The above photo is from a recent exoneration case from North Carolina. The joy on Dwayne Dail’s face is palpable.
You probably won’t often see this discussion on TV , but people are really upset about wrongful convictions occurring on a daily/weekly basis in the news. They want to know why and how this happens. At some level at least. Sometimes it is a personal concern, and other times they are vocal advocates of forensic science and legal reforms. These concerns end up in the media which then give us glimpses into the turmoil occurring within the criminal justice system. Hence the local media slap at the NC crime lab two days ago.
Backroom battles of forensic reform
Journalists/bloggers/reformers taking on these subjects get accused of being “soft on crime” when narrating and opinionating (sic) about the innocent (mostly men and a few women) spending decades in prison. This being the age of public invective and instant polarization of conflicting opinion makers in the US criminal justice system means forensic science reform attracts alot of heat as well.
Forensic people raising concerns get shunned, ridiculed and fired. Forensic science trolls preach that there is a conspiracy known as the Innocence Project making money via releasing criminals back into society (don’t ask me to explain how THAT works, as I cannot). These types are so misinformed that they won’t read that almost a third of the IPs’ cases have led law enforcement to actual murderers and rapists.
The public flashback by forensic science people in North Carolina to a local newspaper’s criticism was the subject of my previous blog. The paper actually did a well-balanced presentation. Yet it mentioned lingering concerns.
What the forensic lab’s response missed was acknowledgement of what is happening in the media about their forensic kingdom. They sound righteously indignant. They also completely missed the context of what the public is worried about. Hence journalists and editorialists are concerned as well. A short list of links to NC forensic happenings is at the end of this blog.
The broader issue is innocent people being convicted.
Crime lab miscues and omissions giving inaccurate or overstated results have been proven to eventually lead to wrongful convictions. As of now, the general public cannot identify the “good guys” in the forensic business from their “lesser trustworthy” forensic counterparts.
They do read about how long it has taken the US prosecutorial legal system to accept there are problems with thousands of cases and how difficult it is to procedurally rectify a defendant’s freedom rights which have been diminished and or actually extinguished by forensic mistakes.
Its not the time to go all Donald Trump on the public’s concerns about police forensic labs. It is legitimate and should NOT be demonized.
North Carolina exoneration history, activities and crime lab problems in the local media.
North Carolina Innocence Statutes and Compensation