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.
“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.
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.
“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?
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!
“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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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 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.
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.
“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.
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?
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.