Murder or metabolism? When Google holds the key

Following the incriminating Google search in the Entwistle case, a much less certain case seems to have been nailed down by a Google search.  A man was convicted of killing his wife using ethylene glycol:

During the trial, a computer expert testified that two days before Julie Keown entered the hospital the first time, James Keown’s computer showed he did a search using the words “ethylene glycol death human.”

In a previous case, what looked like a ethylene glycol poisoning turned out to be a metabolic disease:

[A] child appeared to have died of ethylene glycol poisoning, found by two independent labs.  The mother was sentenced to life in prison, but while in prison, gave birth to a second son, who was found to have methylmalonic acidemia.  Reexamination of serum from the first child also showed methylmalonic acidemia; the labs had misidentified propionic acid as ethylene glycol.  The mother was eventually released from prison.  Note, however, that the opposite error can also occur: intentional poisoning with ethylene glycol can be misinterpreted as an inborn error of metabolism.

The Google search was the smoking gun that made it clear that the Keown death was murder, not metabolism.

There’s plenty of reason to expect Google results to feature in more cases in the future. With Google search, Google Health, Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Chat, mobile apps and the rest, I won’t be surprised to see the majority of the evidence for some cases come via Google.

July 3, 2008

4 thoughts on “Murder or metabolism? When Google holds the key”

  1. I just saw the one about the mother who was mistakenly imprisoned for supposedly poisoning her child but really the child had a genetic problem on Law & Order!

    It was a subplot for a story about one of the DA’s who goes after a judge.

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