Forensic science is often unreliable but is commonly used to convict people of criminal charges.
Forensic crime shows have brought the "scientific" aspect of criminal justice into the homes of thousands across the U.S. It has gotten to the point that many who serve on juries in criminal trials expect to see complex forensic evidence presentations. However, while these findings are often presented as scientific certainties, forensic evidence is often unreliable and can send innocent people to prison.
Scientific standards lacking
While most people think of DNA evidence when they hear the words "forensic evidence," the term encompasses a wide variety of evidence such as blood samples, fingerprints, voice recording analysis, and comparing impression marks, hair, bite marks or fibers. According to the Innocence Project, these disciplines developed strictly to solve crimes, and, as such, developed without proper scientific standards. People cobbled together knowledge gleaned from application on a case-by-case basis. In many cases, there has been no testing to establish quality controls and assurances before applying these disciplines, authorities continue to use such evidence to prosecute people for criminal charges.
Even though many forms of forensic evidence lack basic scientific standards for reliability, technicians who run the tests or collect the evidence often testify in such a way that gives the impression that the evidence is more reliable than it really is. For example, a forensic analyst may testify that hairs found at a crime scene "are consistent with" or "match" the hairs of a person facing criminal charges, but there is no scientific research into the validity or reliability of hair analysis. Analysts have no way of knowing how common or rare hair matches are, and therefore cannot properly assess how meaningful this evidence is.
In other cases, forensic analysts fail to present the limitations of the tests that they perform or misrepresent what a given test can definitively prove.
Many crime labs are underfunded, so the analysts do not have the proper training to do their jobs correctly and need to cut corners to save money. In the most extreme cases, analysts deliberately taint test results so that the results are what prosecutors want. Crime labs across the U.S. have come under investigation, some have even been shut down, because analysts have been throwing test results.
Given the fallibility of the so-called "scientific" evidence that the state often relies on to convict people, it is crucial that those facing criminal charges have the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the limitations of forensic evidence and the ways that such evidence can be manipulated. If you are facing criminal charges, contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney who can help defend your rights.
Keywords: criminal defense; criminal charges; criminal law