Thursday, October 1, 2009

Rorschach crime scene analysis?

I read something like this and I don't know whether to laugh or cry. An FBI agent claiming the title of Intelligence Analyst thinks that the stain in the trunk of Casey Anthony's car clearly reveals the shape of a small child in a fetal position. Ok. Another FBI agent responded in e-mail that it would be too speculative of them to make conclusions; they would just let others draw their own conclusions.

If you use CNN as a news source, you've probably encountered the Casey Anthony case. She's the young woman who is facing capital murder charges in Florida in connection with the death of her 3 year-old daughter Caylee. For some reason, Nancy Grace has been obsessed with the case from day one, reporting on the "desperate" search for little Caylee. I am sure that Nancy is falling all overself to report on this "stain outline analysis" by an FBI Intelligence Analyst. I'm sure she and others think that if an FBI Intelligence Analyst sees the outline of a child in a trunk stain, it must mean that a murdered child was in that trunk.

Seriously? To me, this claim sounds more like wishful thinking than any real thoughtful analysis of a crime scene photo. Not to get too graphic, but if the stain is from decomposition fluid (which I believe is what the state is alleging), I don't think decomposition fluid from a dead body would ooze into the carpet of a trunk in the exact shape of the body. Blood certainly doesn't seep into floors like that. Doesn't liquid usually just ooze into rather generic blobs? But this FBI agent believes Caylee's dead body was in that trunk and so wants to see evidence of that.

I don't believe there is any scientific basis for this claim, as the second FBI agent's response demonstrated. But as both FBI agents' e-mails show, even FBI Intelligence Analysts can lose sight of the limits of science when they really think they've got a child killer and want to prove it.

Does this claim seem as silly to others as it does to me?

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