Monday, November 16, 2015

Professor M. Bonner Denton: (Junk bitemark science); University of Arizona professsor tackles faulty courtroom science. (Must Read. HL);

STORY: "UA Professor Tackles Faulty Courtroom Science," by reporter Emily Litvack, published by the University of Arozpna on November 13, 2105.

SUB-HEADING: "For years, M. Bonner Denton has been sounding off on the criminal justice system’s science problem. And now, a man who spent 28 years in prison on a life sentence for first-degree murder has been released due to "junk" evidence."

GIST: "When Steven Mark Chaney was sentenced to life in prison for murder in the first degree, it was bite-mark analysis that did him in. Last month, 28 years later, Chaney was released from prison after an amicus brief filed with the Texas Forensic Science Commission caused the board to find that forensic odontology, or bite-mark analysis, is not based on fundamental science. The commission rejected the use of bite-mark analysis in Texas, resulting in the release of Chaney, whose 1987 criminal investigation was based almost entirely on bite marks.
M. Bonner Denton, a professor of analytical chemistry at the University of Arizona, was a signatory on the brief filed on behalf of the Innocence Project. "I'm concerned with the fact that there is a variety of junk science being practiced as if it were, in fact, valid techniques," Denton said. "Many are not statistically supported by scientific technology, and bite-mark analysis is, at best, totally junk science. It's highly subjective and dependent on the examiner. It has little if any basis in scientific methodologies." Given that forensic odontology is still treated as a valid, scientific technique in the American criminal justice system, Denton has been addressing the issue since 2009 as a consultant to the Innocence Project. The project, founded in 1992, is a nonprofit legal organization committed to exonerating wrongly convicted people through the use of DNA testing and to reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. "Your beautician has more required federal government regulation than forensic laboratories do, and they testify in court," Denton said. And when someone with the title of "forensic scientist" takes the stand, he said, the general public trusts that person's testimony, believing, "'Well, a scientist told me that, so it must be true.'".........Denton serves on the National Commission for Forensic Science, a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Justice and the National Institute of Standards of Technology. The commission reviews practices in forensic science with the goal of weeding out inappropriate ones. Previously, he served on the National Academy of Sciences committee established by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he helped identify practices based on appropriate scientific and statistical foundations. "Do not believe what you see on the popular TV shows," Denton said. "Many areas of forensic science are unfortunately still a long way from being truly scientific." Denton is now assisting in the appeals of two others who have been convicted of first-degree murder as a result of inappropriate techniques and testimony from forensic scientists."

The entire story can be found at:
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