A Retail Sampling Approach to Assess Impact of Geographic Concentrations on Probative Value of Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis

Posted: 17 Jul 2008

See all articles by Simon A. Cole

Simon A. Cole

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society

William A. Tobin

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Lyndsay N Boggess

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Hal S. Stern

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: December 2005

Abstract

The probative value of comparative bullet lead analysis (CBLA), a now discontinued technique that was used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for more than 30 years, has been hotly debated over the last several years. One issue that has received relatively little attention concerns the degree of geographic dispersion of bullets as they pass from manufacturers to retailers. Proponents and critics of CBLA alike agree that geographic distribution is such a major consideration, if not a predominant one, that it could significantly diminish, or completely erode, the probative value of a CBLA 'match' or, in some cases, even make a match counter-probative. The inattention to this issue to date appears to be a consequence of lack of data, rather than lack of importance. Until now, no datum concerning bullet distribution has been presented in the public domain, critically hampering the proper estimation of the probative value of a CBLA match. In this paper, we use manufacturer packing codes on boxes of bullets in retail outlets at four sites in the United States as a surrogate measure of bullet lead compositions to gauge local retail bullet distribution. Using a weighted average packing code match probability, we found very high degrees of geographic concentration of bullet packing codes. Although these findings can only offer a rough estimate of the degree of geographic concentration of actual chemical compositions of bullets, they are sufficient to establish that geographic concentration does, in fact, exist. Such a concentration would have a significant impact on the probative value of any claimed CBLA match.

Keywords: comparative bullet lead analysis, compositional analysis of bullet lead, geographic concentration, geographic distribution, probative value, National Research Council, forensic bullet composition comparisons, forensic bullet evidence

Suggested Citation

Cole, Simon A. and Tobin, William A. and Boggess, Lyndsay N and Stern, Hal S., A Retail Sampling Approach to Assess Impact of Geographic Concentrations on Probative Value of Comparative Bullet Lead Analysis (December 2005). Law, Probability and Risk, Vol. 4, Issue 4, pp. 199-216, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1161769 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/lpr/mgl006

Simon A. Cole (Contact Author)

University of California, Irvine - Department of Criminology, Law and Society ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.seweb.uci.edu/faculty/cole/

William A. Tobin

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Lyndsay N Boggess

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Hal S. Stern

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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