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Episodes 2017; 40(2): 118-119

Published online June 1, 2017


Copyright © International Union of Geological Sciences.

Geology of the FBI lab and the challenge to the admissibility of forensic geology in US court

Jodi Blakely Webb1,2*, Maureen Bottrell1, Libby A. Stern1, Ian Saginor1

1FBI Laboratory, Quantico, VA 22556, USA; *Corresponding author, E-mail: Jodi.Webb@ic.fbi.gov
2FBI Adviser, International Union of Geological Sciences, Initiative on Forensic Geology (IUGS-IFG)

Correspondence to:*E-mail: Jodi.Webb@ic.fbi.gov

Received: November 2, 2016; Revised: March 5, 2017; Accepted: March 5, 2017

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0) which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Soil and geologic evidence has been examined in the FBI Laboratory since 1939, and long admitted into trials, both in the US and abroad. However, to the best our knowledge soil evidence did not undergo a formal admissibility challenge within the US court systems until 29th January 2016. Forensic soil analysis is typically a comparison between two or more samples to see whether they originated from different sources. When soil samples are indistinguishable, the possibility that they originated from a single source cannot be eliminated. The challenge in State of Kansas v. Kyle Flack, 13CR104 (2016), involved the admissibility of soil comparisons at the trial, as well as the qualifications of the forensic geologist who conducted the examinations. The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the FBI. Names of commercial manufacturers are provided for identification purposes only, and inclusion does not imply endorsement of the manufacturer or its products or services by the FBI.