Friday, May 27, 2005

Elementary, my dear Watson

So, I reckon I've missed my vocation in life, but when I saw the Careers teacher aged 15 they didn't tell me I could be a forensic linguist. Which obviously means that one of you guys has to do it in my place...

If you trawl back through the archives here (I know, I know, I must put a search function on or an index or something - summer holidays project, methinks) you'll find pieces about the linguistic tracking down of the Belle Du Jour blogger, the Unabomber, and various attempts to determine whether or not the Osama bin Laden tapes are authentic. And now here comes another major case, the quashing of Paul Blackburn's life sentence for attempted murder of a 9 year old boy. Bit late as he served 25 years in prison before new linguistic evidence came to light to mount another appeal...

Browse through the Guardian article below (and those in other papers) and you'll pick up the general story that it's linguistic evidence at the heart of the case, but, frustratingly, none of them provide any further detail. So, you'll need to check out the second bit of linkylovin' for that. This is a fascinating, very chatty account, written by a researcher who worked on Paul Blackburn's case for a TV documentary about alleged miscarriages of justice. I'd still like to see all the evidence, but the researcher explains a few details. Notably, that although the police said the defendant wrote his confession while they sat around polishing their nails, there is no way the word "ejaculated" would be used by a lad with a teenage working class sociolect, let alone be spelled correctly. Equally unlikely that he would describe being "in a frenzy".

That's as close as I've been able to get to the actual linguistic evidence, though I'd dearly love to see it all. If any of you guys who are studying law can think of a way of eyeballing it, do let me know, eh?...

Appeal victory after 25 years' jail

Trial and Error

1 Comments:

At 12:01 pm, Anonymous Dave Rattigan said...

If I had my druthers, I'd probably be a forensic linguist. Sounds like fun. :)

 

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