One West Virginia University professor is working to uncover whether forensic shoeprint evidence discriminates.
Jacqueline Speir, assistant professor in the Forensic and Investigative Science Program at WVU, has been awarded roughly $389,000 in grant funds to conduct research that will help reveal the forensic value of footwear evidence.
“Popular culture has predisposed the public to the value of forensic linkages based on fingerprints and DNA, but the ability of shoeprint evidence to create similar linkages is less well characterized,” Speir said.
To contest this, the goal of her research, she said, is to better understand what is termed the “discrimination potential” of shoeprint evidence. To determine this, Speir and her research group will collect, characterize and compare randomly acquired accidental characteristics (such as tears, nicks, and other forms of damage that result from wear) on the outsoles of hundreds of shoes.
Once collected, this data will provide insights into how well footwear impressions deposited at crime scenes can be linked to a single donor shoe—and a suspect.
“If I examined two outsoles, yours and mine, and there was a great deal of similarity between them, the discrimination potential of the shoes would be low, and I certainly don’t want to be charged with a crime you committed,” Speir said.
Speir’s research group, funded over the next two and a half years, will objectively evaluate the similarity of accidental patterns present on shoes and those imparted to impressions left during the commission of a crime, as well as between impressions collected from different donors.
Speir joined the Forensic and Investigative Science Program in August of 2012 and holds a Ph.D. from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
For more information, contact Jacqueline Speir, at Jacqueline.Speir@mail.wvu.edu.
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