Digging into some of the worst results of human behaviour — why?!

By Anna Sandiford 02/08/2011

The second question about forensic science is answered: following on from forensic science: how it is, Kiwiski asked, “As fascinating as the science is I think I’d still want to know how someone dealt with digging into some of the worst results of human behavior and what motivated them to keep going?”

The simple answer for me is: the desire to make sure that if science is used, even in part, to put someone in prison or release someone, that the science is done properly.

There would be nothing worse than science being wrong and a guilty person being acquitted or an innocent person being convicted.  Even in the most horrendous of cases, it is our job as scientists to make sure the Triers of Fact (judge and jury usually) know what the science means in the context of a given case so they (not us) can make an informed decision on the Ultimate Issue: guilty or not guilty.

Separating science and facts from emotion is a difficult thing; some people are better than others at it.  This is the part that can be tough but in order to do the job effectively, you have to find a way to manage it.  Appreciating the value of mental health and making sure it is looked after is very important for those working in difficult and traumatic cases.

The other thing to remember is that a forensic scientist rarely knows all there is to know about a case.  The scientific aspects of a case are utterly fascinating and it’s surprising how well people adapt to dealing with what many other people would consider abhorrent.

When the going gets tough, the thing to remember is that our overriding duty is to the court.  Science must be fully, fairly, accurately and transparently reported.  No exceptions.


0 Responses to “Digging into some of the worst results of human behaviour — why?!”

  • I listened to an interview with a US Medical Examiner some time ago (so I don’t remember details) and he related that throughout his long career he never once looked at a cadaver as a human being, just a puzzle to be solved.

  • That’s exactly what it is.
    Pathologists have one of the worst jobs but they are amongst the most matter-of-fact people I’ve ever met. Once they have over-ridden their body’s basic response to human death then they’re usually OK.
    I fainted at the first PM I attended, which was very frustrating because I was fascinated by how all the internal workings of the body are connected but my brain went into shock and decided it wasn’t something I should see. Once I came round though it was one of the most interesting events I have ever witnessed.