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Criminal law commentator points to "crisis" in forensic work

We would ask our readers across Colorado to try to imagine for just a moment the sheer consternation of criminal prosecutors in another state earlier this year when they had to ditch more than 21,000 drug cases they were working on.

It turned out that one of their colleagues in law enforcement -- a chemist working with DNA and forensic matter in a state crime laboratory -- had undermined rather than supported via her professional contributions their investigations in fundamentally material ways.

To wit: She forged signatures on documents to be submitted as evidence in court. She tainted drug samples -- on purpose. She lied to investigators.

And she reportedly behaved in that manner for close to 10 years.

A commentator in a recent opinion article written for a national journal laments that sad reality. And she additionally points to myriad other examples of what she terms "long-festering and systemic" problems linked with forensics evidence used in criminal cases. So-called "experts" in the field are sometimes flatly unqualified to evaluate and interpret DNA evidence, says Michelle Malkin, or they sometimes perform their work in a stunningly bad-faith manner that imperils the freedom -- and sometimes lives -- of innocent and wrongly convicted people.

That spells a crisis for the country, Malkin contends, because bad forensic results that wrongly send people to prison are so sadly common that they belie any reasonable notion they are "just the result of a few rogue [or incompetent] operators."

Proven defense attorneys who routinely defend a diverse clientele against wide-ranging criminal charges know from hard experience that offered evidence is just that and nothing more. If credibility attaches to it, that is the case only because it has been methodically vetted through an exacting examination -- in every instance.

Criminal authorities are fallible, meaning that the work they do must necessarily and always be closely evaluated by an experienced legal defense team for errors or purposeful misinformation it might contain that undermine the state's case against a criminal suspect.

Every individual targeted by the sheer power and might of criminal law authorities has a reasonable expectation that such will be the case.

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