Blood Will Tell

How legitimate is bloodstain pattern analysis? Sign up for our newsletter and we’ll tell you about it.

ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine published a two-part project investigating the forensic science of bloodstain pattern analysis. But we have more to say.

In Part I, Pamela Colloff, senior reporter at ProPublica and a writer-at-large at The New York Times Magazine, told the story of Joe Bryan, a Texas high school principal convicted of murdering his wife. The prosecution’s case against him was largely circumstantial, until a small-town police detective trained in reconstructing crimes — using the blood spatter left behind at crime scenes — lent a sense of scientific certainty to an equivocal set of facts. But was what he told jurors accurate?

In Part II, Colloff digs into just how accurate bloodstain pattern analysis — and the detective’s damning testimony — is. She traces blood spatter’s history back to its dubious origins in American courtrooms and even takes a one-week bloodstain analysis training course similar to the one the detective and many other bloodstain experts did. What she finds is as startling as it is unsettling.

Future “Blood Will Tell” newsletters will feature supplemental stories that examine this forensic science — and its impact on the justice system — in new and different ways. Think of this material as being similar to episodes of a podcast. These stories will give you insight into Colloff’s investigation, her reporting process and how she pieced together the narrative. Sign up to get these dispatches in your inbox. Expect these stories in the coming weeks.

Pamela Colloff is a senior reporter at ProPublica and a writer-at-large at The New York Times Magazine. Colloff has been nominated for six National Magazine Awards – more than any other female writer in the award’s history – and won for feature writing in 2013. The following year, the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University awarded her the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism. Her story is the first for a unique partnership between ProPublica and the Times, which allows her to report on criminal justice using the resources of both organizations.