Forensic Science in the Roaring Twenties

In 1926, Francesco Travia was caught dumping parts of a dead woman. The rest of her was in his apartment. The Brooklyn police thought the murder case was open-and-shut.
The New York City medical examiner, Dr Charles Norris  himself, was on call the night of the Travia arrest. He followed the policemen up the wooden stairs to Travia's apartment, walked over to inspect the dismembered corpse.

His thick eyebrows drew together. The blood pooled around the half-body was a bright cherry-red. He bent to look closer at the woman's face. It was flushed pink, despite the massive blood loss. As told by a crime writer, Norris walked over to the waiting detectives and announced: "Boys, you can't hold this man for murder."

The Brooklyn police assured him that they could – and would.
Unlike the police, Travia's lawyer found the medical evidence compelling.

The case pitted forensic science against police procedures of the day, and science won.
In March 1927, he was acquitted of murder, convicted instead of illegally dismembering a dead body. A life-saving difference: in 1920s New York, it meant that he went to prison instead of Sing Sing  prison's infamous electric chair. They celebrated at the city medical examiner, believing that the case had given them new credibility, that they'd also proved that forensic toxicology was a credible, believable tool.

Read the whole story at The Guardian. Link -via Boing Boing

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