Forensic Science Series to explore death in police custody, occult crimes, and forgery

Media Contact: Tony LaRoche, 401-874-4894 |

KINGSTON, R.I. – Sept. 30, 2020 – Death in police custody from negligence, forgery, ritualistic and occult crimes, and the Innocence Project are among the topics that will be explored this fall during the University of Rhode Island’s Forensic Science Seminar Series.

“This year, we have many speakers covering interesting topics that are very timely,” said Dennis Hilliard, director of the Rhode Island State Crime Laboratory at URI and adjunct professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Pharmacy. “We will have speakers talking about death in police custody, along with occult crimes committed by unusual groups, a day before Halloween.”

The annual series will be delivered both in a virtual and in-person format. There are a limited number of seats available for the free seminars. All seminars are Fridays from 3:30 to 5 p.m. in Room 100 of the Richard E. Beaupre Center for Chemical and Forensic Sciences, 140 Flagg Road, on the Kingston Campus. See below for instructions on how to take part in the lectures

Hilliard, who organizes the seminar series with Chemistry Professor Jimmie Oxley, will be the next speaker in the series this Friday, Oct. 2. His lecture will focus on the application of forensic science to crime scene investigations and the work of the state crime laboratory, including how it was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other speakers this fall are:

Oct. 9, David Thatcher, a retired member of Office of Criminal Investigation at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, on “Metal Sensing Technology and Crime Scene Investigation.”

Oct. 16, Adam Hall, assistant professor and forensic scientist at Boston University, on “Dr. Richard Saferstein: The Life & Legacy of a Forensic Scientist.”

Oct. 23, David Benjamin, a clinical pharmacologist and toxicologist and a former associate professor at Northeastern University, will speak on “Death in Police Custody from Negligence-Body Packing & Self-Administration.” Benjamin is a former clinical research director who has more than 25 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry designing and analyzing research studies involving the effects of drugs on people, and assessing adverse drug reactions. His research has included areas such as waiving of Miranda rights and false and coerced confessions.

Oct. 30, Ed Pierce, retired officer at the Warwick Police Department, will discuss ritualistic and occult crimes in his lecture, “Law Enforcement Issues with Non-Traditional Groups.”

Nov. 6, James Streeter, a former forensic science examiner at the Connecticut State Police Forensic Science Laboratory, will talk about document analysis and forgery in his lecture on handwriting analysis. Streeter has more than 21 years of experience in the analysis of questioned documents, handwriting examination, and imprints/impressions evidence.

Nov. 13, Meredith Scannell, author of “Fast Facts About Forensic Nursing” and clinical research nurse at the Boston Nursing Institute, on “Latest Trends & Issues Among Individuals of Domestic & Sexual Violence.”

Nov. 20, Sean Boyce, A U.S. Postal inspector, on “The Pony Express.”

Dec. 4, Frederick Bieber, professor of Pathology at Harvard University, on “DNA.”

Dec. 11, Laura Carey, a New England Innocence Project attorney, on “The Role of Forensic Science in Innocence Cases.”

All lectures are free and open to the public. However, only a maximum of 60 people will be permitted inside the lecture hall, under the university’s COVID-19 safety measures.

Visitors interested in attending lectures in person or watching them live online must request permission by email from Hilliard (dhilliard@uri.edu) or Oxley (joxley@uri.edu), prior to the lecture.  A live-stream link will be emailed to registered students and interested viewers each week. Interested viewers can access the link, if the speaker has authorized broadcasting, at the FSP Webpage and can log in at 3:30 p.m. on Fridays to watch the lecture, or access the recorded lecture any time using the web page link. The lectures will not be interactive.

All students, faculty, staff, and visitors attending lectures are required to complete a daily health self-assessment electronic questionnaire before attending the lectures in person and must adhere to the University’s guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing.

Edhaya Thennarasu, an intern in the Marketing and Communications Department at URI and Communications major, wrote this press release.