The magnitude of forensics and the law

In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences, a non-profit, private organization that servers as an advisor to the government on scientific matters, reported to Congress that the “science” in forensic science needed an overhaul. In July during the...


Contrast with you being the second reader—quality control. I want to make sure that the search warrant is legitimate. I want to make sure that the conclusions drawn by the scientists are supported by the evidence. I want to make sure the state has the evidence in their possession which truly establishes that this person is guilty. Maybe they made a mistake; maybe they looked in the wrong direction; maybe they got some bad information, and they’re relying on science which has now been disproven.

More and more often what we’re seeing is there are several breakdowns in my system. Prosecutors put too much faith in forensic science and its significance; and defense attorneys don’t spend nearly enough time challenging it. And if you look at the NAS report it says exactly the same thing about our profession. And so we’re working on getting better, all of us.

TW: The Casey Anthony case was a big news story for 2011. I was wondering what you thought about that [trial as a viewer] on your side of things?

CF: I see this a lot with my clients because I work for the public defender’s office: people that are watching [cases like the Anthony trial] are ascribing middle-class white values to conduct by people who are not middle-class white people. I tell you what: I have done a lot of DNA cases in my lifetime. I have never done a DNA case where they tested the brother to see if he was the father of the kid. I mean, when I heard that, I go, OK, there’s something going on with this family that doesn’t go on with most families, most of the time. And that didn’t get a whole lot of play, but to me, that was a really important piece of evidence. If there’s even a suspicion that the brother may have been the father of this child, there is a dysfunction junction going on in this family. And does that mean to me that a child could die and the disposing of the remains would be inconsistent with what you would expect someone to do? Yeah, that actually makes perfect sense to me.

 

Editor’s note: Read more about the original NAS report on forensics and the industry reaction here: www.officer.com/10233455.

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