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Flawed Forensic Science under Review

The Washington Post has an extensive report on various forensic science.

The National Academy of Sciences in 2009 called for, among other things, removing labs and forensic science professionals from control of prosecutors and law enforcement.

In 2011, North Carolina renamed the state lab from the State Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab to the North Carolina Crime Lab, but kept the lab under the auspices of the chief prosecutor of the state in the North Carolina Department of Justice.

One of the problems is that, unlike DNA which was developed by scientists for medical applications and now is the most effective tool in forensic science, most fields of forensic science are not reliable – bite marks, hair or fiber analysis, fingerprints, and ballistics were developed by law enforcement for law enforcement – and the standards, methods, and approach are not about objectivity, but about how to find a perpetrator.

The problems, as Peter Neufeld of the Innocence Project explains, are systemic. Prosecutors have an incentive to dispose of cases expeditiously. Most criminal defense lawyers are not very well trained or conversant in scientific issues.

And, even in North Carolina, many lab technicians who perform the analysis are poorly trained or can’t even meet the basic standards by the certification agencies that oversee the field.

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