Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Annie Dookhan: Part One. Crisis in the crime lab. Forensic science seen as falling short of public image: Maggie Clark. "Stateline."

STORY: "Forensic Science falls short of public image: Crisis in the crime lab: Part One," by Maggie Clark, published in "Stateline". "Stateline" is published by the Pew Center on the States. The Center says it provides, "nonpartisan reporting and research, advocacy, and technical assistance to help states deliver better results and achieve long-term fiscal health by investing in programs that provide the strongest returns."

GIST: "Faulty forensics?  Massachusetts is not the only state to experience a recent problem in its crime lab. Earlier this year, the drug lab in St. Paul, Minnesota, was shut down after problems developed with possible evidence contamination. The state lab had to take over the case work. Michigan’s state crime lab faces the same problem. Since the Detroit crime lab closed in 2008, the Michigan State Police lab has been handling all the forensic evidence collected at Detroit crime scenes, as well as trying to work through 11,000 untested rape kits that were discovered in the Detroit lab before it closed. The ramifications extend far beyond the labs themselves. Before evidence is admitted into a trial record, a judge must determine whether the evidence is scientifically valid and evaluate its relevance to the case. In 1993, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that judges are in fact the gatekeepers against “junk science” in the courtroom and identified them as the final arbiter of what constitutes valid scientific evidence. This is a problem, says Judge Donald Shelton, a trial court judge in Michigan’s Washtenaw County and author of several books on forensic evidence. Many, if not most judges, lack the skill to evaluate forensic evidence properly. “Many judges don’t have (flawed forensics) on their radar yet, and our judicial education is spotty from state to state,” says Shelton. “We, as judges, owe it to ourselves to become much better informed about the current state of forensic science.”
In fact, the whole field of forensic science is currently in flux, following a top-to-bottom review in 2009 by the National Academy of Sciences. The report cast major doubt on many common forensic techniques, calling them unscientific and error-prone."



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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:


Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:


Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.