When you’re watching a crime show, it’s hard to tell facts from fiction. But reality can be even more interesting than TV! Keep reading for 10 facts about real-life crimes that will intrigue any true crime fans.
1. DNA can last for thousands to millions of years
Under the most favorable conditions, scientists say that DNA can last for many thousands or millions of years. The level of deterioration varies depending on the conditions. For example, frozen DNA lasts thousands of years longer than DNA that’s simply buried in the ground.
2. There are multiple national DNA databases
National DNA databases are managed in the U.S., the UK, and many other developed countries. These databases contain DNA profiles for thousands or millions of criminals.
3. Criminal cases can rule in the defendant’s favor if the DNA is contaminated
Even if all the evidence points to a suspect being guilty, the contamination of DNA evidence can clear him or her of wrongdoing. This is why strict procedures are required for handling evidence. In some jurisdictions, double jeopardy prevents the case from being opened again.
4. DNA is used to identify victims too
DNA has been used to identify “Jane Doe” or “John Doe” victims that have gone unidentified for years, identifying the body parts of victims whose faces are unrecognizable. In massacres, DNA has been used to identify victims that were found in mass graves.
5. Forensic linguistics is a lesser-known field
Forensic linguistics is a field that combines linguistics with forensic science. Linguists study languages and writing, such as notes and letters, to unlock the clues to a crime. They may be called to match signatures on documents or verify the handwriting on notes written by suspects or victims.
6. The pattern of bloodstains matters
In some cases, having blood present at the scene is not enough to draw a conclusion. The specific bloodstain patterns need to be analyzed, indicating how the wound was applied to the victim. This procedure is important when determining if a death was suicide or homicide.
7. Forensic scientists can work for the defense
While most people see forensic scientists as working for the prosecutors or the “good guys,” they can also be hired by criminal defense attorneys. For instance, the defense team can use scientists to prove that the suspect was not at the scene of the crime and someone else was there instead.
8. Criminology deals with research and reform
When most people think of criminology, they think it only involves research. But a big part of working as a criminologist is working to reform criminal laws and finding ways to rehabilitate criminals.
9. Crimes in the wilderness often go undetected
A small percentage of crimes occur in the wilderness, such as the Amazon jungle or Yellowstone National Park. In these places, there are no court systems used to analyze crimes, so many of these so-called “wilderness criminals” never get convicted.
10. The police don’t clean up crime scenes
The police are called to take pictures and notes of the crime scene. However, another group is called in to remove the dead body and clean up the blood and debris. It’s surprisingly easy to find such companies with a quick local Google search like “San Antonio crime scene cleanup” — though hopefully you never find yourself in a position where you need that type of service yourself!