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Henry C. Lee - The Future Of Science

crime forensic criminal crimes

Although ancient versions of forensic medicine date as far back as fifteenth-century China, the scientific investigation of crimes is largely a modern development. Not until the 1990s did significant advances in the field of forensic science take place. There are a variety of specialties under the broad umbrella of forensic science. One is criminalistics, which involves the collection and identification of such things as fingerprints, hair, fibers, blood, and DNA. Another is forensic medicine, which investigates the cause and manner of a death. Others include forensic toxicology (detecting of poisons); forensic dentistry (identification of bite marks); and forensic voiceprinting (identification through voice analysis). There are many other specialties as the science of forensics continually evolves.

Some forensic scientists search for and examine traces of material that might either prove or exclude an association between a suspect and a victim or a crime, called trace evidence. These traces might include blood, saliva and other body fluids, paint, glass, footwear and tire impressions, flammable substances and explosives, hairs and fibers. Others analyze drugs, specimens of tissue for poisons, and blood or urine for alcohol. Forensic scientists also examine firearms and documents and investigate the causes of fires, explosions, and road accidents.

Police agencies around the world have benefited from advances in forensic science and increasingly use them in their

Criminal Profiling


In the late 1960s the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) established the Behavioral Science Unit (BSU), the first official department for criminal profiling in the United States. Criminal profiling is the development of an offender description by examining evidence. In 1972 a new FBI academy was opened in Quantico, Virginia, and the BSU became permanently based there. FBI profilers interviewed a number of existing prisoners in order to improve their techniques and better understand the minds of serial offenders. FBI profiler and investigator Robert Ressler published the results of this study in his book Sexual Homicide: Patterns and Motives.

Ressler's book is the main resource investigators use when they encounter a series of murders or sex crimes that appear to be linked. As an agent, Ressler also coauthored the FBI Crime Classification Manual. He coined the term "serial killer" and reported on his own interviews with many elusive murderers in his book entitled Whoever Fights Monsters. Ressler, John Douglas, and others helped develop the art of criminal profiling in the hopes of preventing future crimes and apprehending those who have already committed them.

Criminal profiling has a number of names such as "psychological profiling," "criminal personality profiling," and "behavioral crime scene analysis." The FBI refers to it as "criminal investigative analysis," and its profilers as "mindhunters." Profiling is a technique used to help law enforcement narrow its search when multiple suspects and multiple crimes exist. The offenders are not specifically identified but the major personality and behavioral characteristics of potential suspects are revealed.

Profilers examine crime scenes for clues that could suggest the type of person responsible. Details such as motivation, lifestyle, victim selection, and mental state can be gathered by a good profiler. In addition to physical evidence, profilers use police reports, crime scene photographs, and autopsy reports. Profilers make educated guesses in an investigation, but police agencies decide which evidence to use in solving actual crimes.

In 1984 President Ronald Reagan (1911–2004; served 1981–89) announced the formation of the FBI's National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC). Its mission is to identify and track serial killers. At the same time the FBI's Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (VICAP) began. It was formed to link serial crimes across jurisdictions using a computer program. Profilers in the twenty-first century are increasingly called upon to investigate international crimes that can include dozens of physical locations and hundreds of individuals.

Dr. Lee examining a DNA profile. (AP/Wide World Photos)


investigations. The crime scene is where each investigation begins. The officers, detectives, and technicians must decide what types of evidence to collect. The crime scene can be as small as a room or as large as the three-mile path of a disintegrating airplane as it crashes to earth. It involves not only the actual location of the crime, but also the criminal's staging and planning areas.

Generally, the location of the original crime is considered a primary scene and any other locations are secondary. The crime scene includes both the area where the crime was committed, which must be secured and processed, as well as the people involved in the crime. This includes everyone from victims and survivors to witnesses and suspects.

Although the first response team decides what to collect and what to submit for laboratory analysis, the final decision on what type of physical evidence is submitted in court remains within the legal system. Prosecutors and defense attorneys decide what types of forensic evidence to use in criminal investigations and also which expert witnesses to call. Dr. Lee's testimony has been central to many major investigations —including the trial of football player O.J. Simpson in the murder of his wife and her lover; the murder of pageant star and child model JonBenet Ramsey; and the mysterious death of Vincent Foster, a high-ranking government lawyer and close friend of President Bill Clinton (1946–; served 1993–2001).

Dr. Lee has also been involved in the investigation, or in some cases the reinvestigation, of other famous cases, like the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (1917–1963; served 1961–63). In each case, Lee uses his forensic techniques to solve crimes and help bring criminals to justice.


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