The Public Safety Writers Association conference turned out wonderfully! I was in charge of the program--and like anything else, I wasn't sure how the speakers would be or how well they'd be received.
Steve Scarborough, who I'd met the year before, is a newly retired forensic expert who gave us some intriguing tidbits. I put them on my own personal blog, but think they are good enough to spread around a bit more:
Steve was wonderful. He's been an expert forensic witness on all kind of crimes. I'm just going to mention a few of the things he told us.
Forensic Evidence can narrow the leads and eliminate suspects.
Forensic facts can make your story come alive, but you need to be careful.
You should know the direction your story is going before you do the research.
Fingerprints are the most conclusive form of forensic evidence though Fingerprints and DNA should get equal billing.
It's hard to get fingerprints off of towels, the sofa, etc. metal and glass works better.
Ballistics evidence depends upon certain conditions of the bullet.
Other types of evidence are hair, fiber, glass fragments, ABO blood type, shoe prints.
Everything is circumstantial evidence except an eye witness.
What you must have is Means, Motive and Opportunity.
It's a myth that anything can be done--nothing is proven quickly, and some of the science seen on TV is make-believe.
You can't tell race or sex from fingerprints.
There is no such thing as a three point or four point match in fingerprints.
Detectives don't follow the evidence to the lab.
And the labs don't have everything they need in forensics. The smaller the place, the less they will have in the way of crime labs.
Steve was fantastic, worth the price of the conference. (And by the way, he had to pay to come too. Because it's such a small conference, all the speakers had to pay to come. Guess how much fun that is to explain when you're trying to get speakers. Despite that, we had other great speakers, Betty Webb for one, Sheila Lowe who is a forensic handwriting expert, and Joyce Spizer Foy who besides being a private eye has written screen plays and any number of exciting pursuits.)
In my books, the police officers use old-fashioned detective work--I never use much in the way of forensics, found it easier that way. Even had a reviewer say once that he suspected most police departments operated like my fictional Rocky Bluff P.D. using old-fashioned police work to find out the answers.
And as a P.S. I'm already planning for next year. If you'd like to be a speaker (writing information or as an expert) and don't mind paying your way, please do contact me.
Marilyn a.k.a. F. M. Meredith