Monday, June 16, 2014

Flawed forensic evidence; Mark Joseph Stern explores "Why juries hear - and trust - so much biased, unreliable, inaccurate evidence." Slate; (Must Read. HL);

STORY: "Why juries hear - and trust - so much biased, unreliable, inaccurate evidence," by Mark Joseph Stern published by Slate on June 11, 2014.   (Mark Joseph Stern is a writer for Slate. He covers science, the law, and LGBTQ issues.)

PHOTO-CAPTION:  "The CSI effect has led American jurors today to expect a constant parade of forensic evidence during trials and to refuse to believe that this evidence might ever be faulty."

GIST: "Nine days before death row inmate Earl Washington’s scheduled execution, his lawyers informed the state of Virginia that it was about to murder an innocent man. Forensic analysis of semen introduced at trial had convinced the jury that Washington, whose mental abilities matched those of a 10-year-old, had brutally raped and murdered a young woman in 1982. Washington’s lawyers uncovered evidence that the analysis was faulty. The state halted the impending execution, and following a gubernatorial pardon, Washington was released from prison in 2001. He had been there for 17 years.  How could forensic evidence, widely seen as factual and unbiased, nearly send an innocent person to his death? The answer is profoundly disturbing—and suggests that for every Earl Washington freed, untold more are sent to their deaths. Far from an infallible science, forensics is a decades-long experiment in which undertrained lab workers jettison the scientific method in favor of speedy results that fit prosecutors’ hunches. No one knows exactly how many people have been wrongly imprisoned—or executed—due to flawed forensics. But the number, most experts agree, is horrifyingly high. The most respected scientific organization in the country has revealed how deeply, fundamentally unscientific forensics is. A complete overhaul of our evidence analysis is desperately needed. Without it, the number of falsely convicted will only keep growing. Behind the myriad technical defects of modern forensics lie two extremely basic scientific problems........."

The entire post can be found at:

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