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Science and Crime: Home

This guide examines how science contributed to the conviction (and release) of criminals from the justice system

The Innocence Project

Evaluating Sources

C - Credibility:

  1. Can you find the author/sponsor of the information?  What are their credentials? Education? Experience? Affiliations? 
  2. Can you find an "about us" or "contact us" link?  Does it give more than an email address?  That is, is there a phone number or postal address to contact for more information?

A - Accuracy:

  1. Do there appear to be errors on the page (ie. spelling, grammar, facts)? These kinds of errors not only indicate a lack of quality control, but can actually produce inaccuracies in information.
  2. Do they cite the sources of their information?  

R - Reliability:

  1. Is the source free from any sense of bias?
  2. Is the information free of advertising or clearly separated from it?

D - Date:

  1. Is it easy to find the copyright date?
  2. Are there dates for when it was written?  When it was last revised?
  3. If there are statistics, graphs and/or charts, is it clearly stated when the data was gathered?

S - Source:

  1. Is the information based on primary or secondary sources? 
  2. Are there links to other sources that would score high in this CARDS evaluation?


Forensic Magazine

Click the image above to view current developments and research in forensic science in this online magazine.



Big Question

How has crime influenced developments in science?

In this assignment you will create a profile/biography of a serial killer from the past. You will then examine how the serial killer was convicted of their crime. You will look at advancements in science and how those advancements have proved either the guilt or innocence of prisoners.


Scientific advances already play an important role in solving crimes. Labs can analyze smaller pieces of evidence than ever before, and law enforcement officials can gain valuable information from evidence that, in the past, would have been degraded and unusable due to weathering or time. New technology also allows investigators to find and analyze evidence that they would likely not have found via earlier methods. One example of this increasingly sophisticated technology is a method that could help forensic scientists analyze dust and other particles that piggyback on carpet fibers to determine whether fibers found in different locations are consistent with having originated from the same source. In some instances, such a comparison could provide investigative leads associating a suspect or victim with a crime scene.

Investigators can now use DNA and other evidence collected and stored decades ago to help identify and convict criminals who have eluded authorities for years and to exonerate prisoners who were wrongly convicted before today’s more sophisticated methods became available. A striking example of new technology solving a cold case occurred in 2009, when Milwaukee police tested evidence in a reopened case and eventually linked nine murder cases dating back to 1986. They identified Walter Ellis as the suspect in what were known as the North Side Strangler cases. Faced with the new evidence, Ellis pleaded “no contest” to charges that he strangled seven women. In 2011, he was sentenced to seven life terms with no chance of parole.

taken from

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