Call it the CSI list, says the Baltimore Sun: fingerprints, gunshot residue, ballistics, toxicology, bite patterns – forensic methods used by prosecutors to link defendants to crime scenes. Public perception and generations of prosecutors suggest that those methods produce rock-solid scientific evidence against criminal defendants. One by one, Patrick Kent, chief of the forensics division at the Maryland public defender’s office, is trying to destroy those certainties.
Kent has enjoyed success by attacking the validity of gunshot residue and – last month in a Baltimore County murder case – fingerprints. Predictably, prosecutors are no fans, insisting that the science he is trying to undermine has stood the test of time. “Quite candidly, my job is not to be popular,” he says. “My job is to ensure the integrity of the criminal justice system, and ultimately, if that litigation causes organizations or entities to be upset at me, then so be it.” He says his mission is to make sure that the forensic evidence used by prosecutors is, indeed, science and not merely speculation or opinion dressed up as science. “Literally, every forensic science is going to be systemically litigated,” said Kent, 41.