Remembering AAFS Gradwohl Laureate James E. Starrs


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We are saddened to announce the passing of AAFS Retired Fellow James E. Starrs. Professor Starrs joined the Academy in 1976 when he was elected Provisional Member. He was promoted to Fellow in 1979 and subsequently served as Secretary and Chair of the Jurisprudence Section as well as numerous committees during his tenure with the Academy.

Professor Starrs received the AAFS Distinguished Fellow Award in 1996 and served as Chair of the Last Word Society from 2003–17. He presented at several Breakfast Seminars at the Academy meetings that were very popular, unique, and always well-attended. He was bestowed the Academy’s most esteemed honor, the R.B.H. Gradwohl Medallion, in 2012. He served on the Journal of Forensic Sciences Editorial Board from 1983 until 1998. He wrote numerous articles on issues in forensic science, and he wrote and edited the Scientific Sleuthing Review, a journal of legal and scientific information, for decades. His forensic science research and results were presented in his book, A Voice for the Dead (2005).

Professor Starrs was a member of the George Washington (GW) Law School faculty beginning in 1964. He taught courses in criminal law, criminal procedure, and property as well as electives in forensic science and adjudicatory criminal procedure. He completed his post-graduate work in criminal law at New York University, where he subsequently held a Ford Foundation Fellowship. Professor Starrs held a joint appointment with the Forensic Sciences Department in GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Co-author of a leading textbook on scientific evidence, Professor Starrs directed or participated in scientific investigations into the Lindbergh kidnapping, the Sacco and Vanzetti robbery-murders, the Alfred Packer cannibalism case, the assassination of Senator Huey Long, the hatchet murders of the Bordens, the CIA-LSD-related death of Frank Olson, the identification of Jesse James, the death of Meriwether Lewis, the location of the remains of Samuel Washington, and the Boston Strangler case.

Professor Starrs always filled his life with meaning and adventure. He will truly be missed.