NEW SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL SERIES EXPLORES THE SCIENCE BEHIND CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS
SET TO PREMIERE SUNDAY, JUNE 17 AT 9PM ET/PT
New York, NY – May 17, 2012 – DNA Profiling. Toxicology. Ballistics. Today’s criminal investigators employ powerful scientific tools to catch bad guys. But where did they come from and how do they really work? A new six-episode series from Smithsonian Channel uncovers the secrets behind the science. FORENSIC FIRSTS premieres Sunday, June 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
FORENSIC FIRSTS showcases the incredible history of the forensic tools we take for granted today. Each episode weaves together two criminal cases: a headline-grabbing modern murder investigation and the very first case where a forensic technique was invented and tested in court. Through the course of the hour, the cases reveal how the science evolved, often from a simple hunch into a sophisticated tool that revolutionizes crime science. FORENSIC FIRSTS features world-renowned forensic scientists, historians, and law enforcement officials who have worked on some of the most high-profile murder cases of the last 50 years.
“One of the Smithsonian Institution’s missions has been the development of forensic science,” said David Royle, Smithsonian Channel’s Executive Vice President of Programming and Production. “In the 1930s, America had few scientists with the skill and knowledge to study bones, so the FBI sought help from the National Museum of Natural History which has the country’s largest collection of human skeletons. FORENSIC FIRSTS provides lovers of popular crime dramas with fascinating insights into how the science of crime fighting has evolved.”
The series premiere, FORENSIC FIRSTS: DNA PROFILING, will be available one-week prior to its June 17 premiere, for free at www.smithsonianchannel.com and through all of the network’s mobile apps.
FORENSIC FIRSTS premiere episodes:
FORENSIC FIRSTS: DNA PROFILING – Premieres Sunday, June 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT - DNA evidence has solved countless murders and exonerated nearly 200 death row inmates, but less than a generation ago, this essential forensic tool did not exist. Then, in 1986, police investigating the rape and murder of two 15-year-old girls in a small English town sought help from a local geneticist and changed the future of crime science. Two decades later DNA profiling has evolved into an essential tool for crime investigators. It would be the key to unmasking one of the most notorious serial killers in American history, a mysterious villain known only by a chilling acronym: BTK – bind, torture, kill.
FORENSIC FIRSTS: FINGERPRINTS – Premieres Sunday, June 24 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – In the 1980s, the Night Stalker terrorizes Southern California with a series of break-ins and violent attacks. The critical clue that uncovers his identity comes from a forensic technique first discovered nearly a century earlier in Argentina, from a case involving the murder of two small children. In both cases, the murderers are done in by their own hand. Over the decades, the science of finding and interpreting fingerprints has evolved with new techniques that turn even the smallest clue into formidable evidence.
FORENSIC FIRSTS: SKELETAL SECRETS – Premieres Sunday, July 1 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – In 1978, Illinois police investigating a missing teenager make a horrifying discovery – a basement crawlspace filled with bones. The home belongs to John Wayne Gacy, a man who entertains at children’s parties as Pogo the Clown. The full extent of his crimes might never have been revealed if not for a sensational missing-person case all the way back in 1897, the very first time forensic anthropology was used in a criminal case. In that nineteenth century case, just four small bone fragments determine the fate of a man known as Chicago’s Sausage King. The criminal investigators use similar techniques to convict Gacy, one of the most shocking serial killers in American history.
FORENSIC FIRSTS: INSECT EVIDENCE– Premieres Sunday, July 8 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – Bakersfield, California, 2003. Five people are found shot or stabbed to death in their home. The only suspect is the father of the house, Vincent Brothers, but he has proof he was thousands of miles away in Ohio at the time of the murder. An enterprising detective wonders: Could insects in the grill of the suspect’s car foil the father’s alibi? If so, it would not be the first time forensic entomology broke a case wide open. In 1935, the British pioneer of insect evidence used the life stages of maggots on corpses to solve the shocking murders of two women.
FORENSIC FIRSTS: PROVING POISON – Premieres Sunday, July 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – For centuries, poison has been the weapon of choice for killers determined to leave no trace behind. Suspecting murder by poison is one thing, proving it is another. In 1840, a determined French prosecutor changes the game by applying the science of toxicology against a woman accused of murdering her husband. By 1993, when a Long Island doctor, Michael Swango, is suspected of killing five of his patients, a new arsenal of nearly untraceable drugs makes proving poison even harder. Investigators turn to new forensic tools that take the search for poisons to the atomic level, and Dr. Death is finally brought to justice.
FORENSIC FIRSTS: SMOKING GUNS – Premieres Sunday, July 22 at 9 p.m. ET/PT – In the fall of 2002, the Washington, DC area is terrorized by a rash of sniper shootings. In less than 48 hours, six people are dead. With no witnesses and no suspects, the only evidence left for investigators is the bullets found in the victims. But those bullets can provide critical clues, thanks in part to a case that gripped the nation decades earlier. The mysterious murder of Charles Phelps, a wealthy New York landowner, in 1915 was the first time investigators applied hard science to the forces exerted on a bullet when fired from a gun. As a result, by the time of the DC sniper, ballistics had become a cornerstone of crime science and proved pivotal in solving the case.
FORENSIC FIRSTS is produced by Smithsonian Channel, Story House Productions and Parthenon Entertainment. Executive Producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle and Charles Poe. Executive Producers for Story House Productions are Andreas Gutzeit and Anne Garofalo Paterno.
ABOUT SMITHSONIAN CHANNEL
Smithsonian Channel is owned by Smithsonian Networks, a joint venture between Showtime Networks Inc. and the Smithsonian Institution. Its programs are largely inspired by the assets of the Smithsonian Institution, the world’s largest museum complex. Smithsonian Channel features award-winning original documentaries, series, and groundbreaking programs highlighting America’s historical, cultural and scientific heritage. Smithsonian Channel brings the American experience home in high definition and Dolby Digital 5.1 and is available to customers of DirecTV, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, Cablevision, Verizon, AT&T, and more. Learn more at www.smithsonianchannel.com.