Many of our readers in Tennessee flatly know the degree to which so-called forensics evidence is respected and even conceded unquestioned validity in criminal trials across the country.
That is, it is not uncommon for jury members and judges alike to nod their heads in quick acceptance when an “expert” opines on the absolute accuracy of findings related to something like bite marks on a victim or the sole imprint of a shoe that is alleged to point directly at a defendant.
Perhaps it is the word “science” that often attaches to forensic evidence that breeds quick confidence for many people asked to evaluate it. Likely, too, the credentials of many witnesses addressing firearm analysis, fingerprints or microscopic hair fibers often contribute to a quick conclusion that such evidence is unassailable in court.
This fact needs to be considered, though: Despite the routinely hyped certainty of forensic evidence, many people who are tossed into prisons across the country based upon it are subsequently found to have been wrongly convicted owing to its inaccuracies.
This is a truth: Much about forensic science and evidence is far from infallible or even closely accurate. In fact, notes a recent article that closely addresses the subject matter, “many methods [excepting some DNA protocols] have not been tested rigorously enough to be considered scientifically valid.”
That view is far from being a subjective take. Scientists working for a council reporting directly to the president state that bite mark, footwear and hair-related forensic analysis often yields wrong results and has scant — if any — scientific basis. Moreover, researchers say, even the time-honored acceptance of fingerprint analysis needs to be reined in, given evidence gleaned from multiple studies that false positives do sometimes occur.
No evidence that is offered to establish the guilt of a party facing criminal charges should ever be deemed as unchallengeable. Proven defense attorneys know from hard experience that every shred of evidence offered by the government must be examined dispassionately and methodically.
Justice requires that.