Crime’s digital past

Crime’s digital past

Computer science makes history in a Victorian-era courthouse

By Bruce Bower, 11:12 AM July 14, 2011

Henry Howard was in big trouble. Down on his luck, the family man stood in the dock of London’s Old Bailey courthouse facing a forgery charge. A Bank of Scotland clerk had just confirmed that a month earlier, on March 14, 1879, Howard bought furniture with a check belonging to someone else. He signed the check with James McDonald’s name.

With the defense counsel’s blessing, Howard abruptly switched his plea from not guilty to guilty. He begged for mercy to a row of judges. Too late: A forge...

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