Ballistics runs aground in TX. Its Forensic Comm ferrets out another mini-scandal

TxForSciComm copy

This all started from a complaint filed by a solo lawyer from Texas. The complaint sounds strikingly similar to the Steve Chaney bitemark complaint that led to the shoot-down of the dentists training and teaching bitemarks at UTSA and elsewhere.

‘Professional negligence’ found in ballistics misidentification
The Forensic Science Commission last month found “professional negligence” occurred in the ballistics analysis at the Southwest Institute of Forensic Science (SWIFS). The examiner attributed too much significance to small striations on a bullet and inappropriately chose different ammunition for test firing. SWIFS believes that “confirmation bias” and “expectancy bias” contributed to errors by both the examiner and the technical reviewer.

Full 256 page TXFORSCICOMM Report

Thanks to Grits for Breakfast

About csidds

Dr. Michael Bowers is a long time forensic consultant in the US and international court systems.
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3 Responses to Ballistics runs aground in TX. Its Forensic Comm ferrets out another mini-scandal

  1. SCP says:

    Yet SWIFS’s Dr. Sliter did not suggest a re-assessment of past cases that were analyzed by that analyst or any other analysts in the ballistics lab. Why? To cover-up incompetence of supervision and leadership.

    The forensic analyst probably didn’t know that her work was “negligent” and that she was just performing her job in accordance with SOPs as trained by her Supervisor (and disregarding SOPs or disagreeing with supervisors even if they are incompetent is grounds for employment termination). The Supervisor probably trained other analysts in the lab, who also churned out “negligent” work. Those “negligent” analysts trained other analysts to be “negligent”. And so on. This is identical to the microscopic hair comparison analysts and protocols churned-out by the FBI in the 1990-2000, that reiterated itself generation after generation of analysts.

    But due to the lack of forethought by the Texas Forensic Science Commission (and the fact that FSC member Dr. Barnard is the crime lab director for SWIFS), we’ll never know how many acts of “negligence” occurred inside the crime lab. SWIFS’s Dr. Tim Sliter wanted to cover up the systemic problems that he created in his lab by supplying his forensic analysts with scientifically unsound SOPs which disregarded the simple “blind” analysis procedures. Looking at the so-called root cause analysis by SWIFS, corrections included “revised procedures” or “implemented procedures” or “implemented a policy” — none of these are the responsibility of the forensic analyst. These are the responsibility of Dr. Tim Sliter, who obviously is incompetent at writing scientific protocols.

    If one were to dig deep enough, the lack of “blind procedures” within the crime lab has probably been brought up by lab analysts before, and ignored.

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