The core take of many commentators on the oft-professed accuracy and even infallibility of forensic evidence submitted in criminal cases is that the underlying science is questionable and often flatly problematic.
It’s “actually pretty shaky,” says a writer who recently penned an in-depth article on the subject matter.
“There is certainly a problem in foundational validity,” stresses a university researcher.
Their views are underscored by the depressing fact that high numbers of individuals across the country have been wrongfully incarcerated based on faulty forensics evidence. The national Innocence Project points to the exoneration of 354 people who suffered false convictions owing to botched DNA findings and related forensics assertions.
Given the country’s staggeringly large prison population, there are likely to be many more innocent persons still languishing behind bars following a judge’s or jury’s reliance on bogus “scientific” evidence.
Critics voice some hope that new U.S. Department of Justice policies aimed at improving forensic laboratory standards and findings will bring increased accuracy.
They lament two alleged shortcomings in the DOJ’s work at the same time, though. First, much of it relates to the fostering of greater consistency in lab-linked language applicable for forensic descriptions and recording, with little focus being placed on actually studying and improving forensics methods. And, secondly, the new standards apply only in federal labs, excluding state facilities where most forensic analysis is actually done.
“We need to continue to push the science forward,” says the director of one forensics center.