Friday, August 30, 2013

New post following seasonal break: Analysis; crime labs come under scrutiny after" a string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results." Mark Hansen; American Bar Journal; (Must read. HL.)

STORY:  "Crime labs under the microscope after a string of shoddy, suspect and fraudulent results, by reporter Mark Hansen, to be published by the American Bar Journal on September 1, 2013.

GIST:  "Paul Giannelli, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland who has been studying crime lab failures for 20 years, says he used to think the problem was limited to the occasional misdeeds of a few bad apples. But given the many lab scandals that have gone undiscovered for so long, he’s come to the conclusion the problem is a systemic one that can only be remedied through regulation. “And we can’t delegate to a private organization what should rightfully be a function of the government,” Giannelli says. The shortcomings of the existing system have been well-documented, most notably in the National Academy of Sciences’ 2009 study of forensic science, which exposed serious flaws in the way crime labs operate.........Nobody really knows how many crime lab failures there are because we usually only hear about them when somebody who has been wrongfully convicted of a crime is exonerated through DNA testing. But we do know that there have been 310 post-conviction DNA exonerations in this country through the end of July, according to the Innocence Project, which works to free the innocent through DNA testing. And studies show that unverified or improper forensic science (defined as fraud, misconduct or the use of scientifically untested evidence) played a role in about 55 percent of those cases.........Raeder says pretrial discovery procedures and jury instructions must be changed to prevent forensic analysts from “fudging” the results of lab tests and “overreaching” when they testify. To that end, the ABA House of Delegates adopted two resolutions at its 2012 midyear meeting. One urges governments at all levels to adopt pretrial discovery procedures requiring crime labs to produce “comprehensive and comprehensible” reports that spell out the procedures used in an analysis; the results of the analysis; the identity, qualifications and opinions of the analyst and anybody else who participated in the testing; and any additional information that could bear on the validity of the test results. The other urges judges and lawyers to consider several factors in determining how expert testimony should be presented to a jury and in instructing juries how to evaluate that testimony. But before we do anything else, Neufeld says, we need to make sure that many of these forensic disciplines, developed by law enforcement agencies for use in law enforcement, are grounded in science. “Let’s start by putting forensic science on the scientific track,” he says."

The entire story can be found at:


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