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Science Casts Doubt on FBI Bullet Evidence

Number 20860
Subject Crime Labs
Source Center for Investigative Reporting (San Francisco)
State CA
Year 2003
Publication Date February 3
Summary This story investigated the validity of a forensics technique, comparative lead bullet analysis, that has been used by the FBI crime laboratory since the late 1960's. FBI scientists determine the trace metal profile of a lead slug and then compare bullet profiles. They found there was not a solid scientific backing for this technique and that new research indicates that the conclusions the FBI examiners drew about relationships between were, at best, unwarranted. There was never evidence to conclude that the fact that two bullets share similar trace element profiles means they are in some way connected, and there is now evidence against that conclusion. This is important because the technique is commonly used in murder cases where traditional ballistics cannot be used and, often where there is little evidence.
Category Contest Entry
Pages 9
Keywords forensics;FBI;crime lab;lead bullet analysis;FBI scientists;lead slug;FBI examiners;American Chemical Society;National Academy of Sciences;bullet lead;fingerprint analysis;Iowa State University;National Research Council;Middlesex County Superior Court;crime scene;FBI testimony;National Research Council;rifling-mark analysis
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