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Published: Feb 23, 2017 8:36:00 AM

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Developing analytical Blood Pattern Analysis (BPA) techniques for environmentally altered bloodstains; and examining the range and influence of visualization methods available for BPA presentation in the context of jury decision making.

7 March 2012

Hester Miles

The research will focus on the analysis and presentation methods of blood pattern analysis (BPA), a reconstruction tool used to infer the most likely events surrounding a crime scene. The importance of developing new analytical techniques by which to interpret blood stains of criminal origin is significant, in order to allow BPA practitioners to extract as much information from blood stains as possible.

The area of focus for experimental work will be on the effects of varying environmental conditions on bloodstain persistence and their subsequent interpretation. The area was identified at the practitioner-led International Association of Blood Pattern Analysts (I.A.B.P.A) 2010 conference as a key gap in the existing research literature on BPA and one which demands further exploration. Of particular interest, on the basis of them being most frequently encountered by practitioners, are the unknown effects of sub-zero temperatures, extreme heat, humidity, wind resistance and rain-based dilution on blood stains. Research in this area will significantly improve the ability of forensic experts to accurately interpret blood stains within a range of environmental scenarios realistically likely to be encountered in crime scene investigations.

The extent to which development of analytical techniques can enhance the investigatory abilities of forensic experts is limited, however, by the ability of the experts to accurately, and appropriately communicate their use of techniques to others, in particular to a layperson jury in the courtroom. This ability has been complicated by the emergence and abundance of increasingly advanced visual presentation mediums available to experts. Research on the psychology of jury decision making has demonstrated that visual presentation methods are extremely powerful, but the persuasive versus probative powers of these methods is not entirely understood. Crucially little work has been done exploring the presentation of BPA evidence despite the necessity of visualization techniques in communicating the complex scientific principles underpinning BPA, and the graphic and emotive nature of blood, which complicates issues surrounding its presentation.

This research will aim to develop, firstly, techniques appropriate for the analysis of environmentally altered blood stains for the purpose of reconstruction of crime scenes from stains. Secondly it will establish how expert interpretation of these stains is communicated through visualization techniques, and examine the significance of effect on juror decision making derived from the choice of one presentation method over another. The findings of this research will advance the reliability of using BPA evidence in cases where forensic expertise is required, generate new techniques to increase the capabilities of practitioners and knowledge of how BPA testimonies should be presented in a courtroom environment