Ad Hoc Forensic “research’ by FBI reveals how junk gets into court – #MakingAMurder


The deep media and the public’s viral response to Steven Avery’s multiple convictions for murder has developed some valuable insight into the lengths LEO forensic types will go to support a prosecution. This is a replay of what the 2009 NAS Report said about the weaknesses in forensic science applications in the US court system.

Its blood and bullets.

I’m calling what the experts reveal as the “Ad Hoc” (done for a particular purpose) Syndrome which is endemic in many crime lab disciplines and certainly present in every bitemark case I have ever seen.  AHS is the scenario imbued with forensic types knowing what the police want (a conviction) to find BEFORE they run their tests.

An article from the Rolling Stone gets into a rewrite of the Pittsburgh Gazette’s publishing four experts’ review of evidence brought into the prosecutions of Avery that clearly falls short of what the experts clearly define as true research.

It is enlightening to read about what I have seen in numerous cases involving pattern evidence such as blood spatter, toolmark and bitemark experts doing to “prove” their conclusions with mini-experiments they concoct in their police managed labs as being research. It ain’t no such thing.

Some takeaways from these experts are: (this makes the article a must read: my comments in parens)

  1. There is a saying among scientists that absence of evidence isn’t necessarily evidence of absence, and that appears to be the case here.
  2. we wonder whether this “battle of experts” left the jury with an inadequate appreciation of the underlying scientific and statistical uncertainties. (this also applies to the judge)
  3. Another common problem in forensic science is contextual bias — the tendency for forensic scientists to be influenced inappropriately by nonscientific aspects of a case. (The “garage bullet” DNA expert in Making A Murder completely explains this category)

Shout out to @ctmccartney for the link.


About csidds

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