Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Arson science; Shaken baby syndrome: Grits for Breakfast on two recent academic papers in which the underlying forensics is called into question: "A perfect storm brewing for fire investigators in court" and "Flawed convictions: 'Shaken baby syndrome' and the inertia of justice."

POST: "Arson, shaken baby forensics called into question," published by Grits for Breakfast on May 5, 2014.

SUB-HEADING:  "A couple of recent academic papers related to areas of disputed forensic science deserve readers' attention. Here are links to the papers and the abstracts."

GIST: (Arson): "The genesis of this piece comes from a trend the authors have observed in three separate but related areas, which we believe are converging into a perfect storm for fire investigators. These are: 1) the ongoing movement by courts across the nation to scrutinize more closely the reliability of expert testimony, 2) a growing apprehension about wrongful convictions stemming from faulty forensic evidence and problems in fire investigations, culminating in the revolutionary report published by the National Academy of Sciences, and; 3) the continuing development of industry standards that are raising the bar for fire investigators."...(Shaken baby syndrome):  "The emergence of "Shaken Baby Syndrome" presents an object lesson in the dangers that lie at the intersection of science and criminal law. As often occurs in the context of scientific knowledge, understandings of SBS have evolved. We now know that the diagnostic triad — the three neurological symptoms once equated with guilt — does not itself prove beyond a reasonable doubt that an infant was abused nor that the last person with the baby was responsible for the baby’s condition. Nevertheless, our legal system has failed to absorb this new consensus. As a result, innocent parents and caregivers remain incarcerated and, perhaps more perplexingly, triad-based prosecutions continue even to this day."

The entire post can be found at:


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