This "episode" in the Just Science podcast series on forensic case studies consists of an audio interview with John Collins that focuses on the bombing at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, GA, and how this case led to forensic advancements in the tool-mark examination of nails.
At the time of the Atlanta bombing, John Collins was a tool-mark forensic examiner working in the forensic lab of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The pipe bomb that exploded in the Olympic park contained nails that were dispersed throughout the area of the explosion. Although Collins discusses some of the investigative issues associated with this bombing and other bombs subsequently placed by the same bomber (Eric Rudolph) at medical clinics that performed abortions, the focus of this interview is on how the investigation of the Atlanta bombing precipitated advances in tool-mark forensics regarding nails. Collins determined that through the preparatory procedures he describes, the tool-marks made in the manufacture of nails become visible for microscopic examination. Collins' next step was to determine whether nail tool-marks made in the course of nail manufacturing are distinctive to particular nail manufacturers. This would open the possibility of matching nails in a suspect's possession to nails used at a crime-scene bombing. In his conversations with nail manufacturers and his study of factors involved with the machinery used in nail manufacturing, Collins determined that each manufacturer provides a distinctive identifying mark on its nails. In addition, the kind of machine used in the manufacturing process wears over time, which produces changes in tool-mark characteristics. Collins does not claim that his work helped identify Eric Rudolph; however, this case was a catalyst for advances in the forensic examination of nails.