True crime documentaries are some of the most popular in the media today. Whether in podcast form, documentary film or documentary series, true crime and unsolved murders never fail to capture people’s attention and ignite curiosity.
Experts from The Leverhulme Research Centre for Forensic Science (LRCFS) at Dundee University are offering people the opportunity to become ‘forensic scientists’ for a day, as they apply a modern twist to an old murder committed in Glasgow in 1857.
The interactive workshop, part of the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s flagship Curious event series, will take place in September. The event will provide participants with the chance to examine the circumstances of the murder of Pierre Emile L’Angelier and the subsequent trial of the accused Glasgow socialite Madeleine Smith. Participants will be invited to take a deeper dive into some of the different types of forensic evidence that appeared in the case, take part in, and experience, the presentation and cross examination of evidence, and how the communication of forensic science may be used to help jury decision making.
The Madeleine Smith trial is already the subject of the University of Dundee’s own true-crime podcast Inside Forensic Science.
Dr Heather Doran, public engagement manager at the LRCFS, said: “Often in fiction or when forensic scientists are portrayed on TV they are seen as being involved with the whole investigation or solving the case which isn’t what happens in real life. We want people to experience what it is like to be a forensic scientist. ”
She added: “If a forensic scientist is asked to be an expert witness and has to talk about their evidence in the court room, they are asked to respond only to questions from the defence and prosecution rather than have the opportunity to provide a wider explanation of what their evidence might mean in the context of the case”
The communication of evidence in a courtroom setting is just as important as the evidence itself. For an expert witness, a lifetime’s worth of knowledge may perhaps only be the subject of a few questions in a court case, and if the information cannot be communicated correctly, important and valuable points may be lost, Dr Doran explained.
Professor Niamh Nic Daéid, Director of the LRCFS, said: “Communication is one of the most critical skills that an expert witness needs to have.”
The event Can you be a forensic scientist? will take place at The Royal Society of Edinburgh on Tuesday 5 September at 6pm, and is free to attend. To book your place visit www.rse-curious.com