Program Dates, Times & Details

Session Dates

Session II: August 3-28, 2020
Duration: 4 weeks
Live (Synchronous) Session Times: Wednesdays; 6:30 – 8 p.m. EST
Cost: $344
Course Number: 72728

Dates & Deadlines  Registration Information


Course Description:

In this short course, a selection of fascinating historic cases, spanning over 3,000 years, will be discussed in light of the forensic technologies that have been used to unravel their secrets. Movies, television shows and books are full of stories that involve amazing feats of forensic science – but are these depictions accurate?  Oftentimes, a new technology first arises outside of forensic science and is then adapted for use in detection, but sometimes a new technology is advanced in response to a pressing need to deal with the intricacies of a perplexing case.  Because of the successes in using the latest scientific approaches, our criminal justice system has become heavily reliant upon new scientific methods.  But while these new technologies can bring enormous advantages the often come with potential challenges facing their use in the courtroom.  In this course, we will briefly trace use of science in criminal justice and how it has changed and evolved over the years.

Program Objectives

  • Explore the rich history of forensic science through key historic cases, including:
    • The King Tut “Homicide” Case
    • The Case of the Salem Witch Trials
    • The Saco-Vanzetti Case
    • The Lindberg Kidnapping Case
    • Precedent Setting Cases of the 20th Century
    • The OJ Simpson Trial
    • The Casey Anthony Case
    • The advent of DNA Methods into the Courtroom
  • Examine how high-profile cases have been important in bringing new scientific methods into the courtroom.
  • Consider the Future of Science and the Law.

Format

Each session would start with a ~45 min. lecture on the relevant aspect of forensic science and a brief presentation of the corresponding case(s).  This will then be followed by a class discussion and conversation about the field and/or case(s).  Background readings about the forensic techniques and cases to be discussed will be provided.  Additionally, class members may bring interesting cases for class consideration.

Lectures

Weekly lectures will include:

  • August 5, Session One: Getting Science into the Courtroom
  • August 12, Session Two: New Technologies for Old Problems
  • August 19, Session Three: Sensational Cases and Their Roles
  • August 26, Session Four: The Future of Science in the Law

Cases to be covered:

  • King Tut Case (biomedical imaging and virtopsy)
  • Sacco and Vanzetti Case (expert witnesses and firearms)
  • Lindberg Kidnapping Case (forensic ecology/botany and handwriting)
  • Frye and Daubert Cases (new precedents for science in the courtroom)
  • OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony Cases (chain of custody and using experimental methods)
  • Salem Witch Trial and Napoleon Cases (forensic toxicology)
  • DNA and the scientific forensic revolution (various cases and the NAS report)
  • The future of science and the law (new technologies and patents)

“Live” Online Lecture Sessions

  • Session One (Wed., Aug. 5, 6:30-8:00 PM): Getting Science into the Courtoom
    • Introduction to Forensic Science: Science in Criminal Justice
    • Sacco and Vanzetti Case (expert witnesses in court)
    • Frye and Daubert Cases (establishing new precedents for science and the law)
  • Session Two (Wed., Aug. 12, 6:30-8:00 PM): New Technologies for Old Problems
    • Salem Witch Trial and Napoleon Cases (forensic toxicology)
    • King Tut Case (biomedical imaging and virtopsy)
  • Session Three (Wed., Aug. 19, 6:30-8:00 PM): Sensational Cases and Their Roles
    • Case of the 20th century: Lindberg Kidnapping Case (forensic ecology/botany and handwriting)
    • OJ Simpson and Casey Anthony Cases (chain of custody and experimental methods)
    • Cases contributed and discussed by class members.
  • Session Four (Wed., Aug. 26, 6:30-8:00 PM): The Future of Science in the Law
    • DNA and the scientific revolution (various cases and the NAS Report)
    • The future of science and the law: New forensic technologies and patents

Program & Technology Requirements

Required Technology

  • Reliable internet access
  • Minimally, a laptop with webcam and audio. (Best would be a monitor connected to laptop or desktop)

Instructor

James T. Spencer

Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor of Chemistry and Forensic Science
Founding Executive Director, Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute (FNSSI)

Dr. James Spencer joined the faculty at Syracuse University in 1986 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Virginia. Prof. Spencer has recently received several honors for his research and teaching work including the “Distinguished Achievements in Boron Science” Award from the BUSA International Conference. He is the Laura J. and L. Douglas Meredith Professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he received the Chancellor’s Citation for Excellence, the highest award recognition for SU faculty and staff in recognition of outstanding achievement in teaching, scholarship and creative work. He also received the Excellence in Teaching Award from University College in 2009. He has been active in organizing a variety of scientific meetings for both the American Chemical Society and the BUSA International Conference, in addition to serving as co-chair for the 10th and 11th Foresight Conferences on Molecular Nanotechnology. Dr. Spencer has presented numerous invited lectures including at the IMEBORON X International Conference, the Gordon Research Conference in Inorganic Chemistry, and the International Symposium on Solid State Imaging and CVD. He has also served as a consultant for the Lockheed Martin Corporation, General Electric Corporation, the Merix Corporation, and International Business Machines, among others. At Syracuse University, Dr. Spencer has chaired the Faculty Council, the Senate Research Committee, and the College’s Promotion and Tenure Committee. He is the author of over 80 papers and has presented over 200 lectures at regional, national and international venues.Spencer’s research involves the study of solid-state, main group and organometallic chemistry and includes projects in solid state chemistry on boron-containing and nanostructural materials.

Dr. Spencer founded the University’s Forensic and National Security Sciences Institute (FNSSI) where he currently serves as its Executive Director. The Institute brings together work from many disciplines and provides a program of excellence, uniquely positioned to make significant contributions to combat crime and promote national security through research, teaching, and professional outreach: the nation’s first program that comprehensively focuses upon the breadth and depth scholarship in forensic and national security sciences and is establishing groundbreaking research based upon rigorous scientific investigation and technical ability. Professor Spencer’s teaching was also recently recognized by the Excellence in Teaching Award from University College in 2009. He has completed work on a new introductory textbook in Forensic Science, to be published by Cengage – the world’s largest publisher of scientific textbooks.

Spencer also directs the national award-winning Syracuse University Brass Ensemble, having begun his studies at SUNY Potsdam in brass music. The Ensemble is composed of over thirty-five professional-level musicians. The Ensemble is a year round organization which presents some twenty performances each year.