Politicos start talking about flawed forensic sciences

Five US Senators weigh into flawed forensic methods exemplified by the FBI hair comparison fiasco. More.

US Senate hearing on backlogged rape kits. $1B spent so far over ten years, the end is still not in sight. More. 

Sweat from fingerprints elicits cocaine evidence according to Euro researchers. More. More.

DNA gets Miami man exonerated of murder charge after spending 10 months in jail. More.

Massachusetts high court tries to deal with thousand of criminal drug convictions tainted by misconduct at state’s crime lab. More.  Innocence Project call it “risk free re-trials.”

Another exoneration story

Exoneree Kirk Odom’s experience is but one example of flawed forensic science from the pre-DNA era, a problem apparently far more widespread than once thought. The Innocence Project, which works to exonerate the wrongly accused, has identified 74 overturned convictions in which faulty hair evidence was a factor. And the FBI says experts gave erroneous testimony on hair analysis in more than 250 trials before 2000 and suggests that number could rise dramatically. More. 

An even stranger exoneration story.

NC well known defense litigator gets an ethics complaint filed for a “surreptitious collection of DNA from a water bottle (from within a private home)  which lands lawyer for later exonerated inmate in hot water.” Seems to boil down to ‘does a person have a reasonable expectation of privacy regarding his/her DNA on a personal object?’   Note, the DNA from the bottle did not aid in the exoneration. Could it be theft? The Bar ethics committee calls it “dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation; and was prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

Here is an excerpt from the local ABC affiliate article about the complaint:

The complaint says that during a visit to the home of family members of possible suspects, Mumma left with a water bottle that didn’t belong to her. When she realized this, she didn’t return the bottle to the family, who declined the next day to provide DNA samples of her relatives.

She submitted the bottle for DNA testing anyway, the complaint says. In November 2013, she learned the DNA didn’t match evidence from the Davis crime scene.

Mumma then called the family member back and asked if anyone else had been in the home during their earlier interview. She again requested DNA samples, which the relative again refused to provide, the complaint says.

“Mumma never mentioned to (the relative) that she had already obtained a DNA sample that may have been … family DNA that was tested which did not match DNA from Davis crime scene evidence,” the complaint says.

Her attorneys, Alan Schneider and Brad Bannon of Raleigh, issued a statement: “We are proud of Chris Mumma’s contributions to our state’s criminal justice system and honored to represent her in this matter. We look forward to working with the State Bar to resolve it on her behalf.”


About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
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