“Unimpeachable and always reliable.”
That is the broad public perception of forensic evidence introduced into a criminal law case in Colorado or elsewhere. We noted in a recent Shazam & Kianpour blog post (please see our December 9 entry from last year) the “it must be true” presumption routinely accorded forensic “experts” when they offer their views in a courtroom.
Who can question an individual who often possesses multiple science-linked degrees and works with advanced investigative tools in a laboratory?
As it turns out, established criminal defense attorneys often do just that. They know from vast empirical data and their own impassioned client representation that “scientific” evidence is light years away from being error-free. In fact, forensic-linked and other conclusions cited to promote a finding of guilt are often flatly deficient.
And when they are, individuals across the country are adversely affected, with results that can be devastating.
The above-cited post cast a narrow spotlight on forensic error (e.g., DNA testing, bite marks, hair analysis, fingerprints, voice comparison and so forth). Today’s entry materially expands the inquiry into error, highlighting other common mistakes that lead to bogus conclusions and egregious consequences in criminal cases.
Prominent catalysts driving wrongful criminal convictions
It’s certainly not all about the DNA or an FBI agent’s technical assessment of fingerprints found on a windowsill.
In fact, the universe of conviction-tied mistakes is vast and varied. A seminal survey focused on thousands of prisoners in the United States prominently spotlights myriad causes of wrongful conviction. Here are some key agents of error that supplement infirm forensic analysis:
- I know what I saw (except you didn’t see it; eyewitness misidentification or faulty interpretation is often problematic in criminal cases)
- Law enforcers’ questionable or flatly wrongful conduct (e.g., coercion, intimidation, misleading statements and failure to disclose evidence)
- Use of informants (such individuals often benefit from offering incriminating information)
- False confessions (seemingly illogical, but occurring with regularity; many factors drive such outcomes, including stress, fear, fatigue and mental illness)
- Legal counsel that is not up to the task
That final bullet point drives home a key point. An in-depth overview discussing the aforementioned survey notes that some attorneys and legal teams do not have the “diligence and experience” required to ably represent a client in a defense matter. They may lack the requisite training and passion to be a diligent and effective advocate.
Some others prominently command those attributes, though, and make unstinting efforts to spur optimal case outcomes for individuals confronting stark legal challenges.
Questions regarding defense representation can be directed to a proven legal team with a demonstrated record of advocacy across a broad spectrum of criminal law matters.