10/11/16 Forensic Science

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TV is loaded with shows featuring forensic crime labs. And the bad guy is always caught. But what if some forensics are just-plain wrong?

Here’s what’s happening behind the headlines.

A scientific study examining forensic science was just released. It’s deeply troubling.

First, the good news. DNA testing is very reliable. It’s been used to exonerate hundreds of people from prison. That’s also the bad news. Some were convicted using other forensic methods.

Among the report’s findings: microscopic hair analysis has unacceptable error rates; some bullet comparison processes are unreliable. Bite mark analysis is so sketchy that oftentimes technicians cannot determine if the bite even came from a human. Mistakes are sometimes made regarding fingerprints.

There’s more bad news. Too many technicians have delivered false positives. Twenty-six of 28 analysts in one FBI lab gave wrong results. Even more shocking, a Massachusetts lab tech manipulated the results in 34,000 drug cases.

A California technician is accused of doctoring evidence in two murder cases.

The study recommended error rates be disclosed when using forensic evidence in court.

DOJ and the FBI rejected the report’s findings.

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