Wednesday, May 27, 2015
FBI overstated hair match crisis. (23): (The Emperor's clothes); The Washington Post exposed the FBI use of junk hair analysis science in hundreds of criminal cases over many years. (Bravo! HL); Now, in an editorial, it calls not only for reassessment of forensic technologies - but also for scrutiny of other parts of the system "if the chances of wrongful convictions are to be reduced."
PUBLISHER'S VIEW: The Washington Post puts the onus of healing a badly broken U.S. criminal justice system on the Justice Department, saying: "We hope the Justice Department undertakes an analysis not only of the breakdown in hair forensics but also of other vulnerabilities in the system." That alone is not enough. Judges should do a much better job of keeping junk science out of the courtrooms; Prosecutors should avoid calling controversial scientific evidence that has not received strong concensus in the scientific community. (Which should be enough to eliminate the scientifically unfounded, destructive shaken baby syndrome - a major cause of wrongful convictions). Defence lawyers should aggressively challenge the credentials of so-called prosecution "experts." And the FBI should waste no time notifying people that they may have been wrongful convicted by the FBI's own flawed science - and giving them the opportunity to straighten things out.
Harold Levy. Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.
EDITORIAL: "The FBI's flawed justice," published by the Washington Post on May 8, 2015.
GIST: "The stunning admission by federal law enforcement officials of flawed testimony by forensic experts in hundreds of criminal cases has focused attention on the dubious use of hair analysis. Add this to a list of factors that has played a role in securing the conviction of people who later proved their innocence, including mistaken eyewitness identifications, bad informants and police or prosecutorial misconduct. Forensic technologies must be reassessed, but other parts of the system also need scrutiny if the chances of wrongful convictions are to be reduced.........The FBI errors do not necessarily mean defendants were innocent. But the confirmation of long-held suspicions about hair analysis, the inability of courts to keep junk science out of courtrooms (and hair analysis is not the only suspect technique) and the questionable reliability of other evidence provide reason to worry about how many innocent people are being convicted.........With the exception of the rare bad apple, police and prosecutors don’t set out to convict the wrong person, but even the most well-meaning people can be affected by contextual or cognitive bias, particularly in a system with crushing caseloads and intense pressure. Better protections are needed. Steps in the right direction are improvements by D.C. police in procedures for eyewitness identification and the creation of a conviction integrity unit by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District. But more needs to be done, including, as we’ve argued before, requiring the prosecution to share information with the defense more thoroughly and consistently. We hope the Justice Department undertakes an analysis not only of the breakdown in hair forensics but also of other vulnerabilities in the system."
The entire editorial can be found at:
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