formulated off of real research showing commonalities people have when they are lying. The main character is the worlds leading deception expert who studies peoples faces and movements allowing him to tell when when a person is lying. He is able to solve murder, assault, missing persons cases etc. just by studying a witness or suspects facial expressions.

We all get have our own intuition of when we believe someone is lying. Either by what they are saying or by the way someone is acting. However, somethings that I remember from the show include the way a person reports a story. When the main character, Cal, was questioning people about what happened at a crime scene or in general case he would ask them to tell the story backwards. Interestingly enough, when people plan to tell a fabricated story, they only are able to tell it in the forward direction not backwards. Stumbling to put the pieces together backwards was a big indicator a fabricated stories. Another thing people tend to do when lying is the repeat the question in the answer and never use contractions. For example, when your parents ask you if you were out with the bad kids in school, a child replying “No I was not out with the bad kids from school”. For some reason, people believe that using more words when replying makes it seem like their statements are more valid. However, in reality, its a trigger to notice if someones trying to be deceiving.

Other than what we say, we also tend to show emotions in our face which the show called, micro expressions. Someone not keen these expressions wouldn’t be able to pick up on it because they are unconsciously expressed by the person. A person does not have to be lying in order to expresses these. We express emotions like surprise, sadness, happiness etc. even if we are not explicitly trying to.  Its like your co-worker telling you that he received the promotion that you were equally working towards. You express that you’re happy for them but your face might show contempt without you even realizing.

micro_expressions_tim_roth1

Image Source

 

 

Lie to Me

The Innocence Project

After reading this chapter I was really interested to learn more about the Innocence Project, so I looked to their website. Founded in 1992 at the Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University by Barry Schneck and Peter Neufeld, the Innocence Project looks to assist those who have been wrongfully convicted. As of 2016, more than 300 people in the US have been exonerated as a result of DNA testing, a portion of these individuals even serving time on death row. The average imprisonment time for these innocent individuals was 14 years. Clearly, this is not fair to them or their families. The overall goal of the project is to free the innocent who still remain in jail. Those who work for the project include attorneys and Cardozo students, as mentioned in Pointing From the Grave. Their studies show that more times than not, those who have been wrongfully convicted arise from systematic defects during the DNA testing process. The website also shows some current cases that the project is dealing with. For example, there is one man, Joseph Buffey, who was convicted in 2002 and was imprisoned as a result of assumed rape and robbery. Since then, Buffey has been freed from prison and the real perpetrator has been found, but that does not make up for the 13 years he spent behind bars. The website informs that he was convicted wrongfully on account of eyewitness misidentification. I think that the Innocence Project is a great cause for the innocent and their families, and I am curious to see whether or not it will somehow apply to Frediani in the future.

The Innocence Project

What Can We Use PCR For?

Chapter 11 of Pointing From the Grave discusses the development of PCR, and how it was extremely helpful in coming up with new ways to use DNA. In this chapter Weinberg quotes Kary Mullis and says,

“I can’t keep up with the things people are doing with PCR” and “PCR is the word processor of biochemistry” (Weinberg quoting Kary Mullis pg. 175).

These quotes made me begin questioning the different uses for PCR. I found an article that discusses how PCR can be used to diagnose genetic disease, conduct genetic fingerprinting, detect infections in the environment, develop personalized medicine, and take part in several other forms of research. Check it out it’s pretty interesting.

What Can We Use PCR For (CLICK HERE)

What Can We Use PCR For?

DNA Database and the Constitution

In this chapter, Frediani is required to submit a blood test before he is considered a “free man” (Weinberg, 180). The testing is necessary of him as a result of a new law that was established in 1988, stating that “convicted sexual assault offenders provide blood samples to the Department of Justice” (Weinberg, 109). This test is done mainly for future reference, as it makes it easier for future DNA analysis. I was interested to know more information about this law and the DNA database, and looked to Legal Match to better my knowledge. The website informed me that while DNA collection is currently mandatory in all states, 47 states require that DNA samples be taken from all convicted felons, some even from juvenile offenders. Since all suspects may be required to provide tests/samples depending on the state, ethics are brought into question. Some believe that DNA testing interferes with privacy. Blood samples, in particular, are often believed to be a bodily invasion of privacy.  Some argue that the DNA database is too easily accessible, and should be kept more private. It is especially a concern when dealing with juveniles, who can be tracked down by those with access to the DNA database. This issue brings up the question of whether or not DNA testing is a violation of the Constitution. The FBI’s Combined DNA Database System is a collection of all DNA samples across the 50 states, but some argue that it violates the Fourth Amendment, which states that unauthorized searches are prohibited. A person, guilty for crime or not, can be called into question simply because they have a sample of DNA in the database that is similar to the DNA found at a crime scene. 

DNA Database and the Constitution

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

“Eileen remembers his ugly temper, and also his emotional, romantic side. ‘He has two personalities,’ she said, ‘just like a Jekyll and Hyde. He even looked different when he was in a rage, his nostrils flaring, these wild eyes, this rage…'” -Weinberg, pg 185

I was very struck by Eileen’s comparison of Frediani and Jekyll and Hyde. The story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is one I’m pretty familiar with–an incredibly kind and well-meaning scientist who attempted to create a formula that would separate the evil and good inside men, only to have it turn him into a murderous (and in some adaptations of the story, lust-filled) monster. And it’s frightening how easy it is for readers to see the connection between Frediani and the Jekyll and Hyde, especially Hyde.
But there’s a major difference between Frediani’s fits of rage and Dr. Jekyll’s transformations in Mr. Hyde–Henry Jekyll has no control over the change, and as evidenced by the new name he assumes after the transformation, he becomes an entirely different person. No longer Dr. Jekyll. Only Edward Hyde. But Paul Frediani is always Paul Frediani, and as far as we know, he has nothing to excuse his temper and his violent outbursts. We know from the book that during the first assault trial, he was seeing a psychologist regularly; it’s unlikely he suffers from any kind of mental disorder, especially any kind that might encourage violence, or else the court psychologist would have made it known during the trial. And Frediani certainly can’t put the blame on a science experiment gone wrong. It seems the most likely explanation for his violence and short temper is that it’s simply a part of the man’s personality. Tell that to a jury, and it just might increase the likelihood they’ll see Frediani as the sort of person who’d commit a sexual assault, or a murder.

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Mullis and Erlich

In chapter 10, the controversy between Kary Mullis and Henry Erlich over the concept of PCR was described.  Kary Mullis apparently came up with the idea behind it all on his own but teamed up with Erlich to develop the concept.  However, they envisioned totally different futures for the new DNA testing.  Mullis worked tirelessly to develop what he knew would become a revolutionary system of testing DNA while Erlich and Cetus hardly paid him any mind.  But, once they saw the monetary potential of Mullis’ ideas, they jumped right aboard.  They rushed to publish the article on PCR before Mullis wanted it to be released, because they wanted to be the first ones to discover it and ultimately the first to make money off of it.  But, was Mullis really treated unfairly?  He eventually got the fame he wanted when he received a Nobel Prize for his work.  Cetus ended up making all the money off the technology, which was almost 300 million dollars, compared to the 10,000 dollar bonus they paid Mullis.  I think that when Mullis won the Nobel Prize, it was ultimately the scientific community confirming that he was the one who invented the concept of PCR and after that point he should have been compensated for all the money that Cetus made off of him.

Mullis and Erlich

Myopia and Hyperopia

In Chapter 11 of Pointing from the Grave, Ferdiani receives surgery on his eye because he does not have 20/20 vision. I became  intrigued by the eye and decided to research on  the two common vision conditions. The  two most common types of vision conditions are nearsightedness and farsightedness. Nearsightedness( myopia) is when close objects are seen clearly but objects further away appear blurred. This happens when the light that comes to the eye does not focus directly on the retina but instead goes in front of it. When someone with nearsightedness looks in a distance the objects are not focused. Farsightedness (hyperopia) occurs when distant objects are seen clearly and close objects are not able to come into proper focus. This happens when the eyeball is short or if the cornea is not curved properly.

anatomy-of-the-eye
http://www.larsoneyecenter.com/chicago/images/anatomy-of-the-eye.gif

Works Cited: http://www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/eye-and-vision-problems/glossary-of-eye-and-vision-conditions/hyperopia/myopia?sso=y

Myopia and Hyperopia

The Return to Violence

“He was two personalities'” Just like Jekyll of Hyde. He even looked different when he was in a rage, his nostrils flaring, these wild eyes, this strange…”(Eileen, 185).

One of the main characters of the book, suspect Paul Frediani, is not one to always be calm, cool and collected. Fighting legal battles and personal life, he can never seem to always stay in control, and have easily created anger outbursts, wether he wants to or not. Could it be in Frediani’s genetics to why he is easily angry? as we saw in class, there is a gene called the warrior gene, that when life goes certain ways, cna bring out into the light. according to the Daily mail, “German researchers asked more than 800 people to fill in a questionnaire designed to gauge how they handled anger.They also took a DNA test to determine which of three versions of a gene called DARPP-32 they were carrying.he gene affects levels of dopamine, a brain chemical linked to anger and aggression. Those with the ‘TT’ or ‘TC’ versions were significantly more angry than those with the ‘CC’ version, the journal Behavioural Brain Research will report.” So does Paul have the gene? or

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1176974/Keep-losing-temper-Blame-angry-gene.html#ixzz43CLoZZ1O

The Return to Violence

Nobel Prize Credit?

They continue to maintain that Henry Erlich’s work in making PCR into what is probably one of the most useful–and widely used– biochemical tools, the genetic equivalent of a photocopying machine, has been under-credited. But Mullis emphatically disagrees: ‘Henry Erlich? He was just the lucky person in the lab down the corridor who got to use PCR to amplify stuff’ – Weinberg, p157

I found this argument between Erlich and Mullis very interesting, mostly because I do not see how Erlich in any way would share in the Nobel Prize. Also, it seems to be a unique case to begin with because not many industry scientists receive Nobel Prizes. But regardless, I agree with Mullis solely getting the recognition. It is true that his company gave him the platform on which he needed to fully implement his idea, the “slow hunch” (Steven Johnson) was entirely his. In order for Mullis to find his eureka moment in that car that day, he needed to have a problem to solve and mull over in his head (which he did). Erlich’s contribution was patented fairly, as it was used directly to make money for his company.

Erlich developed PCR technology and made it practical, but he had no say or contribution to the actual theory or idea of what PCR was and how it worked. In Steven Johnson’s terms, he simply built off the platform. It would be like the fish who built its home on a coral reef taking credit for the reef, or the animal that feeds and thrives on the habitation surrounding the reef ecosystem, taking credit for its food being there to begin with, effectively sharing the credit with the polyp skeletons. The only action that is attributed to this feeding animal is that of eating and thriving. This is similar to Erlich, he took a base and built and thrived upon it.

 

Nobel Prize Credit?

A Plea of “No Contest”

“On May 18, 1989, David Paul Frediani changed his plea from “not guilty” to “no contest” to the burglary and sexual assault. It is essentially an admission of guilt, and carries a criminal record, but unlike a straight guilty plea, it cannot be used against the defendant in a subsequent civil action based on the same facts” -Weinberg, p180

I found this information about Frediani changing his plea extremely interesting. Firstly, I did not know that you could change your plea after you have already been found guilty by two separate juries. Secondly, it was very intriguing to learn that if you plead “no contest” you are basically admitting that you are guilty, but it lowers the consequences of that guilt. I wanted to learn more about the basics of a “no contest” plea so I read a question and answer forum on the Ohio State Bar Association website. From this website I learned more about how a “no contest” plea cannot be used against the defendant in future criminal proceedings. This website also stated that when a defendant pleads “no contest,” the judge still must find the defendant guilty or not guilty. This information about a “no contest” plea makes me question Frediani even further. Since be basically admitted to being guilty of a sexual assault, why should he be released from jail early for good behavior and not have this  case held against him if he is in fact guilty of sexually assaulting Helena? Especially since Frediani had a history of domestic violence and public indecency, it seems to me that a “no contest” plea is a way for people like Frediani to find loop holes in the system and escape the punishment that they deserve.

A Plea of “No Contest”

Tendencies of Perpetrators

“‘He once flew off because I did not butter the toast properly,’ Eileen claimed recently. ‘He started throwing everything. I was scared to death of him.'” -Weinberg, p185

In chapter 12 of Pointing From the Grave, Weinberg describes how Frediani, Helena’s supposed sexual assaulter, is extremely violent to yet another girlfriend. Frediani’s behavior towards his girlfriends is suspicious and consistent, leading me to wonder if these violence and underlying anger is a tendency of sexual assaulters and if so, what are other tendencies. The University of Michigan’s Sexual Assault Awareness website, describes typical tendencies of sexual assaulters. This page states that 99% of perpetrators are young adult males. These men tend to be very aggressive and impulsive and have a sense of “hypermasculinity,” or the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as physical strength and sexuality. Often times, they have access to consensual sex and are therefore raping for reasons other than their sexuality. It seems to me that Frediani displays a great deal of these tendencies.

Tendencies of Perpetrators

Life After Prison

While reading chapter 12, I was fascinated by how quickly Paul adjusted to life outside of jail.  It seemed in a matter of no time he had another corporate job, another girlfriend in Eileen, and had regained a sense of freedom in relationship with himself again.  This got me thinking about how prisoners in general feel when they first step foot outside of prison and how they fit back into the society they have not been a part of for years.  Paul was in jail for a  relatively short sentence, unlike Otis Johnson.       This link provides a short video detailing of what life is like for 69 year old Otis Johnson, who served 44 years in jail.  In Otis’s case, life evolved so much since he was incarcerated.  He thought people walking around on their phones were members if the CIA because that was the only use of headphones he could remember.  Based off the video, I would say it is impossible for Otis and other people who served long sentences to become fully accustom to a new life outside of jail, but, like Otis, they can still enjoy the fact that they are free and the fact that the past is the past.  Otis seems like he will always find new things in society that he doesn’t recognize, however he still is optimistic about his future of being free.

Life After Prison

Progress vs Protection

“But there are plenty of business knocking at the commercial labs’ doors, and there were compelling commercial incentives for each lab to keep its products and processes secret” -(Weinberg 178)

Each year science and scientific research has become more expensive. Now in order to keep a laboratory running one must have enough grant money to keep the investment afloat. DNA research and experimentation is one the businesses in which scientists seek to keep their products and processes a secret due to the competition in the market. If a labs DNA tests or processes came out then eventually that lab would shut down as another company would use that research to profit. Therefore it is a necessity for labs to keep their DNA results secret. However, on the other side it could halt or impede upon scientific progress. If new discoveries in DNA were kept secret due to a lab fearing of other companies using the research then does it stop the flow of ideas in science. It is a very tough question to answer and one option could be the government spending more money on biotechnology research or providing more subsidies for labs.

Progress vs Protection

20/20 Left Out

In this chapter it is mentioned that Frediani had gotten eye surgery in order to improve his overall sight. Do you think that if the jury had known this his punishment would have been less secure? even it wasn’t i’m sure they would have sent him to a different because the psychiatric evaluation would have been different. This component would have been a useful weapon in Frediani’s arsenal, why do you think that this piece was left out during the trial. This makes me think about other trials where key pieces of information is left out. If this is common in our lawful world do you think that convictions and sentencing are less definite than we think they are.

20/20 Left Out

Other Uses of PCR

After reading about Kary Mullins revolutionary discovery of PCR I was curious to know more about its other uses. I think that Kary Mullins is responsible for one of the most important discovery in science because it has more uses than just forensics. For example I discovered that “PCR was used to quantify the HIV in blood in the spring of 1985. By mid-1987, a viable test was available and PCR was used to study the impact of antiviral drugs and also to screen donor blood samples for HIV” (Cheriyedath). Seeing as how AIDS and HIV were becoming an epidemic during the time I consider PCR to be extremely influential in more than just the criminal field. However I also learned in the article that “In 1987, DNA from a strand of human hair was amplified using PCR and this confirmed the ability of PCR to amplify DNA present in degraded samples part of forensic evidence” (Cheriyedath). I think its really neat that Mullins was able to develop a technique which not only was able to help expand crime solving was also able to be used in other areas of science which is really awesome.

Source Website 

Other Uses of PCR

Who Deserves What:What Deserves Who

In this chapter there was confusion as to who should have gotten all the credit in the discovery made by Mullis and Erlich. This makes me think about the importance of patenting. Without a doubt, the confusion that was present would have easily been dismissed with the use of a patent. On the contrary, if both innovators deserve an equal amount of credit for both of their works, do you think a patent would be the best option? If there was equal contribution to the overall discovery then both men deserve an equal amount of recognition. Then again, competition would have contradicted the idea of equal recognition because one man will always want more then the next.

Who Deserves What:What Deserves Who

Fallacy Assumption

in the beginning of this chapter, Frediani’s lawyer talks about how he needed to know where he was and with who on the day of August 22nd. This makes me think that the prosecutors wanted to pin everything on Paul even with the lack of hard evidence they had. I think that the prosecution had thought that Frediani was automatically guilty considering the heat he was already under. This makes me think of many false convictions that have occurred in the past, there have been countless instances where the prosecution convicts an innocent defendant based off nothing but assumptions. I think that Frediani’s conviction was a little hasty due to the fact that everyone wanted to see him go down. Guilty or Not Guilty.

Fallacy Assumption

Appeals

 It was the end of a  sultry San Francisco July, but when Paul Frediani took his seat in the Redwood City courtroom on the first day of the second trial, he looked less of the summer beach bum of two years before, and more like a seasoned old lag (weinberg 161).

So how did Frediani receive a second trial? What processes of the US court system allow for this appeal? This article covers how appeals work in the justice system. The article states that you cannot just request an appeal. Most cases require proof that the process of a fair trial were violated and there was a mistake during the trial. For Frediani, we can assume that this evidence was that the detectives statement was not shared. But more interestingly it states that appeal courts will not hear new evidence. And yet in this court case the new evidence of the eye surgery was brought up. This is qualified as neither a mistrial or a second trial but is simply an appeal of the first verdict by a higher court.

Appeals

PCR as a Platform

Chapter 11 of Pointing from the Grave extensively discusses the benefits of PCR as a DNA technology advancement. Specifically, there is discussion of the widespread of the use of PCR worldwide demonstrating its contributions to the way in which small samples of DNA can be used. Prior the PCR, DNA samples that were too small could not be used as conclusive evidence. However, after PCR, DNA could be amplified in order to use small samples. This changed the world of forensic science, because samples that could not originally be used could now be used and could ultimately change a court case immediately. Upon reading Chapter 11, I found it very interesting that Weinberg referred to PCR as

                                    “the word processor of biochemistry” (p 175).

How could this relate to Johnson’s ideas of platforms in the novel Where Good Ideas Come From? Essentially, PCR set the stage for new developments in DNA to occur. Before PCR, it seemed as though things were at a halt – small samples could not be used. Once PCR was developed, it set the stage for new innovation for new uses. It began to serve as the foundation for court cases. Overall, after reading this chapter, I was able to relate the ideas of PCR to the way in which Johnson described platforms. It seems as though PCR is a platform because it is setting the stage for new advancements in DNA technology.

PCR as a Platform

DNA Profiling

“The resulting pattern was not as discriminating as the DNA fingerprint- consisting of only two bands for each individual, one inherited from their mother and one from their father- but could be worked up to high levels of specificity by using several probes. Jeffreys accordingly dubbed this method “DNA profiling” (Weinberg 121)

DNA profiling has been one of the most useful techniques for identifying criminals that have left behind any form of cell from their bodies. The main function of Alec Jeffrey’s was the use of agarose gel electrophoresis, which sorted the cut DNA strands using an electric current. The electrophoresis process uses a negative charge to sort the DNA where the shorter the DNA strand the farther down the agarose gel it will move. The pattern that comes out of the process is the “fingerprint” part of the DNA profiling process because you can compare different agarose gel patterns much like you can with fingerprints.

DNA Profiling

Sex Offenders

Since Frediani was released from prison he was listed as a sex offender, but this oddly enough did not seem to bother him. He was ready to start a new life. Although he did have a parole officer that he had to check in with every month. This made me start to wonder if there is a certain set of rules that sex offenders have to follow.

I found an article that listed all the rules that they have to follow. There are many restrictions that I would never have even thought about. Sex offenders can not have any contact with pornographic entertainment and can not go to places that promote this. It also states that they must tell any new relationships that they get into about their past. This answers the question that Frediani must have told his new girlfriend about everything that had occurred. One thing that did surprise me is that they are no longer to purchase weapons. This list from the article really brought a new view to the book and even Frediani’s new lifestyle. It makes me stop and think why he was so willing to accept the title of a sex offender when so many negative things came with that. http://www.doc.wa.gov/community/sexoffenders/rulesincommunity.asp

Sex Offenders

Autopsy

The whole idea the the man’s organs were switched by the nursing home in chapter 10 was amazing to me that the Pestinikas were so desperate to stay in operation that they tried to hide their malpractice.

I firstly did not know how organs can show that a person has been starved so i decided to research that. http://www.medicaldaily.com/now-entering-starvation-mode-what-happens-your-metabolic-processes-when-you-stop-feeding-280666 This website talked about how when you starve your body, your body begins to eat away at the protein in the muscle because it is looking for some source of energy. Muscles would be deteriorated in the dead man’s body and this would be a sure tell of starvation. Also the website said that the stomach would be bloated as well (edema).

I was also interested in knowing how easy it would be to switch the organs or remove them without anyone knowing. I did some research and found an article where a medical examiner removed the brain of a dead teen and then kept it. This was taken to court where the court ruled “There is simply no legal directive that requires a medical examiner to return organs or tissue samples derived from a lawful autopsy and retained by the medical examiner after such an autopsy”. This was so interesting to me and really shows how much power medical examiners have and that in chapter 10 it would have been very possible to remove the organs without anyone knowing.  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/jun/12/new-york-organs-medical-examiners

 

Autopsy

Matching Hairs and Blood Types

Two types of evidence found at the crime scene of Helena Greenwood’s assault were three strands of pubic hair, and a semen sample. Mona Ng, the criminologist who examined each piece of evidence, noted that:

“Two of the hairs could not be associated with the suspect Fredriani. The third hair could not be excluded as possibly coming from him.”  – Weinberg, p89

After checking the FBI website for information on forensic hair analysis, I learned that hair evidence can easily determine the race of a suspect and even the sex or age, albeit with more difficulty. Even though two of the strands found couldn’t be linked to Fredriani, the third could have belonged to a number of other men of the same race; Dr. Ng further explained that 14% of  population shares the blood type found in the semen sample, a statement which also expands the number of possible suspects when applied to the Bay Area alone. For these reasons I find it slightly illogical to convict Fredriani with what appears to be coincidental evidence.

https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/lab/forensic-science-communications/fsc/july2000/deedric1.htm/

Matching Hairs and Blood Types

Murder and Sexual Abuse

In Chapter 6, Helena Greenwood is fatally murdered on her way to work. This came as a big shocker to me. I did not expect her to die in the middle of the trial, but because it is a quite a lengthy, I suppose I should have suspected something to occur. At first, I was angry that Helena died without really figuring out who her abuser was, but then this made me suspect Frediani even further. His story did not match up to what it should have. I began to wonder how many victims are attacked when they are going through a trial, what protection are they granted from potential threats? Is it common for sexually abused victims to be murdered? Further, was Helena’s murder an accident? Or a result of excessive force and power during another sexual abuse attempt?

Murder and Sexual Abuse

Alec Jeffreys- Testing of DNA

In Chapter 8 of Pointing from the Grave, we read about the first case that used DNA fingerprinting to catch sexual abuser, and murderer, Colin Pitchfork. We are introduced to Alec Jeffreys early in the chapter, for he was a geneticist who was interested in discovering how differences in DNA can be used to identify criminals.  Jeffreys’ method was also used in the case of a Ghanaian boy who was denied entry back into his country of birth, England.

“He was stopped and detained by immigration officers at the airport, who suspected that a substitution might have occurred. Conventional serological tests-including ABO and PGM- showed that the woman and the boy appeared to be related” (Weinberg 117)

The DNA fingerprinting allowed for the boy’s reunion with his family, but the case really struck me as odd. However, I understand why there was a concern. It made me wonder how many times this is used, falsely or otherwise, on immigrants coming into Western countries. I was also intrigued by the “mass blooding” discussed in the chapter because it seemed like a strange strategy to go about finding a perpetrator, but the method was probably devised out of desperation.

 

Alec Jeffreys- Testing of DNA

DNA Reference

“Tucked away in one of the genes we were studying was this peculiar stuttered piece of DNA that actually gave us the golden key that unlocked the door to [the evolution of genes].” (Weinberg, 113)

Its interesting how this can relate to serendipity in Johnson’s book. They weren’t necessarily looking for this “key”, but through experiment, they found it. Although they were conducting an entirely separate experiment, this breakthrough presented itself. Johnson told us how this can apply to real life situations and this was a first hand testament to Johnson’s idea. The concepts in biotechnology actually range across the whole realm of science, forensic science in particular. Johnson would appreciate knowing that his ideas were brought to life in a separate realm of science.

DNA Reference

Invasion of Privacy or Concrete Evidence?

” Tell her that this is the man who murdered and raped her predecessor” (Weinberg, pg. 136).

In the middle of chapter 9, Weinberg reports that someone had called Helena’s old work at Genprobe and requested to talk to her successor. The message he had to leave was that he killed and raped Helena. Than he hung up. It was confusing at first because I was curious as to why they didn’t trace the phone line to see where it came from but maybe in 1985 they didn’t have such technology. However, this reminded me of a popular show called “Person of Interest”. Basically is about two men who created a machine that monitors every means of surveillance. By this technology, it somehow is able to predict within 24 hours of a crime that was pre meditated. One of the main things it uses are cell phones. Most everyone has a cellphone and its easily traceable. But even if someone used a pay phone, the street cameras placed everywhere has a clear direct view of the people using them. Assuming that this technology is not available in 1985, how can someone confessing over the phone be handled? It does not make sense that Frediani made the phone call seeing how he was placed in jail at the time but maybe he had an accomplice? This call may indicate that another person could be involved or a third party that we are not expecting could be the cause of Helena’s death.

We discussed in class how Iphones have the ability to tract every place you go and how long you were there for. It makes me questioned if the government should have the ability to access this information and know my whereabouts daily.

Sometimes people have difficult finding alibi’s in a court case, such as Frediani did, so I wonder if using the tracking technology of cellphones could of changed the result of his conviction if in 1985 they had them. It seems as if someone had claimed that they were with the person and there phone indicated that they were also present at that location, the alibi would hold stronger. However, since Frediani was guilty of the sexual assault, having a cellphone track his whereabouts may have been considered an invasion of privacy. I do not know much about the law but it doesn’t seem likely that the court would care much about someones privacy in this
particular case.  camera

Image Source

 

Invasion of Privacy or Concrete Evidence?

Reasonable Doubt: When is a Person Wrongfully Convicted

“Reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affairs and depending on moral evidence is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of the case which after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence leaves the minds of the jurors in that consideration that they cannot say they feel an abiding conviction to a moral certainty of the of the charge. “ -Weinberg (p. 107)

I really enjoyed reading this quote in chapter 7 because reasonable doubt is the biggest obstacle that prosecutors must overcome to get a conviction. This quote got me sparked my interest to find cases where the sentence can be either overturned or reversed in the defendant’s favor.

I wanted to have a little more understanding of what reasonable doubt meant. I did some online searching and sound some YouTube videos that explains reasonable doubt a little better. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezGcrdklYh0,https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQw8r1xW4CM

After looking over some cases involving reasonable doubt, I stumbled upon the Manuel Velez case of 2013. This case involves a construction worker named Manuel Velez who got convicted for killing his girlfriend’s child, Angel. Velez was sentenced to death row in the state of Texas. Velez could have been killed by the state of Texas until a team of civil litigators working pro bono with the ACLU’s Capital Punishment Project tried to appeal the case. Looking through the medical files of deceased baby Angel the team of lawyers found an unusual file. In Angel’s pediatrician files, the attorney found that Angel’s head circumference had grown rapidly before Velez moved in with the mother. Forensic witness expert, Dr. Daniel Brown testified that the abnormal and rapid growth of baby Angel’s head is a sign of reoccurring violent head trauma. It was also noted that Angel was also vomiting and convulsing months before his death. These signs and symptoms point towards  Velez’s girlfriend. This new evidence displays that the death of Angel could not be confirmed without a doubt Manuel Velez’s involvement with the murder of his child Angel.   After nine 9 years in prison and in death row, Manuel Velez was found innocent on the grounds of reasonable doubt. The jury during the trial found that the death of Angel could not be attributed to Manuel Velez based on the newly found evidence.

 

Resources :

http://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/reasonable-doubt-the-manuel-velez-case/

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/08/texas-releases-death-row-inmate-manuel-velez

https://www.aclu.org/blog/speakeasy/after-9-years-manuel-velez-innocent-man-free-last

Reasonable Doubt: When is a Person Wrongfully Convicted

Questioning Trial Protocol

There have been many posts in the question forum pertaining to the courts decision to restrict the jury from learning about Helena’s death while the trial was going on, and I thought that I would address both sides of the argument of whether or not the Jury had the right of knowing. If you can picture yourself as one of the jurors, how would you react towards Frediani knowing that the woman he is on trial for sexually assaulting has just been found murdered? I think if the jurors found out about Helena’s death, then any of their existing impressions upon Frediani may have been more explicit. Naturally you would feel bad hearing about such a crime, and when the man potentially responsible for a similar crime is on defense in front of you, your emotions may take over. On the other hand, if the defense and prosecution must share all evidence with each other, the judge, and the jury, why shouldn’t the jury be informed about the victim’s murder if all other parties are aware?

https://www.wicourts.gov/services/juror/docs/deliberate.pdf

Not too relevant to my post in particular, but here are the Wisconsin state guidelines for jury deliberations. It highlights how jurors are supposed to dissect evidence and think about the different pieces of evidence involved in the case. Also, it discusses how the importance of evidence is arrived at, and how jurors “judge” how strong certain parts of the prosecution and defense arguments are. It’s important to note how juries are formed from everyday citizens in our country and are expected to learn how to judge law in a certain period of time, nonetheless determine a person’s fate.

Questioning Trial Protocol

PCR: Pretty Convenient Research

“‘Suddenly I knew how to do it,’ he recounts. ‘If i could locate a thousand sequences out of billions with one short piece of DNA, I could use another short piece to narrow the search. This one would be designed to bind to a sequence just down the chain from the first sequence I had found. It would scan over the thousand possibilities out of the first search to find just the one I wanted.'” -Weinberg 151

Mullis’ explanation of how the PCR could work seemed very complex to me at first. Not exactly a great chemistry student, I was rather confused about how the DNA was being tracked and replicated. However, I started thinking about this particular explanation as a research problem and it became much clearer to me.

Mullis mentioned that his goal was to “narrow the search” of a certain DNA sequence. He is able to do so by adding more of the DNA sequences to the original probe to make it even more specific what he was looking for; essentially, he refined his search. I performed a similar experiment here with research on Google:

First I searched the word “puppies”. The were over 89 million search results.

Puppies

So I narrowed down my search by adding more specificity as to what I was looking for. I typed “pitbull” in front of “puppies”, and my search was narrowed by about 76 million.

pitbull puppies

Finally, I cut the search results from the millions to the thousands by adding a third adjectival phrase to my search: “blue nose”

blue nose pitbull puppies

Just as Mullis reasoned that adding more sequences to his search would help him find exactly the DNA match he was looking for, I added adjectives to my Google search that lead me to exactly what I was looking for: a picture of this little sweetheart.

blue nose pitbull puppy

Photo courtesy of “Me and My Pet” 

PCR: Pretty Convenient Research

Race and Crime in the United States

Pointing from the Grave brings up a huge issue of the perpetrator’s race. She is questioned multiple times if he is black, white, hispanic and more. This brought me to discuss race and crime in the United States. In the United States of America there are many people of color who are in prison. People of color are not treated the same as their white counterparts. Many people do not have equal access to the housing, public benefits , employment and more. One reason that people of color are facing this problems is due to the war on drugs. According to the NAACP,”In 2002, blacks constituted more than 80% of the people sentenced under the federal crack cocaine laws and served substantially more time in prison for drug offenses than did whites, despite that fact that more than 2/3 of crack cocaine users in the U.S. are white or Hispanic”.The amount of drug use in these communities has significantly increased. Another major problem facing people of color is that, once convicted black and hispanic offenders face a longer sentencing than white offenders.

Works Cited: “Criminal Justice Fact Sheet.” Criminal Justice Fact Sheet. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2016.

Here is a website featuring criminal justice reform : Website

Race and Crime in the United States

What makes a murderer: Nature vs. Nurture

Chapter 8 of Pointing From the Grave allows readers to continue to question what causes a person to commit murder. Is it their difficult background and upbringing, or is it their surroundings? I was very intrigued by this question so I decided to look into it a bit further. In my research, I found an article called Serial Killers: Nature vs. Nurture. The author of this article discusses, the differences between serial killers and murders, and discusses topics such as motives, the impulses and desires of killing, and how different surroundings and backgrounds lead individuals to kill. It’t a pretty interesting article, check it out! The link is below:

http://www.nc-cm.org/article213.htm

hannibal

Photo taken from Google

 

What makes a murderer: Nature vs. Nurture

Chapter 7

“Let me just tell you that if you didn’t do this crime, a terrible injustice has been done here. And only you know in your heart whether you did it. Nobody else in this room really knows whether you did it, except you” (109).

I found this statement from the judge as deeply concerning. Yes, of course if Frediani did not do this crime than it would be a “terrible injustice” to him. However, by saying that “nobody else in this room really knows whether you did it, except you,” is a problematic statement for a judge to end a confirmatory sentencing hearing on. The judge could have been wiser with his words. This last statement is a ploy to make Frediani reflect and assess the gravity of his innocence or lack-thereof, as judges commonly do as they sentence convicted defendants. I believe that the judge may have inadvertently revealed that a reasonable doubt still remains in the air of this case. Granted, both legal teams made strategic maneuvers to prove the innocence or guilt of Frediani, but the prosecution did come out slightly stronger by the typically stronger rhetoric that prosecution teams use to sway jurors. The evidence was compelling against Frediani, but it was only superficially convincing. A deeper analysis should reason, in my opinion, that Frediani should have been ruled innocent on the basis of feeble circumstantial evidence that only really strengths were on an outdoor teapot and a conflicting account of his confession. Now there is a difference between being 100% innocent and not guilty enough beyond a reasonable doubt. Only Frediani knows the truth, but the presentation of his “guilt” should not have been enough to convict him.

Chapter 7

Due Process

In this chapter, the police interrogated a 17 year old boy in hope to obtain enough evidence in order to convict him. Being that the boy is still a minor, do you think the police denied him of his natural rights in some way? I feel if the boy had a lawyer or a guardian by his side this interrogation would have gone differently. It is more than likely that the boy has never been in a situation similar to this one, it may be a possibility that the police got a false confession from acts including duress. It is also likely that the boy had not been familiarized with his right to a lawyer. I feel this situation would have went down a lot differently if an adult was by his side.

Due Process

Whose fingerprints?

” ‘… not Helena Greenwood’s fingerprints, not Roger Franklin’s… usable, identifiable fingerprints of an unknown person. On the screen.’ They were not Paul Frediani’s fingerprints. ” Weingberg, page 105

This part of the the chapter really caught my attention becuase Frediani was charged anyway. This is a big indicator that there was someone else in the house that could have done this crime. If they are trusting that there is a 14% chance that it was Frediani, they should trust that there is 100% chance that someone else was in the house because of those fingerprint found. It is hard to believe that someone was convicted when there are another two thousand people that could have had the same results. It seems that their argument did not have as much evidence as they actually need to convict someone. First the should find the person who’s fingerprints were in the house.

Whose fingerprints?

Loving Lovin’

Since the dawn of humanity, mankind has been perplexed by this strange attraction we call love. People have tried to define love as a joining of two halves of a whole, a union of two bodies, and even as simply an act of asserting dominance over others. However, modern interpretations of love are much more emotionless, as shown by this article from Fusion.com, which even goes as far as to show what is happening in your brain during different “stages” of love. In my opinion, Frediani gets stuck in these early stages in his college and early-20’s life, and this immobility contributed to his problems with Helena Greenwood in the late 80’s. Love is a complex emotion, based in a variety of sciences from neuroscience to anthropology to most fields of biology. All in all, it is a highly interesting field and I cannot wait to find out more about it in the future.

Loving Lovin’

DNA fingerprinting history

Chapter 8 gave a great look into the history of DNA involvement in police investigations, beginning with the development of DNA fingerprinting. A major part of the DNA fingerprinting process involves the use of restriction enzymes, which put simply cut the desired section of DNA. However, the chapter does elaborate too much on the use of the enzymes, or the process of gel electrophoresis itself. This link describes the uses and functions of restriction enzymes, and how they are a vital tool for genetic researchers. Even classes here have students use restriction enzymes to cut DNA, for example in the process of PCR work in lab sections.

How Restriction Enzymes work

DNA fingerprinting history

When is Bail Given?

“Not only was there the assault on Andrea and the strange attempted burglary, but Frediani had been spotted sitting in his car on the side of the road at 3:45 am, and… was hit in the face by a man wielding a tree branch, apparently unprovoked…. [Fredian] was told that his bail had been revoked and that he was going back to prison.” – Weinberg, p13

In this chapter of Pointing from the Grave, Weinberg explains the suspect, Frediani’s, strange behavior while he was out on bail. He assaulted his girlfriend, broke into his old work building, and got into a physical altercation. Eventually, his bail was revoked, which led me to question why he was granted bail in the first place. I decided to research reasons why a person could be denied in the first place. According to a bail bond website, suspects can be denied bail if they are seen as a flight risk (someone who will run), if they’re accused of a very serious crime, if they were already on probation when arrested, or if they pose a threat to the public.

What constitutes posing a threat to the public? Does the defendant have to have a past of violence or mental illness in order to be deemed unfit to live in society? Is this a case by case decision? Personally, I believe Frediani should not have been granted bail in the first place due to his possible mental illness and due to the violent nature of his crime.

When is Bail Given?

Justice or Revenge

In this chapter the jury was not notified of Helena’s death. Obviously this happened while the trial was underway, not before. This makes me think what if the jury had known that she was murdered. Do you think the punishment toward the defendant would have been more harsh? or is it just a humane right for the jury to be notified of this death. I feel if the jury had known about this, this would have forced a biased opinion, maybe it is right but the punishment would have to fit the crime and the jury would have been thinking in vengeful ways because the last memory Helena had was one of hate due to the defendants actions.

Justice or Revenge

DNA: Is it Useful by Itself?

“Alex Jeffreys was delighted, and more than anything by the fact that Pitchfork was eventually tracked down by a marriage between science and police work. ‘That was important. The union kept the police happy, and showed that DNA can’t do anything by itself'” – Weinberg, p125

This quote really struck me while I was reading this chapter. I found it very interesting that Jeffreys pointed out that DNA alone does not accomplish much. This quote made me think about the individual aspects that both police and science bring to the table, and how together they achieve something great. Science, or more specifically DNA, needs to be paired with something, such as police force or crime investigation, in order to prove itself useful. I thought Weinberg showcased the influence police and science have on each other very successfully by using the word “marriage.” By using this idea of mixing two elements, in this case police and science, the readers can get a full sense of how police and science work together to solve crimes. Alone, police would be less effective in solving crimes because they would not have the technology to test DNA samples. Similarly, science would have no place in solving crimes if the police did not utilize the accomplishments made in the scientific field.

DNA: Is it Useful by Itself?

Fake Blood

Ian Kelly gave blood in Colin’s place because Colin was going around asking his coworkers to give blood because he had a record. I was wondering if this occurred often because i had heard of people using someone else’s urine for a urine test but never of using blood. I found an article about a case that happened where the man also used someones else’s blood in hopes of avoiding the police. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Schneeberger

John Schneeberger avoided the police by putting blood that was not his own into his body and thus his DNA did not come up.  He implanted blood from another man so that when his blood was drawn for a DNA test his own DNA did not come up. It is very shocking that they based so much of the case on DNA because his one victim was even able to remember his sexual assault on her but this was not enough to convict John.

The case in the book and in real life really opened my eyes up to how DNA maybe should not be the only thing considered in a case since there are possible ways to fake this.

Fake Blood

The Risk of Bias

I found it very interesting and somewhat confusing that the whole court trial was conducted as if Helena were alive. They talked about her as if she were still living. I was wondering if this had to do with the jury and making sure that there was no bias present to sway their opinion. I decided to do some research on the risk of bias and found this article… http://www.ncsc.org/~/media/Files/PDF/Topics/Gender%20and%20Racial%20Fairness/IB_Strategies_033012.ashx

One risk factor that this article talked about that I thought related to Helena’s case was “certain emotional states”. The article explains that when a certain emotional state is provoked then it will produce “stereotypical judgements”. If the jury pitied Roger because he had just lost his wife then they may have been swayed to see his side. Or if the jury then believed that maybe Frediani had been involved in the death of Helena then their opinion would have also changed.

It was interesting to see how actual steps have been taken to reduce the risk of bias and how this was reflected in the novel.

The Risk of Bias

Science vs Police

“Eventually tracked down by a marriage between science and police work” -(Weinberg 125)

Science is often seen as revolutionary and and answer for all things. However in some aspects of society specifically religion it is seen as a rival or conflict. In the book “Pointing From The Grave” the author illustrates the importance of a successful and productive marriage between science and police work. In pop culture especially in CSI shows science and police always go hand in hand from finger print scanning to the autopsy to even blood stains on a carpet. However in reality it seems that with the increasing police force and need for more guns and ammunition, forensics and science almost seemed to be cast aside. There have been even politician trying to cut scientific research for the need of military and defense spending. However, as with the view of history there needs to be a strong relationship between science and police work. In the end science offers and answers all the important questions posed by the police force.

Science vs Police

Coincidental Evidence

“The jury had played their trust in the system, in the police and in the science, and chosen to disregard the defense’s alternative explanation of the events of the previous year.”(weinberg, 108).

This chapter really put the idea head on that in a case where the victim dies while a trial goes on, DNA becomes even more important. The type of blood and enzyme type that Frediani has, and that one finger print have been enough to hurt him, and the mention of wearing cologne and talking smartly also hurting him, but with no similar DNA found, and still the one print, can you fully convict a person with beyond reasonable doubt? this is something that i hope comes up later in the book.

 

Coincidental Evidence

Genetic Fingerprinting Solving Cases

I found Alec Jeffery’s discovery of genetic fingerprinting very interesting and of course it has been very useful in solving crimes since its birth.  At this point in the book, Paul has been convicted for the sexual act against Helena Greenwood, but the fact that 14% of the total population had the same matching secretion as the semen left behind on her pillowcase makes the case a little less certain.  Paul’s attorney desperately tried to argue, even though his client matched, that 14% of the people in the area is a large number of possible offenders.  If genetic fingerprinting were to be used, prosecutors could tell for certain if the semen left at the scene of the crime was in fact Paul’s.  The same way that Colin Pitchfork was convicted for his brutal double rape and homicides, Paul could definitely revealed as the culprit.  This type of DNA analysis could also be used to find Helena’s killer.  Below is a link to an article that highlights an interview that Alec Jeffery participated in.  Jeffery’s discovery all the way back in 1984 is discussed.     

Genetic Fingerprinting Solving Cases

Police DNA Databases

In my Moodle questions this week, i asked “Since the police depend so much on DNA evidence when investigating certain crimes, would it be ethical for the government to create a database with the DNA of all American citizens?” Turns out, such a database exists today! The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS for short) allows the FBI and other government agencies to use DNA analysis to solve a myriad of problems, from missing persons cases to murder and rape trials like the one in Pointing from the Grave. Many people would say that this gives governments too much power, allowing them to know too much about its citizens. Perhaps in the future, this database could even be used to clone people or grow organs for them! I thought this was really cool, and just goes to show that you should always check for facts before asking questions!

Police DNA Databases

DNA Tests and Freeing Prisoners

One of the most “newsworthy” types of stories is the story of a person who was previously convicted and then freed on new DNA evidence. The Netflix documentary Making a Murderer, which has grown rapidly in popularity and sparked a lot of debate, covers a man wrongly convicted of murder and then freed in 2003. When pondering the questions that this series and other stories like it ask, many are starting to suspect that many in prison right now are innocent, and could be freed like Steven Avery, the convict in Making a Murderer. This article from the New York Times talks about the difficulties convicts have getting DNA tests while imprisoned by the American justice system.

DNA Tests and Freeing Prisoners

The New Funeral Tradition: Preserving The DNA Of Your Loved Ones

Chapter 8 focuses on the beginning of DNA evidence and how it has become the most significant forensic advancement in recent years. This reminded me of an article that saw a few days ago which talked about a new funeral trend. A Canadian genetic company SecuriGene is offering to preserve family members DNA as a memorial. They are arguing that in addition to there being practical reasons you are honoring your family member by keeping their DNA. I thought it was interesting because something people did not know existed 200 years ago is now being a part of funeral memorials.

Source Article

The New Funeral Tradition: Preserving The DNA Of Your Loved Ones

Circumstantial Evidence’s Value

In chapter seven it seems that circumstantial evidence is able to place Frediani in jail. While there is some direct evidence such as the fingerprint it is largely circumstantial evidence. I did some research and found an article which talked about why some juries cant convict with circumstantial evidence. It gave examples such as the Casey Anthony case where there was a lot of circumstantial evidence but not were not able to convict because there was not enough physical evidence. The article included a quote which I liked which says its  “better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.” This made me think that while a lot of times circumstantial evidence may make people look very guilty physical evidence should be the top priority every time.

 

Circumstantial Evidence website

Circumstantial Evidence’s Value

Human Exaptation of Genes

“Much of the rest is ‘junk’…[consisting] partly of now defunct genes–that once carried instructions that are no longer relevant. For instance, in humans, the stretch of DNA that told our bodies to grow thick long hair all over is no longer useful, but, instead of being deleted, remains alongside a DNA message that disables it.” (Weinberg, 114-115)

This entire process is exaptation. As we learned from Johnson, exaptation is taking something, here a gene, and defining its role. The example he gave was birds’ wings used for flight instead of warmth.

Similarly here, the gene that programs for thick hair all over out bodies is not deleted or modified. Instead it is given a partner to work with. The partner gene allows the original hair gene to still exist, while also giving the modern human body the normal image. A new purpose is given with the aid of a newly (well, relatively) developed partner gene.

Before this example, I didn’t fully understand how exaptation worked in humans, or how it was different than evolution. Now I understand that exaptation in humans works to address a very specific genetic code. The partner gene process was developed to help in the evolution of humans.

If the gene were deleted instead of redefined in purpose, we would not be humans or advanced primates. Similarly, if the wings of a bird were deleted instead of redefined in purpose, they would not be birds.

Human Exaptation of Genes

Frediani’s Past

It was interesting getting a background on Frediani’s past. His childhood was relatively normal, despite his mild medical condition and his curfew, nothing in his past was so dramatically terrible that would lead him to domestic and sexual abuse. He was not abused, no one was killed, nothing seemed to drive him to commit crime. What surprised me were his ties to the real estate business. I thought because he worked for Lincoln properties he could use the clients that he’s been talking to as potential sexual abuse victims. It’s twisted, but maybe that is how he picks his victims. He uses his job and place of power to find women.

Frediani’s Past

Reasonable Doubt

Reasonable doubt is not a mere possible doubt, because everything relating to human affairs and depending on moral evidence is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of the case which after the entire comparison and consideration of all the evidence leaves the mind of the jurors in that condition that they cannot say they feel an abiding condition to a moral certainty of the truth of the charge. (weinberg 107)

In the case of Mr. Frediani, the jury was never presented with precise evidence that he in fact had committed the crime. In fact, the defense proved that 14% of all men have the same characteristics that came from the analysis of his fluids, and the fluids left on the crime scene. In my mind I had assumed he would be found innocent because it would be possible for so many others to have committed the crime, and he had an alibi for the fingerprint on the teapot. But in this case, the jury found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt because the prosecution convinced them that not only was Mr. Frediani on of the men in the 14% but he was also the one who committed the crime. Even without solid proof that he was guilty, the jury can legally rule him guilty of the crime.

Reasonable Doubt

The Need, Right, and Want To Know

It was suspicious that the prosecution had never mentioned at the time that Mrs. Liu had seen a black man in the neighborhood on the night that Helena Greenwood was attacked. “In all fairness, do you want your government to suppress that kind of evidence? To hide it from you?” (Weinberg 106).

This quote ties into another important issue that is seen in court cases all of the time – deciding how much information and what kinds of information to reveal to the public. This issue brings up the questions: how much is enough? How much is necessary? What kinds of information need to be revealed? Often times, there is not a definitive answer, but I am aware that a general standard of how to handle the disclosing of information does exist. The revealing/secrecy of information can be categorized in three ways: the right to know, the need to know, and the want to know. The right to know would include most governmental information that the public should be knowledgeable of. For example, the public has the right to know of governmental meetings. The want to know includes information that the public would want to know for their general pleasure, an example being entertainment news. Lastly, the need to know would be information that is critical to everyday life. An example here would be information that affects the safety of the public, such as harmful threats or severe weather conditions. In the case of Helena Greenwood, I think the public has a right to know that a black man was in the neighborhood the night of the attack. Who knows, this could be a key piece of information. But then again, the court needs to investigate further into who this man is and find out what other characteristics he possesses. It is possible that he could be Frediani, who also has rather dark, tan skin. 

The Need, Right, and Want To Know

Reliability of Physical Signals

I think it is very interesting that Collins made a counterpoint on Murray’s point that Frediani was visibly shaken when told that his prints were identified on the teapot– his shoulders sank and his face became flushed. That is also when he made the statement about being drunk during the act. But Collins reacts by saying that most people who are interviewed in a police station are physically altered or affected, and their physical features can give away their nervousness. So people are not always calm or collected, even when innocent.

This idea reminded me of our discussion of lie detector tests and their reliability. If lie detectors measure heart rate, isn’t it possible that someone who is nervous in general can give a false positive? Maybe someone had a lot of caffeine or is excited about something, or maybe they are simply nervous about being given a lie detector test or being in that setting.This question of the reliability of physical signals also affects court hearings themselves. It is possible that a sorrowful looking or unremorseful-looking person can subconsciously affect the way a just makes their ruling. The physical aspects of a defendant can also affect the physical aspects of the jury, for better or for worse, and truly or artificially.

Reliability of Physical Signals

Sympathy from the Jury

“The court adjourned for its morning break, and when it reconvened, Andrea Goodhart was called to the stand. She should have been a sympathetic figure: intelligent, twenty-three years old and pregnant with twins to a man who was facing a prison sentence.” -Weinberg pg 96

Oddly enough, parts of this chapter reminded me of when I read The Apology, Plato’s account of Socrates’s trial, which ended with the famous philosopher being sentenced to death. Near the end of the trial, Socrates made it clear that he didn’t want to play by the court’s rules. Unlike many defendants, Socrates said that he wasn’t going to bring his family to court, showing off his children in the hope of winning some sympathy from the jury. He believed that the speech he gave in his defense should have been enough to convince the jury on its own.
This brings us to Frediani’s trial. Andrea Goodhart was a witness because she could help paint a clearer picture of Frediani as a person, as well as supporting his alibi for the day Helena was assaulted. But you can’t deny that her being a witness could serve another purpose. It tells the jury that Frediani has a pregnant girlfriend waiting for him, enough to maybe make some jurors hesitant to declare him guilty.
Comparing Frediani’s trial to that of Socrates has started me thinking about the ethics involved in these sorts of cases. Socrates wanted to win his case on evidence alone, but Frediani’s defense attorney clearly has no issue with trying to win some sympathy from the jury if it means his client goes free.

Sympathy from the Jury

Real People, Not Characters

Sometimes when reading a story like this, I get so caught up in the plot and action that I forget that these are not just characters but real live people. Every action, word, and depiction is based on a real human person and not just from Weinberg’s imagination. The line that made this most apparent to me was at the very end of Chapter 7.

“Murray stood up: ‘Excuse me, your Honor. Mr. Franklin asked if it would be possible to have the photograph of his wife returned to him.'” (Weinberg, 110)

This absolutely broke my heart. I can almost hear Roger whisper to Murray, embarrassed that he should want to see his wife smiling so badly. This statement made the entire trial seem real. In the middle of it, where it was just back and forth dialogue, it sounded like an episode of a criminal justice show. But even those people are actors. As one could argue that Murray, Collins, and even Frediani are all actors, Roger was not. Especially when he stared at that picture of Helena.

Real People, Not Characters

Emotions in Court

Chapter 7 of Pointing from The Grave was very interesting because it addressed the height of the trail and introduced us to the way in which the jury decided Frediani’s verdict. One thing I thought was very interested was the fact that Weinberg stated that Frediani for the first time exhibited emotions in court. He described him as shocked and in disbelief. I thought this was very interesting because after watching live court cases on TV it is also crucial to see the emotions of the defendants as they sometimes change your mind when thinking if they did or did not commit a crime. It is normal to think that if someone shows disbelief or exhibits sadness they did not do it. While Frediani did seem upset, he was still found guilty. Below is a link to a blog of emotions that are shown in court and how they could be interpreted by the judge or jurors that could ultimately make or break a decision. If Frediani seemed more upset would that have changed minds?

http://www.matternmendozalaw.com/5-reasons-you-must-control-your-emotions-in-court/

Emotions in Court

Delicate Scene of The Crime

From our favorite crimes shows, to our favorite detective novels or movies, one thing that always remains constant, is that a crime scene needs to be handled with immense care and delicacy. In Chapter 6, Helena is brutality murdered, and the scene of the crime is being observed. The book goes into detail describing how Helena’s hands were bagged. It describes her body positioning and various other details about the crime scene that could possibly lead to clues about Helena’s attacker. I began doing a little bit of research about crime scene investigation, and one of the first articles that I found was fairly interesting. It was written by a detective office in West Palm Beach, Florida, and it discusses the importance of body positioning, collecting samples with care, and the need for photographs. Check out the article, it’s pretty cool!

scene of the crime
This picture was taken fromm ‘Scene of the Crime’, a personal photographic project inspired by The NYPD Municipal Archive.

http://www.crime-scene-investigator.net/searchingandexamining.html

Delicate Scene of The Crime

Locard’s Exchange Principle

“When a victim has died after a violent struggle, there will often have been an exchange of evidence” (Weinberg, 75).

The transfer of DNA from person to person is very interesting to me. Just from a small sampling of fingernail, forensic scientists and criminologists are able to extract vital evidence in the form of dirt, germs, skin, and hair. In this case, though, there was not enough evidence under her fingernail to perform further blood and enzyme tests. To further my understanding of this interaction, I read an article about Locard’s Exchange Principle. Locard was the one who discovered that materials are exchanged with another person anytime you make contact with them. He also brought up an interesting point regarding crimes. Not only do murderers and criminals leave behind material (DNA, hairs, etc) but they also take material away with them. This could be important information to know as we read further into the case. Hopefully in the upcoming chapters, we see Frediani being tested for Helena’s DNA.
An interesting quote from the article: “Physical evidence cannot be wrong, it cannot lie, it cannot be wholly absent. Only human failure to find it, study and understand it, can diminish its value.”

http://www.forensichandbook.com/locards-exchange-principle/

Locard’s Exchange Principle

Chapter 3 – PFTG

 “The majority of geneticists were still concentrating on protein at the time, and were apparently loath to abandon something into which they had poured so much time and intellectual energy.”

-Weinberg p.34

A scientist may devote years to conducting their research, only receiving small advancements. They do this because of their passion for the field of study they are in, but when is enough, enough. Think of the discoveries that could have been made if scientist moved to another project after a certain amount of time. Contradictory, how many discovers wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t for their persistence? I think it a topic that needs to be discussed, when is it time to move on to anther project if you only making minor advances in the current project. Could the passion and persistence of scientists be hindering the discovery of other products, at what point should I scientist move on from their projects if they are only processing slowly?

Chapter 3 – PFTG

Suits vs White coats

“There’s two different communities; the white coats and the suits”

-Weinberg p.16

In the biotech there are two major factors. The obvious one is the  scientist, “white coats”, who do the research, report their findings, and make the products. The second is “the suits”, the people that market the biotech products made by the scientists. I think this relationship can be called a symbiotic one. Without the white coats, the suits would have nothing to market. Conversely the scientists would not be able to get their product into the market without the suits. I believe that if the relationship were to lack one partner, then the biotech industry today would be way behind where we are now.

Suits vs White coats

Pot prints vs Suspect description

The pot was found outside with Paul’s prints on it, but originally was inside. Clearly this should be enough proof that he had to at some point enter the house. Regardless of whether the pot was outside with his print, that must mean he took it from inside the house, which should be able to further the case against him. Although there was no prints of Paul’s inside the house, I believe the prints on the pot will be substantial evidence against Paul. On the other hand, the description of the suspect in court did not match Paul. Is this description discrepancy enough to overlook the prints on the pot?

Pot prints vs Suspect description

Sexual assault and DID

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a rare disorder that has seem to have a common causal factor in the few cases that have come about. This commonality is sever sexual assault at a very young age. Reading about Helena’s case, she wasn’t assaulted at a young age nor was she continuously assaulted, but it was still a traumatic experience. In psychopathology we read a case study on a woman with DID. She was sexual assaulted from the age of 5 by her father. As she grew older, she developed symptoms such as dizziness, memory loss, alcohol abuse, promiscuity, etc. When she started seeing therapy, the therapist did not consider DID because of how rare it was and how many symptoms a person has to have in order to be diagnosed with it. The main symptom one has to have are two or more distinct identities. These identities can have their own race, age, personalities, names, etc. A completely other person.

The main reason that triggered these alters was the trauma. It was the patients way of coping with the trauma that was happening with her. When her father was assaulting her, one of her other alters took over so that the host personality didn’t have to experience it. However, the host memory wouldn’t have any memory of what happened. She would wake up after sleeping and feel hungover and so confused about what just happened. This is why she wasn’t aware of what was happening to her.

Helena was assaulted when she was much older but still traumatized by what happened. I wonder if she had been assaulted also at a younger age and than again by Frediani, would it have triggered something in her to where she would have developed a disorder. Not saying DID but other common disorders would be PTSD or general anxiety disorder. Being assaulted in your home could make someone feel unsafe and anxious about their surroundings all the time. I also wonder if by throwing herself back into her work was her coping method and prevented her from thinking about it to let it worry her.

Sexual assault and DID

The Importance of Having Multiple Suspects

“Detective Decker and Kelly learned a lot about Helena Greenwood in the last of the day she was murdered. They took down names of her friends and business associates, found out about her activities of the previous twenty four hours, her normal routine. And for the first time, they heard the name David Paul Frediani… You don’t focus on one person until you have done all the interviews and read all the lab reports.”- Weinberg (pp.74)

In a criminal investigation, especially murder, it is important to take on all considerations. In the case of Helena’s murder it is vital to consider a list of multiple suspects than to just point to obvious person. David Paul Frediani, is the obvious person to blame because of his criminal history and the impeding sexual assault trial. I think that the detectives investigating Helena’s murder are taking the right steps in order to pinpoint the culprit. Decker and Kelly are compiling a list of possible suspects, checking alibis,  and waiting for the lab reports to come in before accusing anyone of murder. Following this detective provides a solid base as to find a conclusion. Because when all other alternatives are ruled out, the one that remains must be the explanation.

The Importance of Having Multiple Suspects

The Body After Death

“When the first officers arrived, Roger was sitting beside Helena, crying, gently brushing flies from her eyes.” -Weinberg, pg 70

As morbid as it sounds, this quote reminded me of when we learned about the stages of decomposition of a human body, and different ways to tell how long a person had been dead. One of those methods involved maggots, as flies would lay eggs on corpses, and you could estimate how long a person had been dead by looking at which stage of life the maggots were in. However, in this case, it’s much easier to estimate how long Helena had been dead, as we know she was on the phone just before nine, and she was found in the early afternoon; besides, I don’t know if forensic entomology was well-known or well-used in 1985, so this technique might not have been available anyway.
But we also learned about the different stages the body goes through, and about how long it takes to get to each stage. I didn’t remember exactly what those stages were or how long each took, so I looked it up.
Immediately following death, the skin becomes “tight and grey in color,” the muscles relax, and the body’s temperature starts dropping (approximately 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit per hour, depending on environmental factors). We know that Helena wasn’t found immediately following her death. So onto the next stage.
After thirty minutes, “the skin gets purple and waxy” and lips, fingernails and toenails become pale as the blood is drained from them. The blood begins to pool in the lower parts of the body, depending on the position the body is in; those parts of the body become dark purple or blue, and is called lividity. We see this in the book, describing the change in color of Helena’s back and shoulders, except the parts where there was pressure. So Helena was dead for at least half an hour. Let’s look at the next stage.
By the time four hours have passed, rigor mortis sets in. Rigor mortis is when the muscles in the body stiffen, making it difficult or impossible to change the position of the body. It isn’t clear if Helena’s body has reached this stage yet; if not, then it’s likely she had been dead less than four hours when she was found.

Website used: http://www.anomalies-unlimited.com/Death/Stages.html

The Body After Death

Skin Cells and DNA

After reading chapter 6 from Pointing from the Grave, I was very alarmed by the events that occurred. It was very surprising to be in the midst of the trial and then to learn of Helena’s death. While this took me by surprise, I did like how the novel progressed in the field of biotechnology and forensics. In this chapter we were introduced to a new form of biotechnology and crime scene analysis through the way in which evidence was collected from the crime scene, how evidence was analyzed, and how that evidence will be used. Specifically, I thought it was interested that now we can understand DNA through skin cells gathered from underneath Helena’s fingernails. Skin cells shed every day and have many traces of DNA with in them. Yet again, we learned of a way in which DNA can be detected. The link below goes into detail about how analysts can extract the DNA from skin cells from a supernatant and a gathered pellet. The DNA can then be analyzed. I think it is very interesting that even the smallest traces of DNA play very large roles in detecting a suspect. It is also interesting to see how technology has advanced so much as seen in the explanations of the link below.

http://www.forensicmag.com/articles/2012/06/touch-dna-analysis-using-literature-help-answer-some-common-questions

Skin Cells and DNA

Who did it?

strangulation is a very physical crime, and requires great strength. It is also an intensely personal way to kill, hand on neck, flesh to flesh: there are few strangulations between strangers. (76)

There was a deep gash in the back of Helena’s head, caked with dried blood. (75)

The first quote essentially excludes any random stranger as a suspect for Helena’s murder. Also any stranger would only kill her for money and things like that, but her wallet and other possessions were not removed from the scene. This means that the crime had another motive. Because strangulation is so personal it suggests to me that perhaps Mr. Frediani committed the murder to get himself out of the sexual assault case. The fact that he had traveled to the region only weeks before also suggests a recon mission before the crime. Because Helena had a deep gash in the back of her head, which was later shown by the detective to be from having her head slammed against the gate, it shows me that the killer had a deep anger. A deep anger that drove him to not just strangle Helena but also bash her head in. All this evidence points to Mr. Frediani as the killer. What other evidence do police need to arrest him?

Who did it?

Are Husbands Always Suspect?

The first place the police looked to for a potential suspect for the murder of Helena was her husband Roger.  I find it interesting how the spouse or husband of someone who is murdered is always considered a prime suspect.  This seems to be a central theme in CSI television shows, but also seems to translate with real and actual crimes as well.  The police interviewed Rodger for four hours, even though it appeared he could of given his credible alibi and story in under one.  I think it is great to see investigations as serious as this being carried out throughly, but is this too much for a man who has just begun the process of grieving over his wife?  After getting picked up by Sam outside of the station, Rodger is quoted saying, “They think I killed Helena.”  I could not even imagine how Rodger could have been feeling with the combination his wife’s death and the fact he was the prime suspect of the investigation.  Personally, I feel like a spouse in a situation like this should be brought in and questioned of course, however they should not be held for as long as Rodger was and should receive more emotional support immediately.

Are Husbands Always Suspect?

Spouse Suspects

“Statistically, their are a large number of spouses in the demise of their mate, so spouses have to be interviewed early on.” (Decker 73)

Often in murder cases like Mrs. Greenwood’s, spouses are  statistically leading suspects. But, why do they feel the need to kill their loved one? Do they want money?  Or can they really not stand living with someone anymore so they feel compelled to kill them?  Is a divorce really too much trouble and money that you’re better off just becoming a murderer?  In this specific case, it was proven early on that Helena’s husband, Roger, was not a suspect because he was at work while Helena was still on the phone at home.  When the spouse is not actually the one that committed the crime, isn’t is insensitive to accuse them so early on, especially if they are not the killer?  If I was trying to grieve over the death of a loved one, I would not want to be interrogated as a suspect in the murder of my wife.  Even if the spouse could be the murderer, I think they should at least be given time to themselves to recover from such a traumatic experience before having to deal with all the legal issues that come with it.

Spouse Suspects

The Power of an Autopsy

“To Dr. Katsuyama, these were all classic signs of death by manual strangulation” -Weinberg, p76

It is very interesting to me that an autopsy can detail so much about a person’s death in such a short amount of time. Weinberg noted that Helena’s autopsy was performed the day after she was killed and that it uncovered multiple indications of how she was killed. Since Dr. Katsuyama saw multiple signs of strangulation being the cause of her death, it was found that Helena’s attacker must have been a large man with a lot of strength. This crucial piece of evidence could not have been discovered so quickly if the autopsy was not performed. The autopsy also uncovered that there was trauma to the back of Helena’s head, which the detective recognized as being the same shape as the latch on Helena’s fence. It was directly established from the autopsy that Helena was repeatedly pushed into the latch on her gate, and from this the crime scene investigators were able to collect DNA from that latch. Clearly this autopsy lead the investigative team in directions they may not have gone on their own. In a way the autopsy provided the police with a platform from which to work. It provided the team with crucial information about where to start the investigation. In certain religions or personal beliefs autopsies are considered controversial for obvious reasons. In this case however, the allowance of an autopsy on Helena’s body may help the investigative team reach a conclusion faster than if she did not have one.

The Power of an Autopsy

Which to follow: Emotions or Reason?

http://giphy.com/search/i-have-a-bad-feeling-about-this
http://giphy.com/search/i-have-a-bad-feeling-about-this

From the very beginning Murray, Helena’s attorney, has disliked Frediani. And while he is not the most likable person, and the most prominent suspect in the sexual assault case, Murray seemed to jump the gun when he suddenly believed that he was the murderer.

After Collins, Frediani’s lawyer, passed over the plea negotiation they had been debating, that seemed to solidify the reasoning for Murray.

“‘That is when it hit me. I thought, whoa, there isn’t any other motive for this crime…My God, he did this…'” (Weinberg, 78)

However there is no way for Murray to have made that conclusion other than a feeling. Even though we learned from Johnson’s Where Good Ideas Come From that hunches should be nourished and supported, I don’t see any traceable thoughts or evidence that led Murray to this hunch. Even Decker, the detective for the case, noted,

“‘We had reasonable suspicion–but not probable cause.'” (Weinberg, 81)

Other than this “bad feeling” that Murray has, there is no proper reasoning behind his suspicion. Maybe it is mixed with years of lawyering experience or a very passionate dislike of Frediani. Whatever it was, it sounds like he combined too many emotions with too few reasons to form this conclusion.

Which to follow: Emotions or Reason?

Autopsy

“This confirmed Decker’s initial suspicion that Helena’s killer was a large man – strangulation is a very physical crime, and requires great strength. – Weignberg, page 76

Autopsies are essential to crime solving, it can determine how the person died and who was most likely to do such crime. I guess this brought my attention because of how fast they could determine a physical appearance on Helena’s murderer. They were also very descriptive of what could have caused her death. It seemed like it was all done much more faster than with the fingerprint or the DNA. Nevertheless, even tough it is faster it is not as effective in a trial. People need more than autopsy to believe who was the murderer. But using DNA or fingerprint is less doubtful to prosecute someone.

Autopsy

Significance of Fingerprints in Criminal Cases

“A single print found under the lip of the teapot .. after studying it using a microscope, he found sixteen separate points of comparison, all of which matched.” .. “He (Frediani) cannot believe that he will be convicted on such flimsy evidence” – pg. 56

What constitutes significant evidence in a criminal case like this? I had to read this quote twice to make sure I was reading correctly that Frediani didn’t think his own unique fingerprint– on a teapot inside the house of the woman he is accused of sexually assaulting, would convict him of a crime. Honestly, I think this is one of the best pieces of evidence that Chaput and his team could have taken from that crime scene. Fingerprints are unique to individuals, meaning that no two people have the same fingerprint. Frediani’s fingerprint in Helena’s house is a nail in the coffin for at least burglary, and should prolong a further investigation into this incident. Highlighting the circumstances, here you have a man (Frediani) who is already a sex offender and has been convicted for public indecency and stalking in the past, who is the only suspect in this sexual assault case. With the addition of his fingerprint being found on a teapot inside the victims home, I don’t think you can classify this finger print as “flimsy evidence”.

Significance of Fingerprints in Criminal Cases

Outdoor Crime Scenes

“He looked for footprints, and found some small ones to the west of the house, where the dirt had been raked. But there was a covering of leaves over the dirt… He noticed some scrape marks on a section of the bamboo fence…” – Weinberg 72

On the two question forum, a question that came up time and time again was whether the outdoor crime scene had any effect on the case. Because the murder happened outside, was there any evidence that was contaminated or lost due to elements out of the detective’s control, such as the weather? According to all-about-forensic-science, the outdoor crime scene is by far the most vulnerable to the loss of physical evidence in such a short period of time. If the scene isn’t secured almost immediately, evidence can be lost or tampered with. Environmental conditions, such as rain, cold, snow, or in San Diego and in Helena’s case, heat, can tamper physical evidence. Likewise, there is no way to protect the evidence in its natural state: you can either move it, which is problematic, or you can leave it and hope that outside elements do not interfere.

Source

Outdoor Crime Scenes

How We Are Raised

“She was clearly delighted, but for paul it was like another heavy weight landing on the seesaw of his life”(Weinberg, 27).

When it come to how we are as adult comes to how we were raised as a child, When reading this chapter, It was intriguing to see if the development was to why Paul got to where he was, a criminal assault. He was an intelligant kid who did not apply himself, always going for pleasure over fun, and that lead to his parents being very controlling of him. But could all the restrictions that they put on him really make him a criminal? Maybe not on his clear mind, because he even said that he wondered how he got home after drinking sometimes. But being in a now happy life with a family, would that really make someone want to be sexually agressive? who knows

How We Are Raised

The Role of the First Responder

In chapter six Helena’s murder takes place outside and I was left wondering how do police maintain and preserve crime scenes. I learned that the first responder is usually the most important person in this regard because a crime scene can change so quickly. The article brought up a point which I hadn’t thought about before. “The patrol car should be parked away from the crime scene, both to prevent impacting evidence left by the suspect and to prevent any suspect still on the scene from observing the officer. Officer and citizen safety are of primary concern when entering a possible crime scene.” It makes sense that the safety of the officer and other people should be the top priority but the article later mentions that in achieving this goal evidence is often compromised. I wonder if it would be smart to create a specific unit of police dedicated to first responding in order to ensure the crime scenes are as accurate as possible.

First Responder Website

The Role of the First Responder

Twin Genetics

The major difference between identical and fraternal twins are the number of fertilized eggs in the process. Identical twins come from the same fertilized egg. This happens when a single embryo splits into two after fertilization. Identical twins have the same DNA because they come from the same embryo. After much research, I found out that the splitting of an embryo happens by chance and genes are not involved. Fraternal twins happens when two separate eggs are fertilized by different sperm. Due to the different sperm the DNA of fraternal twins has to be different. Women become pregnant during ovulation when an egg is released to the sperm and is fertilized. Women usually release one egg during a cycle but for fraternal twins to happen, two eggs are released during one cycle. This is called hyper ovulation. Some women have genes that enable them to hyper ovulate while others release only one egg.twins

Twin Genetics

Dr. Bennet Omalu

Dr.Bennet Omalu is a Nigerian doctor who is recognized worldwide for his discoveries in autopsies for football. With his many degrees and interest in pathology, Dr. Bennet Omalu conducted the autopsy of the Pittsburgh Steeler, Mike Webster. His autopsies of football players led to the discovery of a new disease,  chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease found in people who have suffered a severe blow to the head. Dr.Bennet Omalu’s discovery has changed the football world and has made it necessary for advanced protection of the brain for football players. Oman’s journey to discovery can be found in the movie “Concussion”. The movie is amazing and shows examples of the adjacent possible, liquid networks and error.

Check out this amazing video!

Video

omalu

Dr. Bennet Omalu

Sickle Cell Disease

Chapter 3 discusses Mendel’s discovery of genes, and how his study is known as “genetics”. Mutations can occur with genes and effects can occur such as Sickle Cell Disease. Sickle Cell can happen when one parent has the sickle cell trait and the other has an abnormal hemoglobin gene.If both parents are carriers there is a 1 and 4 chance that their child will have sickle cell. The disease is prevalent in populations in or from Africa, and the Middle East. These are major areas where malaria is prevalent. When someone has sickle cell their red blood cells become distorted into a sickle shape and provide low oxygen. There are many treatments for sickle cell such as blood transfusions and an array of pain medications. Unfortunately, no cure has been found. As a Ghanaian American with family members and friends who have sickle cell. I would like for many people to be aware of this disease and I hope some day someone is able to find a cure.

sickle_cell_anemia-01

Sickle Cell Disease

DNA In Hair Samples

One of the most controversial topics in Pointing From the Grave, so far, has been determining whether or not the fingerprint found on the teapot is enough to incriminate Frediani. Three samples were collected: the fingerprint on the teapot, the semen, and pubic hairs. Now that the fingerprint came out to a match and qualified Frediani to be a suspect, and the samples of semen were sent to a lab,  the only evidence that can be tested is the pubic hairs. However, Frediani’s attorney claims that the pubic hairs could belong to anyone including, Helena herself, her husband, or any guest that has ever slept in their bed. Through the DNA analyzing technology that we have developed we are able to analyze the DNA in hair strands. However, I did more research about the process of DNA testing using hair samples. To my surprise, hair samples do not actually provide the most accurate sample of DNA. In fact, the article claims that hair samples are the “most overestimated and misrepresented DNA samples”(Hughes).  I have attached the article below. Check it out it!

taken from the article whose link is provided below.
taken from the article whose link is provided below.

http://www.forensicmag.com/articles/2013/04/challenges-dna-testing-and-forensic-analysis-hair-samples

DNA In Hair Samples

Insanity Plea

“Mr. Frediani is now seeing a Dr. Thomas Samuels, a clinical psychologist, three times a week… if Mr. Frediani were going to another place… it would have already happened” – Weinberg 60

In Pointing From the Grave, insanity pleas are brought up by Weinberg, which led me to look further into the idea of a mental illness as motive to commit a crime. There are different ways courts test for legal insanity and different results which are used in court. The most common rule used in courts is the “M’Naghten Rule,” which states that the suspect or defendant didn’t understand what he or she did and doesn’t understand the difference between right and wrong because of mental illnesses. Another common standard used is courts is the “Irresistible Impulse Test,” when, due to a mental illness, a defendant is unable to control his or her impulses and therefore commits a crime. Though these rules and standards are used in courts all over America, there are a handful of states which do not allow insanity pleas. Idaho, Montana, and Utah do not allow for insanity pleas and Kansas allows for “guilty but insane” pleas where the defendant receives institutionalization rather than jail time.

Source

Insanity Plea

Testing

Chaput reports that analysis of the semen found on the flowery pillowcase and sheets is under way at the San Mateo crime lab…”I spoke to Mona Ng, who is the criminalist doing the testing. . . She had completed two of the tests that I requested on the serological samples. She did the ABO types, which did match the defendant. She also did PGM types, which was the same as the defendant. But she said it put him as a type O secretor, which is not a terribly uncommon situation among adult males. I asked her if she could do any further testing of any other enzymes and she said she would attempt to do that” (weinberg 58)

This is one of the most biotechnological term heavy passages from this book so far. During the preliminary hearings for Mr. Frediani the prosecution is attempting to present enough evidence to convince the judge to continue with the trial. The investigating detective, Chaput, is speaking of the tests that were run on the fluids and hairs found at the scene. A serological sample according the the encyclopedia Britannica is any test run on a sample of blood serum. So assuming that the police had taken a blood sample, Mona Ng was analyzing his blood through these tests. An ABO test identifies what blood type a suspect has, either A, B, AB, or O. This test matched Mr. Frediani. A PGM tests is looking for a mutation in the suspects blood that is inherited from their parents and effects how blood clots. Because both the ABO and the PGM tests matched the prosecutors are hoping that this is enough circumstantial evidence to convince a judge to proceed to trial.

Testing

Strange Feelings?

“Sam Morishima had a gut feeling that something was wrong…’I drove on the freeway past the Del Mar exit, and I had this strong feeling that I should drop by Twenty-third Street on my way. But I told myself that was stupid- I would see Helena as soon as I got to the office.” – Weinberg 69

Why did Sam get a “strong feeling” he should drop by Helena’s house on the day she was killed? Mothers have reported the same type of feelings when their children or loved ones are in trouble. Is there a scientific explanation for this phenomena? Though I searched around on Google for some kind of article that would explain this, I could find nothing that explained or addressed this. However, many people report that on the day that someone dies, they “had a feeling that they should call”, or were uneasy for no reason. It could be a placebo used to stifle guilt and grief, or a story to reassure one’s faith in the ethereal and spiritual, but no one truly knows. It is hard to scientifically identify this type of thing, but I think it shows that we have much to learn about science, psychology, and the universe itself even today.

Strange Feelings?

Can Fingerprints Lie?

In response to Chapter 5, I found an article in the New Yorker called “Can fingerprints lie?”. This article gives lots of information about fingerprints, and includes an interesting anecdote about an officer who was accused of murder because her fingerprints were wrongly identified. At this point in the book (Chapter 5), can we assume that the same thing has happened to David Paul Frediani? He does not match the physical description that Helena provided, but also she was not in the greatest mental state when she gave that description. Either way, this article raises some great questions about forensic science’s dependency on fingerprint evidence.

Can Fingerprints Lie?

The Purpose of Backstory

“Paul felt truly happy; at last he was becoming the person he wanted to be.
A decade later, and he was contemplating how to approach his parents to ask for money to pay an attorney to represent him in a sexual assault case.” -Weinberg, pg 66

In each chapter, it seems Weinberg deviates a little from the main narrative, either providing backstory on the main characters, or background information on the different scientific methods used in the case.
However, I’m not sure how I feel about this extensive backstory provided for Frediani. On the one hand, we don’t know yet if he’s innocent or guilty, and I understand that it’s important to view him as a complex human being, rather than just the main suspect in a sexual assault case. However, when Ms. Weinberg was writing this book, she likely already knew the outcome of the trial–she already knew if Frediani was guilty of assaulting Helena.
If he is guilty, then this backstory seems to take on a different meaning, one I’m not too sure I like. We hear all about Frediani’s strict parents and his medical problems growing up, and how happy he was to finally get to be himself at college. All this suggests that Frediani, at this point in the narrative a likely rapist, is someone we should feel sympathy for.
He had such a rough childhood, the poor man. Let’s not judge him too harshly, right?
On top of all this oh so tragic backstory, Weinberg ends the chapter with the bombshell Andrea drops on Frediani–she’s pregnant with twins.

The Purpose of Backstory

Childhood Environment

Chapter 5 takes a look at who Paul Frediani actually is. Growing up, he suffered from complications due to his foot, which resulted in surgery. He was also constantly under pressure from his parents, who expected nothing less than satisfactory of him. Paul was demanded to get A’s in school, look a certain way, attend church on Sundays, and obey his early curfew. As a result of these demands, Paul started to become a little rebellious. Often times, childhood rebellion can be linked to adulthood behavior. According to a psychological study, the type of environment a child lives in is going to almost always have some sort of affect on who they become when they grow up. For example, the article (listed below) explains the predicament of child who grew up in a household that had high expectations. Similarly to Frediani’s parents, this child’s parents expected a lot from their child. As a result of this, the child grew up to be defensive and often times withdrew from social situations. During his adulthood, this person tended to get involved in relationships where the women were more dominating.  Through this story, the author of this article really stresses the importance of a positive parental role. He writes, “Though most incidents might not be as glaring or dramatic as that illustrated by the above story, children are constantly adjusting themselves to please and protect their parents. These acts of sacrifice, large and small, create the core defenses that often hurt them as adults. In other words, we form a set of internalized parents that recreate emotions and interactions from early in our lives.” Relating this back to the book, I feel as if this psychological behavior could apply to Frediani. Perhaps, it is one of the reasons behind his criminal tendencies.
http://www.psychalive.org/how-childhood-defenses-hurt-us-as-adults/

Childhood Environment

Locard’s Exchange Principle

“One of the fundamental tenets of crime detention, Locard’s Exchange Principle, states that a cross transfer of evidence takes place whenever a criminal comes into contact with a victim, an object or a crime scene. When the victim has died after a violent struggle, it is almost inevitable that in the course of the fight, as they claw each other, the victim might manage to scrape vital pieces of evidence with their fingernails– skin, dirt, hair” Weinberg 75

This process really stood out to me, particularly, how true is it? I am sure that it is a well established principle in the forensic science world, and has been used over and over to find and convict guilty offenders. But in real situations, it does not seem like it is as guaranteed as the principle makes it seem. Especially since there was not enough evidence under Helena’s fingernails to identify anyone’s DNA. Maybe it is because I watch too many CSI shows and am not immersed in any way with the actual process of real cases and forensic data collection, but it seems to me that this principle applies more in theory than in real life. This seems plausible especially for well planned out murders. The murderer probably tries to decrease physical contact as much as possible, and probably tries to get it over with as fast as possible without leaving behind any evidence. I think in cases where the murderer is somewhat mentally unstable or has a personal vendetta or wants revenge on someone, then they might attempt a hand to hand murder or come in close physical contact with the victim. This seems to be the kind of case that CSI shows deal with anyway.

Locard’s Exchange Principle

Autopsy

The description of the autopsy was very interesting and how the body ‘told the story’ of how Helena was killed. It also pointed to what the victim looked like “big” and “strong. Also it showed that the killer had a personal motive because he had to get up close and personal with her. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/visibleproofs/galleries/cases/examiner.html

This article was interesting because it went into detail about what a coroner’s job is versus what a medical examiner does but both do contribute greatly to cases.

Autopsy

GenBank: DNA sequences

We have recently been discussing the ethics of DNA sequencing and having a database with our sequences contained for either legal or public use. There have been so many advances in  technology for collecting DNA samples and efficiently analyzing them within a lab setting. However, the beginning struggle of collecting these samples is having a sample to compare it to, in this case a perpetrator. This idea of not having a suspect at hand and having DNA that has no sample to compare it to brings the discussion of having a DNA bank with all individuals genetic information placed in it. This seems like a logical way to solve this situation but is it reasonable and ethical? There is always the statement that if you’re not doing anything illegal than why does it matter that the government has your DNA information? Our documents are not impossible to reach if they are needed in a legal situation. This is seen as an invasion of privacy and makes many people uneasy.

In my molecular genetics and synthetic biology courses, we were required to use systems such as GenBank to input sequences into a BLAST search to look for other similar sequences. It is advantageous to scientist because it can identify sequences that they might not know where it comes from.

How we approached this in molecular genetics was we had an Autorad sequence and we needed to figure out the individual ATGC arrangement, in a linear fashion: AGCCTACGATAG for example. Once we manual wrote down every base we were able to put into the blast search that would tell us what it was (enzyme, protein, etc. ), where it was mostly found (animal, plant etc.) what chromosome it is found on, and many other features. This GenBank is public information and allows other scientist around the world to compare their findings of sequencing with others.

 

GenBank: DNA sequences

Men in Black and Fingerprinting

“Now, practically every policeman is trained in the art of collecting fingerprints, and every police crime lab has a fingerprint analyst.”- Weinberg 49

Though Weinberg talks about hiding fingerprints through gloves, I wondered if it was truly possible to remove one’s own fingerprints like Agent J (Will Smith) does in one of my favorite films, Men in Black. I found a a small debate about it on a question site called quora.com, which mentions that it is possible to temporarily “sand” off one’s fingerprints as well as permanently burn them off. So, in reality, the device used in Men In Black could very well be a real thing; However, this article from CNN says that it is useless, at least from a criminal’s perspective. Fingerprint analysis techniques get better every day, and even mutilating one’s own fingers might not be enough to escape the cops anymore.

Men in Black and Fingerprinting

DNA and Ethics

The National DNA Database is one of the best options at the disposal of law enforcement to identify criminals. On the other hand, many people believe that it invades personal privacy because it was originally created to build a group of criminal profiles, and now it seems to have become a database for all citizens and non criminals alike. In our generation of technological savvy information systems and software, it is pretty easy to find out who exactly someone is based on their DNA and genetic information. I personally have no issue with law enforcement being able to access my DNA, but some believe that the access to this information can reveal ethnicity and disease susceptibility. Our DNA is literally everywhere, your skin cells are all over everything you touch and your saliva cells are on everything you drink or eat from. Therefore, I think it seems as if even without this DNA database, if someone wanted to get access to your DNA, or find out more about you, they would be able to anyway regardless. Furthermore, isn’t it a positive thing if the police know how to identify you? DNA analysis has helped identify missing people and human remains, so I think the pros outweigh the cons in terms of questioning whether a DNA database is ethical in our country.

DNA and Ethics

False Admission

In Chapter 4 of Pointing from the Grave, Frediani disputes all claims laid against only to later admit to them, claiming that he was drunk and that’s why. Along these pretences, I began to think about how often suspects lie and if it ever works in reverse; do suspects ever falsely admit to something they never actually did? After doing some research about this, I stumbled upon the Innocence Project’s website where they claim that false admissions are a huge factor in wrongful convictions. They stated that “more than 1 out of 4 people wrongfully convicted but later exonerated by DNA evidence made a false confession or incriminating statement.” Their example was that of Damon Thibodeaux, a young man who eventually admitted to raping his cousin, whose body had been found earlier that night. His story was inconsistent with injuries on the victim and it did not make sense in a timeline but that was not sufficient enough evidence to counter his admission. Damon wrongfully served 15 years in a federal prison before DNA evidence freed him.

Source

False Admission

Dependency on DNA

“In the Future, murderers would not be able to claim bloodstains on their shirts came from their families dinner”(Weinberg, 51).

Throughout the whole book so far, DNA has been needed to try to identify the suspect. In chapter 4, they finally use the DNA of the fingerprint and other genetic substances to identify Paul as the guilty party. Since its inception in the early 1900’s DNA has been the powerhouse of crime solving. But is it even now still not 100 percent efficient? Its known that no two people have the same fingerprints, but could two people have ones that are so close that there could be a mistake? and what if two people have similar genetic makeups, like family? There can still be error, even with its most dependency, confession could be the most effective way of finishing a crime.

Dependency on DNA

Fingerprints: Solid or Flimsy Evidence?

“Of all the fingerprints Hill had examined from the scene, only one was clear enough for full analysis, a single print found under the lip of the teapot. After studying it using a microscope, he found sixteen separate points of comparison, all of which matched” -Weinberg, p56

This quote really stuck out to me as I was reading this chapter because it shocked me that only one fingerprint from the scene was good enough to be analyzed. This was surprising to me because the attacker broke into Helena’s house through the window, therefore he had to open the window, and I assumed that some of the fingerprints that were found on the window frame would have been good enough to use. I wondered if some of the fingerprints that were lifted off the window frame were ruined because of the possibility of inexperienced police officers lifting the prints. It was also interesting to me that the attacker and his lawyer considered the sixteen points of comparison, all of which matched, as flimsy evidence. This seems like very concrete evidence to me. Is it possible to have a fingerprint that similar to someone else? These points of comparison also seemed to strike the Judge as solid evidence, but the attacker’s lawyer was able to convince him that the situation was not as serious as he was treating it. Personally, I think the fingerprint that was found on the teapot was substantial evidence, enough to assume that Frediani was Helena’s attacker, and the case should have been dealt with more seriously and in a quicker time frame.

Fingerprints: Solid or Flimsy Evidence?

Place of Flower Pot

One thing that struck me from chapter 5 was the way the hearing for Paul went down.  Collins brings up a decent point about the description of his client.  Paul is described in court as a 6’3 white man in his early thirties, and even without the stretch that his eyes are hazel and not brown, he doesn’t fit the description of the criminal.  This brings up the whole idea of the location of the flower pot that held his print on it.  Even though it was once inside the house, the pot was outside of the house when it was found.  I was wondering if this lessons the credibility of the his print that the prosecutors have against him?  The semen analysis is still waiting to be done, but it is mentioned that none of Paul’s fingerprints are inside of the house.  It is very early on in the case, but at this point I believe that the prosecutors are going to need a lot more evidence than Paul’s print placing him outside of the house.

Place of Flower Pot

How I Identify vs. How I’m Identified

On page 55, Weinberg quotes Carl Hill, the supervising evidence technician at the San Mateo Sheriff’s forensic lab, as he explains fingerprint identification.

“‘They are based on the fact that fingerprints are formed in the first three to four months of the fetal period; they remain the same throughout life unless permanently scarred or decomposition sets in after death.'”

-Weinberg, 55

What does this say about personal identification versus how we are identified? I don’t know anyone that talks about their physical traits before their likes, dislikes, and hobbies. People don’t join clubs because all of them have whorls in their thumb prints. Yet all of those people could be assembled from a single print on a crime scene.

Furthermore, the fact that we have this trait of identification for pretty much our entire lives (where as likes, dislikes, and hobbies come and go) speaks volumes for the identity we have versus the ones we create.

How I Identify vs. How I’m Identified

DNA or Product of Environment

In chapter 5 of the book, a good amount of time was spent discussing the childhood and teenage years of Paul Frediani.  He had a lot of health problems as a kid and also did not get along with his father especially well.  He didn’t have a great child but that in no way means that he would end up on the wrong end of a sexual assault case as an adult.  Is a person’s personality and character traits more a product of DNA, engrained in them since birth?  Or is it more about the environment you are raised in, which shapes who you are through experiences and interactions with the people surrounding you?

DNA or Product of Environment

Development of Forensics

In Chapter 4, I think it was really interesting how they talked about the development of finger printing and DNA testing in general.  Forensic science is an enormous part of everyday life in every country now, especially in law enforcement.  Before forensic science, “justice” was pretty much a huge blame game, with the defendant claiming one thing and the plaintiff claiming another.  Finger printing and DNA testing has eliminated the guessing game in the justice system, providing concrete evidence to back any claim made in court.  But, the development of this science did not happen over night.  Finger printing came first, the blood tests, and so on.  Scientists all over the world were working simultaneously to transform the science in to what it is today.  However, did any of these scientists work together or examine each other’s works?  Could they have split up the work and developed it more quickly, or was the gradual increase of technology and knowledge necessary in making forensic science what it is today?

Development of Forensics

Blood Types

He analyzed the different reactions, and came to the conclusion that blood could be broken down into four groups (now known as A, B, AB, O,”-Weinberg (51).

Today we do not think twice when we learn what our blood type is or need blood and receive some from the same blood type.  This classification of blood types went on to become very important in the world of criminology because it allows prosecutors to get that much more specific in identifying a criminal.  One thing that stuck me about the discovery about blood types is how long it took for the find to get the recognition it deserved.  When Paul Uhlenhuth, in 1900, found out that blood could in fact be analyzed to see if it is from a human, the world of prosecutors jumped on the idea with great interest.  When Karl Landsteiner discovered the different types of blood his work wasn’t properly praised until around 20 years after the initial finding in 1901.  Why was this finding viewed as not as important as Uhlenhuth’s?

Blood Types

Lowering the Bail?

Weinberg recounts in the preliminary hearing that Martin Murray, the prosecution against Paul Frediani, is very  much against the lowering of Frediani’s bail from $100,000 to $25,000. The judge originally says she has reason to believe Frediani committed three offenses, but after Murray challenges the bail, she just says the reason for the $25,000 is for his exposure in front of the young girl. Additionally, he is going to therapy a few times a week and he has cooperated so far, not showing any signs of running.

This whole situation is a bit strange to me. I don’t understand why Murray was so against lowering the bail to begin with. Even though Frediani does not appear to be struggling with money, the difference between $25 and $100,000 for a regular person don’t seem to be that much. I don’t think Frediani could have managed either on his own anyway. But he gets very vocal when the judge suggests lowering the bail. From this angle though, it is hard to understand why the judge lowered the bail, even if that was the standard bail for exposure in front of the little girl. The judge seemed to think there was enough evidence to convict him of three crimes in trial, so why would she suddenly be okay with lowering the bail? She goes along easily with the defenses claims that Frediani was cooperating with police, even though this was his second time in court. Finally, what does this argument in the first place tell us about the importance of bail in criminal proceedings?

Lowering the Bail?

Aftermath from sexual assault

The first chapter was about introducing the story of Helena. It gave the vivid and brutal story of how she was sexually assaulted one night. It made me think of what life is like after sexual assault for the victims. Here is an article about a sexual assault victim and how she used exercise to move past the attack.http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2013/09/18/regaining-control-after-sexual-assault-through-fitness/

Aftermath from sexual assault

Wealth vs. Crime Rate

The beginning of chapter 2 brought up how the neighborhood where Helena was attacked was very wealthy and this brought up questions in class about the wealth of a neighborhood affecting how quickly crimes would be solved. Because of the argument about resources vs. Experience. Here is an article about how income affects the crime rate of an area.http://financesonline.com/how-income-inequality-affects-crime-rates/

Wealth vs. Crime Rate

DNA the best answer to solve crimes?

As we have read in the Pointing From the Grave, DNA evidence is clearly very useful in finding and possibly convicting criminals. Though DNA used to not be used like it is today. It has grown substantially into a key piece of evidence in most cases. Here is a article from a magazine that gives the history and development of DNA in the court room.http://www.forensicmag.com/articles/2005/01/evolution-dna-evidence-crime-solving-judicial-and-legislative-history

DNA the best answer to solve crimes?

Genetic Testing to find likelihood for one to commit crimes

As genetic testing continues to advance and how it has changed the world of science and for catching criminals. Though scientists are now using similar technology to try to discover if some people are more susceptible to committing crimes the others.http://www.udel.edu/chem/C465/senior/fall00/GeneticTesting/enviro.htm

Genetic Testing to find likelihood for one to commit crimes

Rough Childhood

Frediani life as a kid might have been unstable and rather violent when he was kid. There is a likelihood that this can be tied to the accusations of rape toward him. It is very common that most criminals that commit rape, murder etc are victims of violence at the hands of their parents when they were kids. I think that if the treatment was better in Frediani’s childhood then the crime accusations would not have existed. This also brings me to the idea that there is ultimately no choice the criminal has if he or she was raised in a similar fashion, years after years of child abuse and negative influence must make the criminal a certain amount of insane.

Rough Childhood

Blame it On The Alcohol

Frediani lies about his relevance to the crime at first, then claims that it had taken place because he was drunk. In the criminal world this idea of “blaming it on the alcohol” seems to be popular. However, it seems to increase the chances of hardened punishment. This brings me to the idea that if alcohol was not present in at least fifty percent of crime, would that fifty percent be less than it is? maybe if criminals were not drunk at the time of certain wrongdoing I feel there is a huge possibility that the crime would not happen. All in all, in the world of crime alcohol seems to be a huge accessory to some crime, if this stupidity was eliminated I feel crime rates would decrease drastically.

Blame it On The Alcohol

Platforms vs Patents 2

Reading this chapter made me think of the issue with patents discussed in class a while ago, and gives me a remembrance of the question if patents are more effective than platforms. Mendel did not receive any recognition for his work, this surely was an annoyance for him. Do you think if his work was patented and he got all the credit for his work, it would have had an effect on others implementing his work because they knew it was his. His work was ultimately a platform because even though it was his idea, others were able to feed off of it legally.

Platforms vs Patents 2

Antigens

“same blood antigens are secreted into other bodily fluids- semen, saliva, tears, and sweat- by 80 percent of the population.” (Weinberg 53)

I do not understand how people can commit crimes anymore, it just doesn’t make sense to me, anybody who has seen any Law & Order, or NCIS, or Cold Case should know how effective the police are at proving you are guilty. Unless you are meticulous enough to where gloves, hair hair, most likely a mask, plastic bags over the shoes, you will be caught because you can’t be careful enough not to drop hair follicles or sweat somewhere. On the other hand how do police account for the other 20% of the population, are they just not able to be identified through these antigens, of do you they have an even more rare condition that makes it easier to identify you?

 

Antigens

Scientists Can Be Wrong

“the majority of geneticists were still concentrating on protein at the time, and were apparently loath to abandon something into which they had poured so much time and intellectual energy” (Weinberg 34)

This one belief could be one of the most frustrating part of science: scientists are stubborn enough to work on something for years even if they know it is leading to know where. This is across all fields of study, scientists who have poured their lives into an idea that will never come to fruition because it is just not right. I have always wondered how many countless technologies and theories have been struck down simply on the belief of a majority of scientists that your idea is wrong; just because a majority of scientists believe something, does not mean it is right, for 50 years before inflation theory was discovered, scientists believed that the universe was constant, Einstein himself believed this.

 

Scientists Can Be Wrong

Chapter 2

“there were two different communities; the white coats and the suits” (Weinberg 15)

It seems that the world’s corporations, businesses, anybody that is a force of technological change, always are in these two categories: the suits and white coats. To me it doesn’t make sense that these are two separate communities, as a business it is in your best interest to make sure that the technology that the white coats are able to “sell” their products. Additionally, the suits, the marketers should be very involved in coming up with new concepts and ideas for the white coats to work on, just because they are not scientists does not mean that they don’t have unique insights and ideas that may help a scientist.

 

Chapter 2

DNA Analyzing

Chapter 4 of Pointing From the Grave continues the idea of fingerprinting, and matching DNA samples to incriminate a suspect in a case. Helena’s husband receives a call to their home saying that the fingerprint sample found on the teapot outside of window has matched a criminal who has sexually abused women before. Police were able to obtain a warrant for this man’s arrest all because his fingerprints were found at the scene of the crime. This is just one of many different ways that DNA can help in criminal cases. I began to do some more research about DNA analyzing, and testing samples to match them to a suspect. I found a pretty cool article. I definitely think you guys should take a look if you get a chance. It’s about the different steps of analyzing DNA and what it can tell us about biology and genetics.The link is below. Hope you enjoy!

http://nij.gov/topics/forensics/evidence/dna/basics/pages/analyzing.aspx

DNA Analyzing

Fiction Tells All

“It was a clear case of fiction pre-dating reality, this time by more than a decade” -Weinberg, p49

This quote followed Weinberg’s description about how Sherlock Holmes, the fictional detective, actually inspired the “scientific detective,” and figured out that there was an infallible test for blood stains. I was very interested to read that fiction actually predates reality in many instances, and I was very curious as to what other scientific discoveries were already thought of in fiction. I read an article on Wired, written by Nick Stockton, that discussed some of the science that is present in fiction stories that came to life in 2015. It was shocking to me to see all the present scientific advancements we have today that were actually thought up by fictional authors. The most notable inventions from fiction were genetically engineered organisms and food. Stockton mentions that in the book Oryx and Crake Margaret Atwood created characters that were actually genetically modified pigs, which had been modified to have multiple copies of human organs. Now a Virginia based bioengineering firm started its own genetically modified pig-organ breeding program. Another example that Stockton mentioned which was interesting to me was that Isaac Asimov, a science fiction writer, wrote an article for the New York Times where he touched upon turkey and steaks that would one day be grown from yeast and algae. Asimov’s thought of food being grown in a petri-dish is almost a present day reality since many of the flavors that are in our foods today are synthetically created.

Fiction Tells All

Insuffecient Evidence

“They have learned nothing new– the case rests on that single fingerprint found outside Helena Greenwood’s house, together with her testimony that he has the same “height and type of build” as the man who had attacked her thirteen months previously. He cannot believe that he will be convicted on such flimsy evidence..”-Weinberg (pp. 56)

Reading this passage from Pointing from the Grave got me interested in finding a case in where an individual was convicted of a crime solely on their fingerprints. It didn’t take too long until I found something a case. In the state of Indiana Lana Canen has been convicted of murder in 2002 for the murder of Helen Sailor. The conviction has made possible through using only fingerprint analysis. The detective of crime scene, Dennis Chapman, conducted the analysis based on fingerprints found on a prescription bottle at the crime scene. The analysis concluded that the fingerprints were a match even though detective Chapman did not have no training in latent print comparisons. “This was the only evidence against Canen and she was convicted and sentenced to 55 years in prison.” After the conviction, attorney Cara Wieneke believed that Lana Canen was innocent and appealed the case. Cara Wieneke hired and independent forensic analyst that concluded that the fingerprints of Canen and from the prescription bottle did not match. The report was used in court and got conviction turned over.

Reference:

http://californiainnocenceproject.org/2012/10/fingerprint-experts-mistake-leads-to-wrongful-conviction-in-indiana/

Insuffecient Evidence

Fetal Bovin Serium

fetal bovine serum

A questioned posed in this chapter was how does someone distinguish between animal and human blood. People were trying to claim that blood on their clothing was from their meaty dinners instead of actual people. The experiment done to finally put an end to this mystery was using animal serum (antibodies/blood) and testing it against blood taken from humans. 

This experiment reminded me of a lab technique found in cell culturing. Fetal bovin serum is extracted from calfs actually taken from slaughterhouses. It sounds pretty disgusting but it has proven to be a great way to feed cells. It is used in cell culturing because it has a low level of antibodies and provides many growth factor to a variety of eukaryotic cells. Without this serum the cells wouldn’t be able to survive or grow.

www.caissonlabs.com: Picture 

Fetal Bovin Serium

Blood Typing

After reading this chapter, I went online to read about blood types and found information about how much more complicated blood types are than the 4 simple A, B, AB, and O blood types. Blood actually contains hundreds of antigens that can all create some form of reaction if the wrong type is given during a blood transfusion. One of the rarest blood types in the world has only nine active blood donors of this specific type in the world. Blood typing has come a long way since blood groups were originally discovered.

Blood Typing

Landsteiner’s Slow Hunch

“Landsteiner, a shy man in his early thirties and an assistant professor of Pathology at the University of Vienna, had been drawn from medical practice and back into research out of frustration at the shortcomings of medicines in dealing with many illnesses” -Weinberg 51

Pathology- the science of the causes and effects of diseases, especially the branch of medicine that deals with the laboratory examination of samples of body tissue for diagnostic or forensic purposes (Google). Landsteiner is the man who discovered that humans have different blood types, and so for blood transfusions to be successful, their types must match.

I think Landsteiner is an example of Johnson’s slow hunch. At first look, it might look like Landsteiner just deciding to look at how blood differs and discovering blood types as serendipity, or just a happy chance or eureka moment. But at second look, Landsteiner needed his years of study and failures in the medicinal field to give him not only the idea or inspiration to look at a different problem, but also the materials and methods necessary. In other words, he trained and worked in the medicinal field and so was able to decide that that was what he didn’t want to do, and looked at a different problem/perspective with the same eyes and skills that he had used for years.

Landsteiner started out in the field of pathology, he experimented with body tissue to learn about preventing disease. But because what he was doing was not working (Johnson’s failure), he approached his problem (reversing disease) from a different perspective and found something even better- he learned another way to prevent disease.

Landsteiner’s Slow Hunch

Evidence

“He could not believe that he will be convicted on such flimsy evidence, but Collins has warned him that he must be prepared to go to trial.” – Weinberg, page 56

Whether he is guilty or not, his DNA was found in a pot outside Helena’s house. We are aware that DNA is a very concrete evidence, however the fact it was outside changes a lot of things. Anyone could have touched that pot and could have been wrongly convicted. When there is a DNA role I believe that it has taken from a place that prosecutors are certain that only them could have committed the crime. If there is something that plays such a big role in finding criminals like DNA, we should be more careful of where we find it. If not, a lot of people may be convicted for wrong things.

Evidence

How important is the price of bail?

“In addition to the seriousness of the charged crime, the amount of bail usually depends on factors such as a defendant’s past criminal record, whether a defendant is employed, and whether a defendant has close ties to relatives and the community.”

“Judges may legally deny bail altogether in some circumstances. For example, if another jurisdiction has placed a warrant (hold) on a defendant, a judge is likely to keep the defendant in custody at least long enough for the other jurisdiction to pursue its charge.”

After reading the heated debate over the bail price in the chapter I was curious how important is the price of bail and how it is set. in doing so I found an article which had two interesting quotes. The first I found interesting that bail can be based off of criminal record which can sway how people are able to pay or not pay for bail. Also I found it interesting that the judge can deny bail. Overall I don’t think bail is important as the chapter made it seem. Both quotes are from the article.

How Judges Set bail article

How important is the price of bail?

The Use of Antibodies Today: Pregnancy Tests

“Paul Uhlenhuth, an assistant professor at the Institute of Hygiene in Griefswald, found a method of determining the origin of unknown blood using a precipitating antiserum.”- Weinberg (pp. 50)

The use of antibodies have came a long way for the use in science. One of the most useful, cost efficient, and easy tests made in our society are in pregnancy tests. Pregnancy tests contain antibodies within them that contain antibodies. These antibodies in the test binds to a hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin,  is secreted when a woman is pregnant. When present in urine the antibodies bind to the hormone and produce a positive result. The specificity of these antibodies for the hormone makes these pregnancy test very accurate for testing. Another uncommon found from using pregnancy tests is used to detect men’s testicular cancer. A study conducted found that the same HCG hormone secreted by women during pregnancy is also secreted in some cases of testicular cancer.

References:

Home pregnancy tests may detect men's cancer

The Use of Antibodies Today: Pregnancy Tests

The Future and Science

“When Arthur Conan Doyle wrote this, there was no way to determine whether a dried bloodstain was human or animal.” Weinberg, page 49

When the author Conan Doyle wrote the mysteries and solved them, the way he solved that one mystery was discovered not much later. It caught my attention since we are never able to know what may be just fictional or what can eventually turn into reality so easily. There are so many things that we read, but we don’t really take them into account. However, they can be the near the future without us realizing it. People that read Sherlock Holmes probably did not even think that what they were reading would actually become an essential thing for crime solving and for identifying people in other situations.

The Future and Science

Sherlock Holmes and Interest in Science

“Bizarrely, it was a fictional detective, the incomparable Sherlock Holmes, who inspired the so called scientific detectives” (Weinberg 49).

I think this is a really interesting that so much of our modern criminal science came into existence because of a fictional character. It reminded me of an article I read along time ago about how because of the character on the X files show Scully more people in particular women took an interest in forensic science. I think its neat the effect that media has on advancing science and any field because of how they are portrayed in television.

Sherlock Holmes and Interest in Science

Fingerprinting

The section on fingerprinting was very interesting to me. The technology of analyzing fingerprints has become very sophisticated and is used throughout the world to help to identify criminals. It is a good method to use because no one’s fingerprints are the same and there is no way to ‘forge’ this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcFYQcYdyu0

This video was very interesting to me because our technology now even uses fingerprinting as a form of security. Since no one’s fingerprint is the same it’s easy to lock a phone with it as the password. This video is interesting because it talks about the technology that goes into this.

Fingerprinting

Forensic Science

“The techniques employed to reveal–and identify–fingerprints have become increasingly sophisticated. Chemicals like ninhydrin can stain absorbed fingerprint sweat patterns on paper, making them visible, while superglue fumes can lift prints off human skin.” -Weinberg, pg 49

Reading this book makes me really glad that I took a course on forensic science in high school. Two of the main topics in this chapter, added in to help us understand the science behind Helena’s case, are subjects that we discussed in my forensics class: fingerprinting and blood typing. We learned about the different ways to reveal fingerprints, including the techniques that use ninhydrin and superglue. But when we spent a week practicing such techniques, we focused on the different kinds of fingerprinting powder–typical black powder, white or silver powder for dark surfaces, even magnetic powder for delicate surfaces that you don’t want to mar with a brush in order to remove the excess powder.
We also learned about blood typing, and practiced using anti-serums on synthetic blood to figure out which blood type we were working with. Something else we learned regarding blood types that wasn’t mentioned in the book is the Rh factor. In addition to being type A, B, AB, or O, your blood type can also be positive or negative. This refers to whether or not your blood contains a particular protein, and is also necessary information to have in order to have safe blood transfusions. Blood types that contain the protein can safely mix with blood that has the protein or doesn’t have the protein; negative blood types can only mix with other negative blood types.
I’m finding this book particularly interesting because I already possess so much background knowledge that’s helping me understand all the scientific techniques being discussed.

Forensic Science

Blood

This chapter was fascinating because it had so much information on blood groups. Blood types have always interested me, and the fact that you can group the different types of blood, and test them in crimes. It sets to prove that each individual is very unique. If not the prints, you can always test the blood.  It also surprises me that we can test dry blood stains. Truly revolutionary! Also, in the beginning, I wondered how they tested semen like blood, and pinpointed a person that way.

“The same blood antigens are secreted into other bodily fluids- semen, saliva, tears and sweat- Not only could a murderer be tracked by his blood, but a rapist by his semen” (Weinberg 53)

I feel like this was a huge leap forward for inventions in biotechnology because its use is relevant and very useful. I wonder if this leads people to commit less crime, or if they continue to not be phased that any evidence they leave behind can be tracked?

Blood

Who did it?

“Over the following years, Lattes, and a growing band of fellow forensic serologists, were called in to use both the precipitin test and blood grouping in an increasing number of cases. Although they acknowledged that they were nowhere near being able to tell whether a bloodstain came from a particular person- the groupings were far too large for that- and it was of no help if the victim and suspect shared the same blood type, the techniques proved to be powerful in excluding suspects, narrowing down the list of potential culprits, and above all, as tools to produce a confession” (Weinberg 53)

The discovery of the precipitin test started a trend of forensic discoveries. But each of these tools that scientists uncovered proved to be useful only in eliminating suspects, not finding guilt. Like Weinberg said “the techniques proved to be powerful in excluding suspects”. Not until the ability to profile DNA was discovered were scientists able to prove guilt of a suspect. This perhaps is why the detectives in the case of Helena and Mr. Frediani were forced to question him instead of just simply arresting him. They could prove that he was indeed on the scene but not that he committed the crime. They were using the tools that were covered in the chapter like the precipitin test to exclude other suspects and use them to “produce a confession” from Mr. Frediani.

Who did it?

PGM Testing

Chapter 5 of Pointing from the Grave, rerouted back to the trail of Frediani and Helena. Throughout this chapter, results of the semen tests were shared. It was stated that the analyst was able to deduce that Frediani is an O secretor; however, it wasn’t with great confidence that this evidence was accurate. As a result Chaput asks the analyst to

“do any further testing of any other enzymes and she said she would attempt to do that” -Weinberg, p58.

I thought this was very interesting because I thought that when a test was done, all of the enzymes would be extracted. In addition, I was wondering what Chaput meant by enzymes being tested or how a PGM test was done. After doing research on PGM testing (seen in the link below), I found out that they conduct this experiment by testing the enzymes found in the red cell membrane. These are PGM’s or genetic markers are protein enzymes that are found throughout the body. In the discovery these PGM’s, there were also three phenotypes which correlated to two alleles allowing for a more highly specific genetic marker in crime scene investigations. Overall, I thought it was very interesting to see and learn of another form of forensic biotechnology used through the help of DNA. DNA really is the platform for new techniques to arise.

http://www.practicalhomicide.com/Research/LOjun2010.htm

PGM Testing

Fingerprinting

After reading Chapter 4 of Pointing from the Grave, it really shed light on the complexity and developments in the field of forensic science. Of course, I was familiar with the use of lifting finger prints and matching them from shows like CSI. However, realistically, I never knew how complex the process of collecting and matching fingerprints was. Attached I have posted a link that goes into detail about the of how fingerprints are lifted and examined. While there are many ways to do so, I thought it was very interested how they used immunofluorescent dye stain with orange alternate light source in order to make out a clear picture of the fingerprint. I also found this very related to my independent breast cancer research. In order to test the effects of hypoxia on the aggression of breast cancer cells I carried out an experiment in which I treated the cancer cells with different doses of Cobalt Chloride (which mimics hypoxic conditions) and then died the cells and viewed them under a confocal lens with Texas Red light. This is similar to the way in which the finger prints were stained and viewed under orange light. Overall, I thought it was interesting to see one of the ways in which fingerprints are made out and how it also overlapped with types of experiments I am running as a part of my research.

http://www.forensicsciencesimplified.org/prints/how.html

Fingerprinting

Forensics Today

“The only evidence that linked him to the case was a single fingerprint, but that could be enough. In the courtrooms of the world, fingerprints and blood and semen stains were increasingly playing the dominant role. Forensic science was leaping from the test tube to tap criminals on their shoulders like a triumphant child  in a life or death game of grandmother’s footsteps.

Forensic science plays a huge role in crime cases these days. With the expansion of technology, I am curious as to how forensic science has changed and grown. Do forensic scientists look at camera and video evidence more so than physical evidence, such as hairs and stains? In addition, as the book progresses, I am realizing that I enjoy Weinberg’s style as a writer. Thus far, she has presented the facts of the case in the way in an informative yet enthralling way. Like any crime show, Weinberg presents this case in such a way that is more than just straight facts. I especially appreciated her simile in the last sentence above.  

Forensics Today

Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact

“It’s science fiction!”
“A precursor to science fact!”
– Dr. Eric Selvig and Dr. Jane Foster from Marvel’s Thor

In the fourth chapter of “Pointing from the Grave”, Weinberg mentions how Sherlock Holmes’ discoveries led to scientists developing these innovations in real life and improving life. For instance, it was years before the blood-identifying serum  was developed that Holmes “‘found a re-agent which is precipitated by chemistry and by nothing else.'” (Weinberg, 49)

Many other times science fiction has been a catalyst for scientific breakthroughs. Stark Trek inspired NASA developments. “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” by Jules Verne led to the development of electric submarines.

It’s kind of amazing all the things that fiction and fantasy writers have thought of and developed before they were even in existence. I wonder what inventions from “The Hunger Games” researchers will think to develop.

Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact

Mendel’s Pea Plants

One of the biggest contributions to both DNA and Chapter 3 of Pointing From the Grave is Gregor Mendel’s work with pea plants. Through his studies Mendel was able to learn more about how offspring inherent different genes from their parents, and about the dominance and recessiveness of different genes. The most fascinating part of Mendel’s story in my opinion is that he did not receive any response or any recognition when he presented his discoveries. It took the dawn of a new century for Mendel’s work to be understood for its greatness. This chapter got me thinking a lot about Mendel and I wanted to learn more about his advancement of genetics. Attached below is a Ted Talk that I think you guys may enjoy. After watching this video I understood Mendel’s work in a whole new light, and definitely a more visual light. Check it out!

Mendel’s Pea Plants

Gender and Science

Something new I learned this chapter was the working relationship between Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins. When I first learned the story of Rosalind Franklin, in high school, I did not know she had partner with her when she discovered the shape of DNA. Their relationship was described as:

“They were less a team than a push-me-pull-you, to the extent that Franklin refused to show Wilkins her work out of irritation at being treated as a subordinate…Wilkins believed that Franklin had been hired as his technical assistant” (Weinberg 37)

This passage puts into perspective the discrimination of women in the workplace, especially in science. I believe this hindered them from discovering the structure of DNA before Watson and Crick. If there was not as much competition and more team work, they could have made greater discoveries, and explored their hunches in more depth. It’s a shame how women were treated in science, and how some are still treated now.Rosalind

Maurice_Wilkins_nobel

Gender and Science

A True Eureka Moment

“Miraculously, everything then fell into shape. Crick saw it and no matter how hard he tried, could not come up with a reason why it should not be the solution.
‘From the start we hoped for some chemical revelation that would lead to the correct structure,’ Waston wrote. ‘But we never anticipated that the answer would come so suddenly in one swoop and with such finality.
It was a true Eureka moment.” -Weinberg, pg 38-39

This section grabbed my attention immediately. After reading Johnson’s book, we learned that true ‘Eureka moments’ are much rarer than they’re made out to be. Watson and Crick are portrayed as almost overconfident in their intelligence and their abilities; it’s understandable that Watson wanted it to seem as though the answer to their DNA problem came to them so quickly.
But if we look at the rest of the chapter, we can see that their discovery wasn’t really a Eureka moment after all. Like many good ideas, it was a matter of finding and combining all the right pieces, such as the work of their colleagues before them. It was in part because of a hunch that Watson and Crick had, the idea that DNA was likely a helix structure.
The revelation that DNA is a double helix did not come to Watson and Crick all at once; it was a problem that both of them thought about for a long time, gathering bits and pieces of information that would eventually come together and lead them to the answer.

A True Eureka Moment

Peas

He found, to his excitement, that in almost exactly one-quarter of the cases, the characteristics of the “lost grandparent”-the “recessive”-re-emerged. Thus dwarf pea mixed with a tall one might produce tall offspring in the first generation, but when these self-fertilized, they each gave rise to a dwarf plant from one in every four seeds. (Weinberg 30)

This idea of a one in four dwarf pea immediately reminded me of the punnet square. In this case, the second generation pea plants had the following genetics, BB, Bb,Bb,bb. The first three of these would have been the tall pea plants that the monk, Gregor Mendel, observed. The only plant with the recessive dwarf gene was the last one, bb. That 25% chance of a recessive, bb, gene was what inspired the idea of dominant and recessive genes and how they operate. This discovery sparked much of what we know today about genetics and DNA. Along with Watson and Cricks, Mendel is a father of genetics.

Peas

Shotgun Sequencing

Helena’s research on DNA probes reminded me of a technique I learned about in synthetic biology that is widely used today in science. Since these DNA probes were synthetic short single-stranded chains of DNA, they were able to adhesively attached to its complementary strand in a mixture of media. To bring it to the next step, is finding out the sequence needed in order to make that synthetic strand of DNA. Helena’s group may have had one specific sequence of interest but what if a research wanted to know the sequence of an entire genome?

Honestly, how this process works doesn’t make much sense but for researchers, it has been an amazing tool. One technique is called Shotgun Sequencing. Basically, in short terms, you “blow up” the genome into smaller fragments and a computer system puts it back together by looking for overlapping sequences. This technique was proven to be more efficient with both time and cost of the process. The previous type of sequencing took a very long time and cost a large amount of resources. However, if I remember correctly, whole genome shotgunning sequencing is not as accurate. Since you are breaking up the whole genome and putting it back together in one piece rather than piece by piece, if there is a problem with one section, theres no way of telling what section went wrong.

Shotgun Sequencing

Huntington’s Disease: An Autosomal Dominant Disorder

“Yet only a dew countries away, in an Austrian monastery, a fat amiable monk had already-literally-planted the first seeds of what came to be called genetics”-Weinberg (pp.29)

After reading the chapter third chapter. I found that it began explaining the precursors that led to the discovery of DNA. One of the scientists that helped contribute to this discovery is Gregor Mendel. His finding shows one way parents pass on their genetic traits onto their offspring. This sparked interest for me to search for inherited genetic disorders prevalent today. One of the diseases that I found was Huntington’s disease.

Huntington’s disease is an “autosomal dominant allele” that gets passed on from parents on to their offspring. Describing Huntington’s disease as ‘”autosmal dominant” means to say that if a parent is affected with the disease then their children will also suffer from the same disease. And the children will pass on the disease to their children and so forth.  The signs and symptoms of this disease causes individuals to suffer from involuntary jerking, muscle problems, slowness in processing thoughts, social withdrawal, insomnia, and fatigue. With individuals affected with Huntington’s disease do not display signs at a young age they do appear around the ages of 35 to 40.

Currently, there is no cure for for Huntington disease. Physicians recommend affected patients to avoid pregnancy because of the high chance that their children will also suffer from the disorder.

References:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/huntingtons-disease/basics/symptoms/con-20030685

http://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/Huntington-s-Disease-The-Discovery-of-the-85

Huntington’s Disease: An Autosomal Dominant Disorder

Mendel’s Discovery

Chapter four explains the process by which Mendel was able to come up with the idea of inheritance. On page 32, Weinberg goes into the explanation of how William Bateson coined the term ‘genetics.’ Weinberg writes, “Bateson subsequently immersed himself in the life and work of Gregor Mendel, translating his paper into English, and lecturing on its significance around the world. In 1909, one of his fellow disciples, the Danish evolutionary biologist Wilhelm Johannsen, game a name to Mendel’s units of inheritance – “genes” – and the science of their study became known as genetics” (Weinberg, 32). Relating this back to the book Where Good Ideas Come From, I think that Bateson and Johannsen took what they knew from Mendel’s discovery and applied to to their own. In this case, one may say that Mendel’s discovery acted as the first platform or the initial hunch which then others built upon. Likewise, all heredity discoveries can be considered platforms that are expansions of Mendel’s experiment/discoveries.

Mendel’s Discovery

Fingerprint Samples

 In Chapter 2 of “Pointing from the Grave”, police officials took fingerprint samples of a teapot at the scene and unfortunately did not find matching fingerprints. Although it did not work in this case, fingerprints are very important because they can identify people in a criminal case. Fingerprints are an individual characteristic and there are no identical fingerprints. During someone’s lifetime fingerprints will stay the same and remain unchanged. In addition, fingerprints have specific patterns that can be classified. The three different classes are loops, whorls and arches. Since fingerprints never change they can be very useful in criminal investigations because of the high accuracy rate. When somebody’s fingerprint is at a crime scene it is very easy to access the fingerprint information and match it to a person.

Here is a video I found very interesting: Fingerprints

fingerprint

Fingerprint Samples

Psychological Consequences of Sexual Trauma

“She is finding it hard to trust her mind these days. She is more jumpy, less sure of herself “

After a sexual incident, victims are most likely prone to some range of trauma. In “Pointing From the Grave” after Helena’s assault she was very distressed and found it hard talking about the incident. Some consequences are PTSD, flashbacks, STDS,  and Depression. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety that comes from a traumatic event. Flashbacks are when memories of the event come back in the present moment. Sexually Transmitted Diseases can be contracted during the incident and affect the victim for life. Depression is psychological disorder of constant. sad and hopeless mood. These feelings affects a person’s daily life and relationships. Sexual Violence has a lot of side effects that are not always easy to deal with. Evaluating one’s mental stance should be one the first things that  done after the incident. Seeking counseling is a great way to deal with consequences of the incident.

Psychological Consequences of Sexual Trauma

Franklin and DNA

There’s a documentary called “The Race for the Double Helix” which we watched in my biology class last year. This was an interesting movie because it highlighted how much work Franklin did to help Watson and Crick and how she got almost no recognition because she was a woman. They used all her ideas and passed them off as their own. It’s really interesting to look at the scientific world and how competitive it is. This race was not only based on learning information, it was also based on trying to get ahead of other scientists. This is something to consider when looking at research done by scientists.

Franklin and DNA

Reluctance of Change

“The academic world apparently did not have enough time to read a paper on peas Written by and unknown monk and published in an obscure journal” (Weinberg, 31).

When something that is introduced that could change the game, why is it that we are reluctant to look at it or even fear what it has to say, Brother Mendel discovered a new theory about genetics,”but there was no reaction. no response, no recognition”(31). He was also ridiculed by a bishop for it secularly, and geneticists in Russia were sent to Gulags for it being a different thought. Going back to Johnson, some things ,such as DvD’s, take a while to be accepted by the general public. It can seem odd, Why would we not immedietly accept a new finding, well we have grown up with a different view on things, and changes can take a while to digest, its just in our genes.

Reluctance of Change

Survival mode

In the book, Weinberg writes about how Helena had an interest in science, more specifically biotech, at a young age. With all her knowledge about the field, one would think that it would help her in her case, but it did not. Clearly a traumatic experience takes a toll on our mental state, but it seemed that prior to her attack, Helena would have been capable of using her knowledge and independence for her own good. Although it is a terrible thing, it is interesting to see how trauma effects our mental state. Helena, knowing what she knew about biotech, took a shower after the incident, which removed the DNA of her attacker. When a human experiences something traumatic, they react in survival type way rather then taking into consideration a more suitable action, why does this happen? Helena responded to her attack by taking a shower, but she should’ve known that it would remove the attacker’s DNA. What happens to our brain in “survival” mode that makes us overlook other options that could be more beneficial?

Survival mode

Discovering DNA Sequence

After reading Chapter 3 of Pointing From The Grave, I thought it was very interested that Weinberg devoted this chapter to focusing on the development of DNA, its base pairing, and eventual uses. One part that really stuck out to me was the discussion of running DNA on an agarose gel. Specifically, Weinberg stated that,

“Using a restriction enzyme – a protein that cleaves the DNA strands at designated positions. These lengths would be immobilized by dropping them on one end of the dish of agarose gel to which an electric current would be applied” (p 41).

This discussion of using DNA on a gel in order to discover the sequence stood out to me because it related back to my time in Synthetic Biology. Today, we use gel electrophoresis, similar to the one described in the novel as a southern blot, to detect the sequences of DNA in our whole fragment. In Synthetic biology specifically we used restriction enzymes to cut as specific points in order to understand banding pattern and sequences present in yeast. In addition, this correlates to what I learned in Cancer Biology and what I am doing in my independent research of breast cancer cells. Essentially, we used Western blot to understand protein expression to characterize cancer cells and their aggression. Overall, it is very interesting to see the development of DNA and the technologies associated with it in different types of labs, whether it was synthetic or cancer related.

Discovering DNA Sequence

Ideas Helped by a Collective Process?

One thing that struck me while I was reading this particular chapter was how many scientists and people contributed to uncovering much of the mystery of DNA.  I firmly believe that without any one of these intellectuals, we would not have the knowledge on DNA that we have today.  Although never given the proper credit while he was alive, Gregor Mendel set the stage for future thinkers to pursue a study on DNA.  Without his extensive work with plants, would Johann Friedrich Miescher have been able to discover that chromosomes in each cell nucleus were made up of more than just protein?  Each geneticist building off the work of another through the years ultimately allowed Francis Crick to head the charge in uncovering the main mysteries of DNA.  DNA that could one day help rightfully charge criminals like the one that broke into Helena’s house.  The challenging concept that developed into DNA was a collective creative process, that although took decades to answer, was unearthed by many intelligent minds.  Referring to what we discussed in class, bouncing ideas off of each other can in fact provide a better, and more complete, answer to a question or concept.

Ideas Helped by a Collective Process?

The Slow Hunch and the DNA answer

” ‘From the start we hoped for some chemical revelation that would lead to the correct structure’, Watson wrote. ‘But we never anticipated that the answer would come so suddenly in one swoop and with such finality’. It was a true Eureka moment” (Weinberg 38-39).

I think that this quote, about Watson and Crick’s discovery of the structure of DNA, illustrates Steven Johnson’s point about slow hunches being the basis of all good ideas. There actually aren’t generally such things as “eureka” moments. True, it seemed as if Watson just miraculously stumbled upon the answer to DNA’s structure, but in reality his process was different. For one, he collaborated the whole time with Crick, and so his ideas were inevitably influenced by and checked by someone else.

For another thing, Watson and Crick were basically at a stumped point in their research when they went and saw Rosalin Franklin’s work of X-ray photographs of DNA. Weinberg even says that with “more earnest manipulation of their models” (Weinberg 38), they started working harder to find the solution. This basically means that competition was a driving point to them making their discovery.

Finally, the two scientists were trying the whole time to answer one question: what was the structure of DNA? They were searching for this specific answer. They had exhausted basically all other possibilities and answers when they made the discovery. From this, one could argue that they just naturally arrived at the answer from their slow hunch.

The Slow Hunch and the DNA answer

The Appearance of Johnson’s Ideas in Weinberg’s Text

While reading chapter 3 of Weinberg’s book, I noticed that many of Johnson’s ideas on how to come about a great innovation were used by many scientists who played a role in discovering how DNA worked. This was very interesting for me to see how the ideas that we read about in our last book were implemented in a different context.

“So instead of pooling their resources—Wilkins’s theoretical advances and Franklin’s photographs of DNA…they huddled in separate labs, and moved far more slowly than they should have” – Weinberg, p37

This is a great example of how sharing your ideas with other people, one of Johnson’s main arguments, is the most efficient way of creating monumental innovations. If Wilkins and Franklin shared their ideas with one another instead of working separately, they would have been able to reach the discovery that they eventually stumbled upon much sooner in their careers.

Platforms were another one of Johnson’s ideas that was present in chapter 3 of Weinberg’s book.

“In the spring of 1900, three botanists, working separately in three countries, simultaneously stumbled upon Mendel’s paper, and credited it in their own writings on patters of inheritance” – Weinberg, p31

Without the early work of Mendel, later discoveries of DNA would not have been possible. Mendel created the platform that many other scientists were able to work off of. The lack of resources at the time impacted Mendel’s discovery, but because of Mendel’s initial interest in DNA, scientists were able to discover the secret behind it.

The Appearance of Johnson’s Ideas in Weinberg’s Text

Human Characteristics

“It explained so much: why sibling humans can differ in hair and eye color, for example, why brown-eyed parents can have a blue-eyed child, but not the other way around; it is the way individualism is preserved.”

Brother Gregor Mendel’s discovery was not put into consideration that he got depressed and did not want to know more about science. However, his discovery was not only crucial for plant pees, but for human characteristics as well. My siblings and I are always asked why don’t we look alike, it is a common question, and he brought out the answer. However, it was not taken into consideration. In our history, it is kind of common that we feel like some discoveries are not as important. Just like in the chapter they also said that the world was not ready to know what the DNA was like. Nevertheless, they could have known if they had listened. It just took them a bit more time to accept the discovery. Brother Mendel made a great discovery using pees that it is not only helpful for plants, but for us as well.

Human Characteristics

Everything Is An Exact Science

“Every long lost dream led me to where you are/Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars/Pointing me on my way into your loving arms/This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road/That led me straight to you”
-Rascal Flatts, “Broken Road”

You make me thank god for every mistake I ever made,/Because each one led me down the path that brought me to you.”
-Pablo Neruda, “Just knowing”

While reading this Chapter, I thought of all of the events that had to occur exactly the way they did for life as we know it today to exist. For instance, Brother Gregor Mendell had to be born to peasant farmers to know about planting. If he had not known about gardening, he would not have invested time in manipulating the “genes” (as they were eventually known by thanks to his research) of pea plants. Without Mendell’s first experiments with hereditary, Watson would not have “become polarized toward finding out the secret of the gene.” (Weinberg, 35) And if Watson had not gone to the specific seminar in Naples were he heard Maurice Wilkins speak, he would not have become “suddenly…excited about chemistry.” (Weinberg, 35). Without Watson’s (and Crick’s) chemical, genetic, and biologic pursuits, DNA and all of its benefits would not be around in the same form today.

It’s fascinating all of the things that had to fall into just the right time and place in order to happen.

Everything Is An Exact Science

Money

“Biotechnology firms raced to turn the results of pure research into applicable technology. By luring some of the best scientific brains with salaries that academia couldn’t hope to match, they too started to push back the frontiers of knowledge, driving the world of the universities, much as they had originally had been driven” (Johnson 40)

Is money the main motive for driving the frontiers of the scientific world? When thinking about the question, I decided to research how money and the desire to profit affects the healthcare world. According to Forbes magazine, healthcare costs in the United States might be so high because there is a huge desire for profit. Russell Andrews, a neurosurgeon interviewed by the magazine claims that “we have transformed healthcare in the U.S. into an industry whose goal is to be profitable.” Another situation described by Forbes magazine is the story of Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical entrepreneur who raised the price of a life-saving HIV drug by 5000% overnight. Though Shkreli claims that the profits his company will make off of this drug (due to its high price) will fuel even more HIV research, he has made it so thousands of people who need the drug are not able to afford it.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/peterubel/2014/02/12/is-the-profit-motive-ruining-american-healthcare/#4b151e79a0ce

Source

Money

Does Society Stifle Science?

In Chapter 3, Weinberg brings up multiple examples of society rejecting scientific developments. Helena, Gregor Mendel, and Oscar Avery all encountered difficulty telling the world what they had discovered. Mendel was “revered and reviled”, with his discoveries polarizing the scientific community. Avery was misinterpreted, and thought that rather than evidence that DNA contains the material for human life it was merely a step in the process. Did Helena face the same stubborn community that silenced many of the great minds that came before her? In my memory, the world of the late 20th and early 21st century has accepted many scientific discoveries (like Hawking’s black hole theory) almost too easily. For example, recently evidence of gravitational waves was discovered by scientists at the LIGO Scientific Collaboration. Every one I talked to accepted that evidence without question, and either were excited and supportive or indifferent. However, no one opposed that discovery or said “that can’t be!” It seems that, in our modern era, people are more accepting and supportive of scientific ideas. This could be for many reasons; Rapid information transfer in the Internet Era could be to blame, or the presence of science in the media. Maybe this could even be because the world has learned from the mistaken rejections of Mendel’s philosophy in the past, and has grown to be a better place because of it.

Does Society Stifle Science?

Ahead of His Time

In Chapter three of the book, it discusses how Brother Gregor Johann Mendel was the first person to crossbreed species to see how they would turn out.  While breeding different types of peas, he discovered dominate genes and ultimately figured out how they worked, with peas at least.  But, he never got credit for his ideas until after his death.  But, what was the reason for that?  Was the scientific community just not ready for that big a leap into the field of DNA and genes?  Did it seem rather unimportant to scientists at the time?  In 1909, over 20 years after his death, Mendel was finally recognized for his work and his field of study was named genetics.  It’s actually quite sad that Mendel would never know how truly revolutionary his experiments would become in the scientific world today.

Ahead of His Time

MDMA to Treat PTSD?

“most sexual assault victims choke up when they come to relive  the experience in court”-(Weinberg)

Clearly, Helena went through one of the most traumatic experiences a person can experience; an experience that scarred her, and caused her to forget important details which could have been used to convict her assaulter. Recently, there has been studies that have been using MDMA, the famous party drug used by concert-goers everywhere. Believed to have no medical value at all, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, otherwise known as MAPS, has been using MDMA and other psychedelics to help treat PTSD in veterans, with a very effective success rate. Sanjay Gupta recently did a very interesting piece on these studies.

 

MDMA to Treat PTSD?

Nanoscale Chemical Factories

Nanoscale Chemical Factory Article

Because DNA is the basis for bio chemical engineering Chapter 3 reminded me of an article I saw a few weeks ago which talks about one of the latest bio chemical advancements.  The article describes  that “Scientists have for the first time reengineered a building block of a geometric nanocompartment that occurs naturally in bacteria.” This is the first step in having for example and creating an Advil producing cell. While this is still a long way away I thought it was cool that we are able to produce these kinds of cells. It could be helpful as well in curing diseases as we are able to replicate lost cells.

Link

Fingerprinting Process

One part of forensic science that has always interested me the most is fingerprinting and fingerprint lifting. Fingerprints are so intriguing because no one’s fingerprints are the same. Fingerprints are kind of like our own little id cards, that can leave a trail of where we were and what we did. After reading Chapter 2 of Pointing From the Grave, I spent a lot of time thinking about how detectives lift fingerprints. We have seen this process in our favorite crime shows and movies, but most of us don’t know the specifics of how its done. Check out the article I have linked below. It talks about the materials needed and steps to fingerprinting. It’s pretty cool take a look!

photo take from https://forensicsciencelaw12.wikispaces.com/Fingerprints
photo take from https://forensicsciencelaw12.wikispaces.com/Fingerprints

 

http://www.forensicsciencesimplified.org/prints/how.html

Fingerprinting Process

Victims

Sexual assault scars a person for life. Often times, it can greatly affect one’s mental health. In chapter two, we begin to see how Helena handled her assault. After the attack, she still went to work and carried out with her daily, normal activities. I personally found it confusing that she did not tell her parents about the attack immediately after it occurred. If you read the article attached, you see how it notes, “…many survivors don’t want to believe that something as horrible as rape could have happened to them, so they deny that it was rape.” The article goes on to explain how often times, women do not report rape due to fear of being ostracized by people whom they surround themselves with. I am curious to know why Helena did not report the assault to her parents (or coworkers). Was she afraid?  

http://www.cosmopolitan.com/lifestyle/advice/a3653/why-most-victims-dont-report-rape/

Victims

Drug Testing Today

“Syca’s main production was a system, known as Emitt, used to detect the presence of drugs— both therapeutic and abused–in the blood.”-Weinberg (p.16)

This quote I lifted off from Point From the Grave because it gave me great interest to know the science behind drug tests. Upon initial research I found that there are many ways science is used for drug testing. These tests range from examining the blood, urine, hair, breath, and even saliva. The one I specifically focused on understanding was blood testing. Because this type of drug testing was mentioned in the Samantha Weinberg’s novel. What I found were some really cool scientific facts about how the blood gets examined for drugs. Of these facts I found that blood testing is used to detect if an individual is currently under the influence of an elicit drug. Meaning that the active forms of the drugs and not the by products are detected. It is known to be a very time consuming, and expensive process to perform. Blood testing also requires a trained professional to perform the procedure due to nature of the test. Because of this blood testings are not the first choice for many law enforcement offices when testing drug use. What law enforcement do instead of blood testing are urine tests. The reason why they do this is because urine testing is easy, efficient, and inexpensive.

 

http://www.drugdetection.net/drug.htm

Drug Testing Today

Results of Competition

In Where Good Ideas Come From we learned of the power of competition, especially when patenting was involved. To counter that idea, Johnson also discussed the necessity of team work and the fourth quadrant. In Pointing from the Grave, Helena discusses how competition got the better of her company.

“Syva had poured more money than it could afford into a new, automated drug-testing machine. If it worked, it would have dominated the field. But there were technical hitches and Abbott, Syva’s main competitor, got their product out first. It was a disaster for Syva- they were forced to lay off hundreds of staff and cancel future projects” (Weinberg 17)

It is interesting to see the theories come to life. It can only be a matter of days for a competitor to beat out its competition. I can see why patents can be essential because they can protect inventions and the employees who worked on a project.

Results of Competition

Future in DNA

She knew her future lay in science, and already she was turning her attention to DNA, the molecule that was reorienting the worlds of biology and chemistry, smashing preconceptions, and opening vistas that spread from pre-birth to eternal life. – Weinberg, page 14

Helena in the book already knew she wanted to be a scientist. She knew a lot about how biology and technology were the future in our society. It is pretty shocking how she had so much knowledge and when it could help her life to solve her case, she could not use it. It is kind of ironic how much effort she put to it her life studying it and then not being able to use in such an important event in her life. I guess that it would also be hard for her to study it later, knowing how she could have helped herself. Nevertheless, I cannot state that as a fact, but an assumption of how I would feel.

 

Future in DNA

DNA

I started this journey with only the vaguest idea of what DNA is and does, and it is in large part thanks to Matt Ridley’s erudite and informative Genome that I made it out of the starting gates – page, vii

This quote really caught my attention because what DNA has enabled us to do is massive. We have solved many mysteries by understanding the DNA. Not only crimes, but it helped us solve health mysteries. It has given us an idea of what each face could look like and not only that, but how we could be like personality wise. Of course, one of the greatest things it has done is being able to solve mysteries. If it were not for that a lot of criminals would still be out in the loose and be a danger to society.

DNA

Photo’s

Jennifer Jomes studied the pictures for about a minute, then picked out the one numbered 5. “If i had to pick one, it would be this one,” she said, pointing to a photograph of  Frediani…”This is spooky, he really looks like the guy.” Her roommate, Catherine Scott, again thought that photo 5 looked like the man from the nose area up, but she also said she couldn’t be positive. Her sister, Lyssa, wasn’t sure it was any of the men in the photographs. Roseanne Melia thought that number 5 was the closest.  (Weinberg 26)

In every crime show on television there are photo id scenes or the classic suspect lineup. In this situation several women thought they could identify #5 as the rapist, but when asked if they were positive they could not confirm. So what do police do in a situation when they know the Frediani is most likely the culprit but lack proof? Perhaps this question is what lead scientists to search for another way to convict a suspect, DNA profiling. Because the memories from assaults can be blurred from trauma it is easy to understand how none of the women could be 100% sure that #5 was their rapist, maybe DNA will serve a purpose in this investigation and assist detectives in convicting Frediani.

Photo’s

Was Helena Aware of DNA Properties from the Beginning?

Helena is very invested in her work, that was proven by her father’s, coworkers’, and employer’s accounts. She is a biotechnology specialist who has been aware of the DNA molecule and all of its glory for a long time. Her greatest accomplishment, at least with Syva, was creating a machine that took apart blood and urine samples to find what part of it was drugs and what part of it was DNA. (Weinberg, 16) Since she works so closely with it, she probably knows a good majority of its properties and what it can do for people.

Evidently, DNA evidence first made its way to the courtroom in 1986. Helena’s assault took place in 1984, long after she was an established biotechnician and doctor of her field. She was so educated in her field that she must have been aware of how to connect her assailant to his crime. Perhaps this is how she got the courage to go to the hospital for sexual examination right away, a trait that many victims don’t possess.

Was Helena Aware of DNA Properties from the Beginning?

Criminal Investigation and Liquid Networks

“All the attempted assaults occurred in the same complex: there was a good chance the man was local, and if so, it was only a matter of time before he struck again.
Chaput, however, was unaware of this series of attacks.” -Weinberg, pg 21

When I saw this, I was immediately reminded of the chapter of Johnson’s book that discussed hunches, specifically the narrative regarding the 9/11 hunches, how if those two ideas could have managed to connect before September 11th, maybe the attacks could have been prevented.
We don’t yet know if the assaults in the book are related, but if they are, surely the various cases could be solved much sooner if the police departments could work together, searching for a single suspect. It just goes to show how valuable liquid networks and the free exchange of ideas really are.

Criminal Investigation and Liquid Networks

DNA: A Platform and Exaptation

After reading Chapter 2 of Pointing from the Grave, I found it very interesting that Weinberg discussed Helena’s participation in the biotechnology industry in great detail. It is interesting that she works in this industry while also being a part of a court case in which their is a great value to the use of DNA. One idea that struck me was the fact that Weinberg stated,

“It was Kohne who had developed a revolutionary new method for diagnosing infectious diseases, using DNA probes instead of traditional cultures. . .  She had been following the developments in DNA as they rolled through the scientific literature like a snowball on virgin snow, and she knew it was the way the biotech industry was heading” -Weinberg, p21.

After reading this sentence, I immediately related this new innovation of a DNA probe that is being used in the medical field to the ideas that Johnson suggested in his novel, Where Good Ideas Come From. Essentially, DNA is the building block that paves the way for many new innovations to arise. In this sense it could be understood that this DNA probe is an innovation that arose from the properties and prior uses of DNA – an exaptation. However, it can also be understood that this new probe is a platform that will allow other innovations that arise from it to reach the fourth quadrant. Just like Helena suggested that this is a new discovery snowballing and leading to others, the DNA probe can be a platform or stack in which a new innovation will come about. Overall, I thought it was interesting to see the complexity of DNA and the technologies associated with it that arise through platforms or exaptations.

DNA: A Platform and Exaptation

Law in Science or Science in Law

When Helena mentions she wants to be the bridge or connection between those that work in suits, which is referencing those working in the law field with people that work in her science based field. I wondered if she meant she would want to use her knowledge in science to improve the way law works, or did she mean she wants to use the ideas used in the field of law to improve her knowledge in her job field. From this speculation I realize that many different ideas can contribute to both fields i.e DNA. Since this discovery, the world of forensics was discovered, I wonder if any more connections between the two can help revolutionize ideas used in either field.

Law in Science or Science in Law

The Right Amount of Bias?

As we all are flawed human beings who have a limited experience and perception, we cannot truly make anything that is not colored by our personal biases and beliefs. However, we can do a lot to temper our biases and try to provide both sides of a story. In writers of nonfiction and journalists, this quality is expected if not required. I feel that in Chapter 2 of Pointing from the Grave, Weinberg doesn’t do enough to provide an unbiased picture of the lives of Helena Greenwood and David Paul Frediani. She spends the first half of the chapter explaining the childhood and personality of Helena Greenwood. She includes anecdotes about Helena’s organizational quirks, her love life, and her early fears and motivations.

When Weinberg talks about Frediani, she adopts a much different tone. She is unfeeling, and every time she talks about Frediani or his girlfriend it seems she already has the assumption in her mind that he is guilty of the sexual assaults she previously mentioned, though she makes no attempt to tell us of her convictions. To me, this is like having a detective flick where one of the characters is very obviously the villain but none of the other characters notice it. Weinberg makes almost no effort to tell us about the life of Frediani, how he met his girlfriend (she spends one sentence on the relations between Frediani and his girlfriend while she spent almost two pages describing the relations of Helena and her husband Roger), or his profession. I have not read further into the text than this, so I do not know if he is guilty or not, but her bias seems to underlie every line and passionately push readers into believing that Frediani is guilty.

The Right Amount of Bias?

Victims

I was very curious as to what Helena could have done to receive treatment after she was attacked. Not much was addressed in the book other than her moving away from where the incident occurred. http://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/rape/rape-therapy-a-treatment-for-rape-victims/

This article talked a lot about how to cope with rape and how everyone has a different way of dealing with it. Helena’s personality from the start was very reserved and she did not like to talk about her problems with anyone. She figured out her own way to deal with the incident that wasn’t too public.

Victims

Race & DNA

I thought it was interesting how the lawyers made a big deal about what the race of the rapist was. They wanted Helena to be sure and narrow down what her thoughts on his race were, even though there is no way to correctly identify which race she could of been referring to. Especially because it was dark in the room when the even occurred.

http://mg.co.za/article/2016-02-04-dna-recasts-race-issues-in-the-us

This article was very interesting to me and is having the same discussion about how race ties in with DNA and vice versa. Hopefully DNA will help with the racial problems in our country by showing that everyone’s DNA is not so different.

Race & DNA

Reconciling Business and Science

“It was Kohne who had developed a revolutionary new method for diagnosing infectious diseases, using DNA probes instead of traditional cultures. Helena liked them, and needed little persuading to accept their offer. She was excited about the technology– she had been following the developments in DNA as they rolled through the scientific literature like a snowball on virgin snow, and she knew that it  was the way the biotech industry was heading, with Gen-Probe leading the rush.” -Weinberg 21

Helena Greenwood lands this job heading up the marketing department of Gen-Probe because the co-founder of this biotech company had seen her at international markets “present papers to scientists and salesmen alike and was impressed” (Weinberg 21). In short, Helena got the job because she was so efficient at being a scientist and salesperson. In her description of Helena, Weinberg presents her as passionately interested in science, but also as wanting to improve the field of biotechnology itself, by reconciling the business and science aspects of it, and improving the efficiency of the relationship. This is what inspires her to get into the marketing side of biotechnology to begin with.

Helena’s ability and passion to bring the two aspects of the field together are very interesting to me. It reminds me of Steven Johnson’s observation that most “geniuses” were masters of many trades and had many interests and hobbies: guys like Einstein and Ben Franklin were not only scientists and statesmen but also musicians and hobbyists.

But this leads me to ask of Helena’s great success in life: was it due to her multiple interests? If Helena had never gotten into the business side of biotechnology, would she have continued to climb the ladder? Could she have continued to advance just staying in the research side of things? I think she could have continued researching and with unlimited possibilities simply due to her intellectual capacity. But I think the true genius and the fulfillment of her potential came from her passion to combine the two aspects. I think this is an interesting question to consider regardless, because there are so many “what ifs” that can be asked of great innovators and minds of the past few centuries. Were their ideas worth a lot because they could be exapted, or did the innovator exapt themselves and their skill set and passions to an ever changing world?

Reconciling Business and Science

DNA Testing

Just thought that this first chapter was interesting, as I took a class last semester where we watched a 60 minutes on how DNA evidence has been brought forward years after wrongfully convicting men of crimes they never did. Often victims trying to identify their attackers was useless because they were in so much stress and such an emotional state, they were never able to pick the right person.

 

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/dna-helps-free-inmate-after-27-years/

DNA Testing

The Effects of DNA Evidence

“‘You would concede…that there are hundreds of thousands of males in California with Mr. Frediani’s height and build?'”-page 11

One greatly under-appreciated aspect of our modern society is the widespread use of DNA mapping that Weinberg talks about in the prologue. One can only imagine how many people were incarcerated because they looked like someone who committed a crime, or because the victim’s foggy memories convinced them that the persons accused of harming them must be the ones who actually performed the crime. Using appearances and the accounts of individuals is an extremely inaccurate and tough method of identifying guilty parties, and its difficulty is part of the reason law is such an acclaimed profession. DNA mapping is a great advancement of forensic science, and it can only lead to less people being unjustly jailed and accused of crime.

The Effects of DNA Evidence

Location and Careers

In the second chapter of Pointing From the Grave it talks about how settling in the Bay area was a simple choice for both Helena and her husband, based on their career paths.  In most cases, is this really how people choose where they live?  If you really think about it, would you be living where you are today if work wasn’t involved?  My parents lived in Baltimore for a long time before eventually moving to New York because of my dad’s job.  But, I also now live in one of the most expensive counties in the country, Westchester, New York.  If it weren’t for my dad’s job wouldn’t my parents have wanted to live in a cheaper place, conserving money for the future?  At the same time, it is my dad’s job that allows our family to live comfortably in such an expensive place.  So I believe there is a huge correlation between your career and where you choose to live, regardless of if we associate the two when we make decisions.

Location and Careers

The Future

“If we wanted to, we could predict our life expectancy before birth, our intellectual capacity, hair color, or even our ability to run a marathon.” (Weinberg xi)

Clearly, we have the technology to decipher our own complex DNA, but yet in most cases we don’t.  Is this because we are afraid of what the results may hold?  I feel like most people wouldn’t want to know what the future has in store for them.  But, shouldn’t we at least have a say in the matter?  Most people’s parents make that decision for them before they are even born.  But after that, some people probably would want to know the breakdown of their genes and see what that actually means in terms of how it effects the course of their lives.  Wouldn’t people want to know if they were more susceptible to some diseases and immune to others?  This could potentially influence the way they live their lives both negatively and positively.

Quote

DNA: Her Line of Work and What Could Solve Her Case

“She knew her future lay in science, and already she was turning her attention to DNA, the molecule that was reorienting the worlds of biology and chemistry, smashing preconceptions, and opening vistas that spread from pre-birth to eternal life” -Weinberg, p14

I found it extremely interesting that Helena devoted her life to studying DNA and that it seems at this point in Weinberg’s book, that DNA could be the missing link to solving her case. Helena’s work with DNA could potentially help the police find her attacker. What scientists have discovered about DNA, and all the different things that they can do with it in this day and age is an amazing biological advancement. At this point in the book, I wondered whether or not DNA will help solve this case, and also if Helena would be one of the people that discovered the link between DNA and her attacker. I am interested to keep reading to see if Helena figures out a method to find her attacker even before the police do. This insight on DNA’s link to criminology is new to me and allowed me to view these types of cases in a new light.

DNA: Her Line of Work and What Could Solve Her Case

DNA vs. Perception

“She keeps looking, but she cannot even recognize the eyes, not in the whole face. But maybe she has seen him before?” – Weinberg, p5

This quote really stuck out to me and clearly showed me how science can make evidence so much more concrete. As soon as I read it I questioned how effective it can be for the court to lay such a heavy emphasis on the victims visual idea and memory of the physical appearance of his or her attacker. After reading some more of the book it is clear that DNA, one of the greatest biotechnological advancements, can solve a case in a much easier way. Therefore it seems to me that it would be foolish to rely solely on someone’s perception when science is much more effective. In other words, I think it is hard for a person who has been through a traumatic event to recall something that is so negatively engraved in their minds, especially if it was a long time ago. Science can lead a case such as Helena Greenwood’s to being solved much more concretely than perception can. The power of DNA has made a large impact on the outcome of such cases. Before I read this chapter I had never thought about how big of an impact DNA and science vs. a persons perception had on criminal investigations.

DNA vs. Perception

The Trouble of DNA

DNA can be a very helpful thing to police in trying to find the true suspect of a crime, but if there is nothing to go on, it can almost be impossible. Even with all the correlation with the attacks that occurred  around the area of the community, there was not enough evidence to get a viable suspect. Detective Chaput was not even aware of the similar attacks when the Greenwood case came to him. What is interesting to me is that there seems to only be a criminal database of fingerprints, and that leads me to wonder why when Paul was arrested, why he was not fingerprinted. Going with what his former friends said about him, and the arrest and previous events, how could they not have enough to get even some DNA?

The Trouble of DNA

The Race card

In the first chapter, during the hearing, the defense attorney asked Helena Greenwood ” did you render an opinion about the persons race?” and she said in here statement that the person who attacked her might be. “half-black” it feels very promient in this day and age of justice that the race cad might be used when the defendant is of a certain color. Mrs. Greenwood would then go on to say that more of the factor was that the individual was athletic but slim, and was tall, nothing happened due to the color of the suspect being presented. but it could have played into the account if the persons color did come to more of an account, and that the race card would have been used as a defense.

The Race card

Police Dogs Searching For Drugs

As this chapter talked about Helena’s work on a test to detect drugs such as cocaine, it reminded me of a lecture I attended this fall. The police department has now adopted dogs at birth to train them to detect drugs that are not visible or found by the police themselves. This new technique has been proven to be successful in busting meth labs, marijuana, cocaine etc. What this lecture discussed was a case where a man was tried for possession of cocaine. However, if I remember correctly, the police officer who called for the search was only based off of probable cause. The probable cause came from his canine identifying they smelt the drug. This questioned the validity of the canines smelling ability for detection. The defendants case was that the search warrant was not granted on proper terms and he was falsely charged. Even though the canine had correctly identified the large amount of drugs that man had in his home, he won the case and was freed from all charges based on there not being a standard for canines established in the system yet.

After this case happened, canines were now put into funded training programs that is made to train them into detecting these drugs. At the end of the training they have to pass a series of exams to qualify as a legitimate DEA canine. This put an end to any further court case like the man’s described above.

What was interesting about their training is that dogs are trained in both drugs and bomb detection. Because of this, when they smell a particular oder, they walk up to it and just sit to wait for a policeman. The reason for this is because if it wore a bomb and the dog started scratching at it, it could possibly go off. Cocaine doesn’t have a scent that can be smelt by someone when it is concealed but a dogs noise is so hyperactive that it can.

Police Dogs Searching For Drugs