THE ninth webinar on Forensic Linguistics organized by the Department of English of the University of Santo Tomas was held on April 27, 2021.
The speaker was James R. Fitzgerald, a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent who gained fame for his role in the longest and most expensive FBI undertaking, the “University and Airline Bomber (Unabomber) Investigation.”
Attended by more than 600 participants from 24 countries via Zoom and streamed via the Department’s Facebook Page, Fitzgeraled delivered a lecture on “Forensic Linguistics and Authorial Attribution Analysis: From Unabomb to Three Staged Suicide Cases.”
Forensic Linguistics is defined simply as the interplay between the language and the law. With the term ‘forensic’ having to do with solving crimes, in some countries where linguistic evidence is accepted in courts, those involved in forensic linguistics provide language analysis of available documents that could help in profiling or even identifying suspects.
The Unabomber hunter initially shared his Unabomb investigation in 1996 where he conducted threat assessment and authorial attribution by analyzing almost 200 documents.
Authorial attribution is comparing one set of communications known to have been authored by a person and another set of communications suspected to have been authored by a person.
This was followed by the speaker’s sharing of several court cases in which he provided expert testimony in text analysis. Fitzgerald highlighted three suicide cases that involved suicide emails and notes wherein he used forensic linguistic analysis on sample written texts both from the victim and the suspect to identify authorship attribution leading to the capture of the perpetrators.
Fitzgerald was the consulting producer in the Discovery Channel’s miniseries titled Manhunt: Unabomber that premiered in 2017.
UST Department of English Chair Dr. Rachelle B. Lintao moderated the event.