“Trying to Get It Right the First Time”

Tim Palmbach
*photo courtesy New Haven Register

Tim Palmbach: The Challenges of Forensic Science  and Assisting Crime Victims

Tim Palmbach is tall in stature…with an equally big heart to match…  His background includes law enforcement as a former Major in the Connecticut State Police, a forensic scientist as Director of Forensic Science at the Henry C. Lee Institute and an Associate Professor at the University of New Haven.  And … in his spare time, he feels obligated to give back to crime victims, assisting with cold cases and/or providing awareness to the general public.

Ladyjustice could feel a common thread throughout the discussion… one of respect.  Tim Palmbach respects crime victims… He respects good science that yields results that cannot be argued.  He respects the judicial process even with its many flaws… Tim respects that there are many shades of gray, many layers to the process and that much of forensic science often is anything but “cut and dried.”  He respects that there is often no clear-cut answers…that there are always multiple avenues to pursue in addition to DNA.  Team work is required with all parties doing their due diligence and hopefully coming together with a plausible scenario.  Above all, he respects competency and training, for that is the only way that victim’s families can have a piece of justice.

To listen to the show, Tim Palmbach Talks Forensics, CLICK HERE

As an associate professor, who mentors students in forensic science, Tim tries to engage students so that they apply theory to real life problems they encounter in law enforcement. If his students succeed in the classroom, he may offer the opportunity to visit a crime scene.  In fact, crime scene reconstruction is his area of expertise.

The “CSI Effect” can wreak havoc on our sensibilities…   As Tim stated, the real truth is that in TV land, investigators always have the correct evidence… scientific analysis always yields positive results, there is always one perpetrator…and there is always a “singular unique theory of the case.”  The real truth is a long way from the 60 minute show, including commercials!

Tim’s  skills were honed under the tutelage of Dr. Henry C. Lee, known for many qualities…including his keen mind, quick wit, workaholic nature and his generosity to crime victims.  As a three time “retired person” Dr. Lee has ~ 800 open cases at last count.  He is able to keep a “running mental card file” of cases and applicable technologies that could possibly be used on the many cold cases.  At least, he attempts to use such strategies…

Other areas you will learn about when you listen to this show…

  • Tim’s perspective on the Michael Petersen case and the importance of a new trial;
  • How to correctly work a cold case to yield the best outcome;
  • Theories’ concerning what really goes wrong in high-profile cases;
  • Considerations when weighing scientific/physical evidence and circumstantial evidence in the solvability of cases;
  • Possible reasons for cases to stall and become “Cold;”
  • Juries demands and the “CSI effect” – a good or bad thing?
  • Illustrative Example of Forensic Science and law enforcement working together in solving the deaths of 11 street women in Hartford, CT (1998-2000);
  • How good are criminal profiles and when should they be done?
  • Is there an order to every investigation that should be followed?
  • How do you get it right the first time, according to Tim?
  • The “good bad and the ugly” that media creates;
  • Discussion of how a crime scene is contaminated and how it impacts the solvability and status of a case;
  • Is it a good idea for crime victims to call medical examiners asking for assistance regarding data/evidence they may have?
  • Being the “Squeaky wheel”- Example- the New Haven Murder Case  of Penny Serra;
  • Medical Examiners versus Coroners:  How do they impact cases?
  • DNA- The End All Beat All…or a very complex issue? (Don’t lose sight of other aspects of the job…);
  • New Technologies…. Teleforensics- What’s it all about?
  • The cutting edge at the Henry C. Lee Institute;
  • Tim’s words of advice to crime victims


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