CSI: The real life

Roberto Campos

Blood. Sperm. Skin.

Forensic investigators use these DNA samples to identify people previously present at a crime scene.


This sounds like something found on “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”, but this real-life technique can be used to solve cases like the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal.

John M. Butler, an international authority on forensic DNA typing, took students beyond popular shows and spoke about different ways forensic sciences are used by real life law enforcement.

“Forensic science can be used for matching suspect, paternity test, missing persons, identifying bodies in mass disasters, and historical investigations,” Butler said.

Famous shows like “CSI” have given the public a glimpse into the world of forensic investigation, causing a phenomenon among the public called the CSI Effect.

This effect has skewed the public understanding of what is Hollywood and what is real.

“The reality is that forensic science isn’t as fast and as accurate as the public thinks,” Butler said.

Forensic investigation has been heavily geared towards law enforcement, but Butler brought to life different ways to apply this science, such as in battlefield investigations by the military.

“[The Armed Forces Repository has] 5 million samples on file, and are used to identify the remains of war casualties,” Butler said.

Butler took the opportunity to explain the world of forensic science and where it is going.

“The lecture was very informative. (Butler) related it from TV to real life,” said Jenny Bell, senior psychology major. 

“He was well informed and really broke down the information,” said Marlene Shaw, a professor emerita of biology at USI who helped organize the event.

“I was very pleased with the inaugural event. It was a way for me to give back and generate interest in the field,” Shaw said.

Hollywood or not, forensic science has evolved from past techniques to high-tech investigation and has allowed law enforcement to bring criminals to justice and exonerate those who were wrongly accused.

Butler helped explain the confusing field of forensic science to the public at this event, said Matthew Hurst, a senior chemistry major.

“He really explained how CSI doesn’t happen overnight,” Hurst said.