Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Tragedy of Wrongful Convictions

Because forensic science results can mean the difference between life and death in many cases, fraud and other types of misconduct in the field are particularly troubling. False testimony, exaggerated statistics and laboratory fraud have led to wrongful conviction in several states.

Since forensic evidence is offered by "experts," jurors routinely give it much more weight than other evidence. But when misconduct occurs, the weight is misplaced. In some instances, labs or their personnel have allied themselves with police and prosecutors, rather than prioritizing the search for truth. Other times, criminalists lacking the requisite knowledge have embellished findings and eluded detection because judges and juries lacked background in the relevant sciences, themselves.
In some cases, critical evidence has been consumed or destroyed, so that re-testing to uncover misconduct has proven impossible. Evidence in these cases can never be tested again, preventing the truth from being revealed.
One weak linkThe identification, collection, testing, storage, handling and reporting of any piece of forensic evidence involves a number of people. Evidence can be deliberately or accidentally mishandled at any stage of this process.

The risk of misconduct starts at the crime scene, where evidence can be planted, destroyed or mishandled. Evidence is later sent to a forensic lab or independent contractor, where it can be contaminated, poorly tested, consumed unnecessarily or mislabeled. Then, in the reporting of test results, technicians and their superiors sometimes have misrepresented their findings. DNA exonerations have even revealed instances of "drylabbing" evidence – reporting results when no test was actually performed. Read the rest of the article here

Not Guilty - DNA Evidence Exoneration
Created by: Forensic Science

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