US: Plain Jane reveal of changes in forensic confidence terminology, error testing, and use in courts

5 Kinds of Junk Science Prosecutors Have Used to Send People to Prison

This is a simple and informative article. Some forensic folks really don’t like article and titles with “junk,” “shoddy” and “wrongful convictions” being used. To be fair, both bitemarks (25 exonerations ) and hair examiners (not DNA) are real standouts.

At this point in the 9 year look ( The National Academy started in 2007) into forensic courtroom and evidence analysis, much verbiage has shown up in the print media. This recent article sums things up rather nicely as it shows the sources and reasons of forensic criticism of the way it shows up in courtroom expert testimony and what the experts say regarding their findings. You can see that they are all some form of “pattern (i.e. shape) comparisons. Also, all these are “police forensics” which mean they have been around before DNA showed up in the 1980’s. The big question is how police departments and crime labs will comply with all these details. The fingerprint community is always said to be making advances. Don’t forget though, that arson or “fire science” is melding itself into a empirical-based type of analysis thanks to John Lentini and arson researchers. Like myself, John undertook a defense case involving prosecution arson conclusions that were more myth and than fact.  My case was in 1997.

The subjects include:

  1. New rules about how certain or confident the expert “feels” about conclusions. The US DOJ now says there is nothing “scientific” about feelings. Without this long practice statement, analysts have to show empirical testing and error data.
  2. Bitemark matching. (The NAS and President’s Advisors expelled its use as a “science.”
  3. Fingerprints
  4. Shoe tread marks
  5. Hair
  6. Firearms (bullet casings).

About csidds

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